Sherman should follow Holmgren's way

When Mike Sherman looks across the field this Sunday at his former coaching partner Mike Holmgren, he might be viewing his future as well.<p>

Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle in 1999 to become the Seahawks coach and general manager. Last December he stepped down under pressure from his position as GM to focus on coaching. The Seahawks won their final three games and finished 7-9. They enter Sunday's game at Lambeau Field 3-0. It's probably a coincidence that the Seahawks started winning upon Holmgren's decision to step down as GM, but it sure has made a big difference in Seattle.

If anything, Holmgren has had more time to zero in on the X's and O's rather than dealing with contract negotiations and player moves.

"There is so much to do, and I think we have laid a good foundation," Seahawks president Bob Whitsitt said at the time of shortening Holmgren's job title last December. "There are only so many hours in a day; clearly we need Mike on the field coaching. We wanted to free up Mike on the administrative side so he can do more coaching."

Holmgren was the GM and coach of the Seahawks for most of four seasons. The Seahawks made it to the playoffs early in Holmgren's tenure but then struggled. Now they are suddenly a favorite to win the NFC West Division.

Sherman was named coach of the Packers in 2000, then coach and GM a year later when Ron Wolf retired. The Packers went 12-4 in the last two seasons but made early exits in the payoffs. Finishing with 12-4 records the last two seasons would be thrilling for most cities that support NFL franchises, but expectations are high in Green Bay. Nowadays the Packers' season is only as good as where the team finishes in the playoffs, like in the Championship Game or Super Bowl. And it probably will be that way until Brett Favre retires.

Judging by the way Green Bay's season has unfolded early on, this will be a make or break season for Sherman in his role as general manager. If he can take the Packers deep into the playoffs, he'll probably keep the added title. If the Packers continue to stumble the way they have early this season, he would be wise to follow Holmgren's footsteps and focus on coaching.

Sherman is a highly organized individual. There is no doubt that he knows his Xs and Os. You can see it in practice the way he teaches and communicates with players. His knowledge of the game is incredible. Once in a while in press conferences he'll slip into coach-speak and use terms to describe a play that only the most hard-core of football fans can understand and appreciate.

Most would agree that the National Football League is highly specialized. Coaching and personnel staffs have swelled in the last 10 years. Rosters are filled with guys who focus on one aspect in each game, like snapping or kicking the ball, or rushing the passer on certain downs. Meanwhile, assistant coaches on the sideline will monitor every throw that Favre makes, or how many times Ahman Green has carried the ball. Every play of a game is dissected by the staff.

So why do the Packers have one guy working two of the most important positions in the organization? That would be like having Green double as a defensive back, or Gilbert Brown play nose tackle and guard. The league is way too specialized. The reasoning for having the head coach double as general manager makes sense. He has the final say on everything football related, which might make big decisions a little easier. But common sense says two heads are better than one. And common sense says it's easier for a GM to make the hard, cold decisions of releasing a player than a coach who develops working relationships with players throughout the season. Common sense also says the head coach has more time to coach.

Whitsitt wasn't making anything up when when he said there are only "so many hours in a day" for a guy to coach and be the GM. That means, besides coaching duties, Sherman has to put his GM hat on to make decisions on player personnel matters, contracts, trades and many other football-related, time-consuming duties that most people don't even know about. Granted, Sherman has a flock of people around him to help, but he still has to listen to their input and pull the trigger on everything. And that has to take time.

The Packers could search for a general manager to relieve Sherman, or promote Mark Hatley or John Schneider, two highly placed members of Sherman's cabinet that have GM experience in the NFL. Heck, they could even bring back Wolf, who still on the team's payroll as a consultant. In the meantime, Sherman wants to make his dual role work.

"It's a tough job obviously, and there are a lot of tough jobs out there besides mine," Sherman said. "You've got to remember that I came into the league with one year as the head coach, then became the GM and the head coach and have kind of worked into this role. No, I don't think that has been a problem for me."

If the Packers make an early exit in the playoffs, or fall short of the playoffs altogether, it will be an issue, like it was for Holmgren in Seattle. If that's the case, Sherman and the Packers would be better off if someone else took over as general manager.

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report. E-mail him at with comments or story ideas.

Packer Report Top Stories