Continuity a key in Slowik hiring

As far as Mike Sherman is concerned, Green Bay's defense is not a total mess. So, the Packers coach and general manager feels Bob Slowik is the right man to correct its shortcomings. Sherman today promoted Slowik from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator, and also hired former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer to coach the Packers defensive backs.<p>

Slowik, 49, has served as a defensive coordinator for seven seasons in the National Football League – with Chicago from 1993 to '98, and with Cleveland in 1999. He has been defensive backs coach for the Packers the last four seasons, including the last two as assistant head coach, a title he will retain.

Considering the Packers defense made significant progress over the last half of the season, allowing 114 points over the last eight games (14.3 ppg), Sherman felt it was better to promote Slowik and retain the other defensive assistants rather than start over with someone from outside of the organization who might hire his own assistants.

"Certainly Bob has been in the defense and has some familiarity with it," Sherman said. "I don't want to just blow up our defense and start over again. I think there are some things that we do well. I think the players understand what we want to get done."

Slowik replaces Ed Donatell, who was fired on Jan. 16. The Packers were ranked 17th overall in the league in defense last season, 23rd against the pass and 10th against the rush. Green Bay ranked 12th overall the previous two seasons. The Packers were in the middle of the pack in the NFC in takeaways in 2003 and closed the regular season allowing just three touchdowns in opponents' last 18 red-zone possessions (.167 since Nov. 16 at Tampa Bay). The Packers (.391) ranked second in the NFC in red zone defense, behind Tampa Bay (.350). They were fifth in the NFL.

But the Packers failed to advance to the NFC Championship Game this season by blowing an early 14-point lead and allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to convert a key first down on fourth-and-26 with a minute left in regulation of an NFC Divisional playoff game Jan. 11. That led to the Eagles tying the game on a field goal and eventually winning it in overtime. Donatell took the fall.

"My goal is for us to continue to do the things we do well and try to fix some of the things that need to be fixed," Sherman said. "It's as simple as that. I don't think we're that far away. I think Bob Slowik is the guy that can help get us there."

Slowik feels that the Packers need "to hold a lead in the fourth quarter, close out the game, put the nail in the coffin, and win in the two-minute drill," in order to improve its defense. He also said, "We've got to be able to generate more sacks. We've been good in sacks in the past, but haven't been able to generate as many sacks as we needed to, particularly with the game on the line. Those are the primary areas that we need to improve in dramatically."

Slowik said that the defense's scheme and terminology will remain the same. "You don't want to overhaul the whole defense," he said.

While he was defensive coordinator in Chicago, the Bears allowed 312.8 yards per game, eighth in the NFL over an eight-year span (1993-98). As the Bears coordinator, his defenses ranked fourth, 13th, 19th, 12th, 14th, and 14th, respectively. In a disastrous season with the expansion Browns, Cleveland ranked last overall in defense.

"It's a real exciting opportunity for me to have a chance again to call plays because the play-caller has an opportunity every game day to put the players in a position to make plays with those calls," Slowik said. "That's an opportunity I enjoy and that's something I hope that I can do – put them in the best position to win as often as possible."

Slowik, who has 27 years of coaching experience including 12 in the NFL, won a Super Bowl ring as defensive backs coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. Slowik coordinator Dave Wannstedt's nickel defense, then served as Wannstedt's coordinator in Chicago. Before entering the NFL in 1992, Slowik worked 15 seasons on staffs of five college programs, including Delaware (1977-78), Florida (1979-82), Drake (1983), Rutgers (1984-89), and East Carolina (1990-91).

With Schottenheimer's hiring, the Packers have three coaches with defensive coordinator experience. Linebackers coach Mark Duffner was defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001-02.

"There's plenty of talent on this defense for us to move in the right direction and get over the hump," Slowik said.

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