Cardinals Coaching Candidates Part 1: Sherman

Mike Sherman was once head coach of the Green Bay Packers, leading them to three consecutive division titles. Then the 2005 season happened. And the wheels fell off. Now, Sherman is the Assistant Head Coach/Offense for the Houston Texans. Could he be the next coach of the Arizona Cardinals? Here are the pros and cons.


Sherman has head coaching experience at the NFL level.  The other five men on the Cardinals list Norm Chow (offensive coordinator, Titans), Ron Rivera (defensive coordinator, Bears), Jim Caldwell (Assistant Head Coach/Quarterbacks Coach, Colts), Russ Grimm (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach, Steelers), and Ken Whisenhunt (Offensive Coordinator, Steelers), do not.  While there's something to be said for finding that "diamond in the rough," there's a lot more to be said about experience.

He won three division titles back when the NFC North was a far more respectable division.  While it's true that he had Brett Favre and an awful lot of talent on both sides of the ball to work with, he'd have Matt Leinart and an awful lot of talent on both sides of the ball to work with if he took the Cardinals job.

He has a longstanding, excellent relationship with Jim Bates, who was (and probably still is) one of the best defensive coordinators in the league.  Bates ran a system in Green Bay that is similar to the system currently in place under Clancy Pendergast, but not as complex.  The current personnel should be able to pick up Bates' system relatively easily and Bates is an exceptional motivator.

He comes from the Mike Holmgren coaching tree.  I'd assume that he knows a thing or two about Holmgren's offense, Holmgren's defense, and how Holmgren works.  If the Cardinals are to win the division, they need to get through the Seattle Seahawks.  Sherman and his staff (likely to have some link back to Holmgren) will have an edge over previous regimes.

He runs a derivation of the West Coast Offense that requires big receivers that can catch the ball in traffic and use their wide bodies, not their speed, to separate from defenders.  It requires the quarterback to possess more intelligence than arm strength and excellent footwork.  Remind you of any team's offense in the state of Arizona?


He's a player's coach that understands the modern athlete, has a background on the offensive side of the ball (where the Cardinals have most of their talent), and has a tremendous track record of success in other football precincts.

I understand that the above sentence sounds an awful lot like a "pro."  I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Dennis Green is a player's coach that understands the modern athlete, has a background on the offensive side of the ball, and had a tremendous track record of success before he came to Arizona.  When a team fires a coach, they generally look for someone that's entirely different from the guy they just fired.  Which is why the Cardinals will either look for a disciplinarian, a coach with a background in defense, an assistant with no prior head coaching experience, or someone that meets all three criteria.

Sherman may not get the job simply because he's too similar to the man he'd be replacing.

He held the dual titles of Head Coach and General Manager in Green Bay.  The Cardinals just extended the contract of Rod Graves.  If Sherman wants control over personnel decisions, that could be a deal breaker.


The best and worst thing that Mike Sherman has going for him is that he'll be the first person the Cardinals interview.  Interviewing for a head coaching job in the NFL is a lot like any interview: The first candidate is not always the one that gets hired.  San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been added to the list of candidates, so the Cardinals may speak to up to six other men before coming to a decision.

When all is said and done, Sherman's the most accomplished candidate available.  Only Mike Martz has more playoff experience, bringing the Rams to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season.  His availability, as well as Tom Coughlin's availability is in question.  Martz may never coach again and Coughlin may not get fired.

At this point, if the Cardinals are looking for a steady hand to guide the franchise to the promised land, they can do no better.  It remains to be seen, however, if Sherman simply inherited a talented roster after Holmgren's departure in Green Bay.

He'll also need to convince the Cardinals that he's ready to coach again, he's ready to give up some of the control he had in Green Bay, and that he's the one candidate that can right the ship, rather than take the reins of an already solid franchise but not lead it to a championship.

I don't know about anyone else, but if I were the Cardinals, I'd take the guy that could lead this team at least to the playoffs, then talk about Super Bowl aspirations.  Sherman is that guy.

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