Commentary: Sander, Couch lead lowlights

After all the second-guessing of Packers coach Mike Sherman after last year's playoff loss at Philadelphia, I am here to bring a reality check. <p> Sherman is smarter than you are.

How do I know this? If you were one of the nearly 70,000 in attendance Monday night, you spent a lot of money to watch the preseason opener against Seattle. If you were like most fans, you sat in front of the television. Sherman, brilliant guy that he is, got paid to watch the debacle.

Being smart, of course, doesn't make you lucky. The good thing about sitting in front of the tube is you could flip the channel to something more entertaining. Such as a Cortislim commercial or Olympic synchronized swimming. Because he gets paid a princely salary, Sherman could neither run nor hide from what passed as professional football.

There was so much ugliness at Lambeau that all of Tammy Faye Baker's makeup couldn't turn the swine into a beauty. Unless, of course, Sherman's offensive gameplan was to go nowhere fast in hopes rookie punter B.J. Sander could get off just one credible punt.

You get the feeling Sander could kick the ball all day and all night and still never catch Josh Bidwell's attention. I was a big fan of Josh Bidwell the human but no fan of Josh "The Touchback Machine" Bidwell the punter. Right about now, however, I'd give Bidwell a piggyback ride back here from Tampa.

Sander's first punt was a beauty, a floater that pinned Seattle at its 11-yard line. With that out of his system, Sander immediately went in the tank, cranking out 35-yarders faster than Krispy Kreme cranks out doughnuts.

Sander put on a brave front afterward, but you wonder how much confidence he has after consecutive dreadful showings in Lambeau Field. If Sander doesn't show something soon, you wonder how long it takes until Sherman swallows his immense pride and finds a new punter. Unless Nathan Chapman was secretly deported back to Australia, the Packers did have another option on Monday but Sherman continued to call Sander's number. Chapman has been wildly inconsistent during practice, but being inconsistent is better than being consistently bad.

If Sander stunk up the joint, then Tim Couch was a family of angry skunks.

I have no idea how many quarterbacks in the history of the game have worn the No. 2, but I'd bet not one of them has ever averaged fewer yards per pass attempt than the number on the jersey. By completing 2-of-11 passes for 18 yards, Couch averaged a bottom-of-the-barrel 1.7 yards per attempt.

In Couch's defense, he's not exactly comfortable with the West Coast offense, and he never got close to comfortable in the pocket on Monday. It was like the running of the bulls, with the Seahawks being the bulls and Couch being the poor sap in their crosshairs.

The frustrating thing about Couch is it seems he hasn't made an inch of progress since arriving in training camp. On the first day of full-squad practices, Couch showed why he was the first pick in the 1999 draft. He threw an accurate deep ball, was a dead-eye while scrambling out of the pocket, and had a knack for fitting the ball into tight spots. Those skills were nowhere to be found during the Family Night Scrimmage and they certainly weren't anywhere to be found against Seattle.

Maybe the light bulb will flicker on one day next week and Couch will look like the superstar everyone thought he'd be, but right now it's pretty clear why he got run out of Cleveland. At the slightest hint of pressure, Couch forgot how to throw the ball with accuracy.

How's this for ugly: After gaining 70 yards on their first two drives, the Packers' next eight possessions (seven guided by Couch and one by Doug Pederson) totaled 24 plays, picked up 10 yards and tallied just one first down. That's 15 inches per play over a span of more than two quarters.

There's plenty of blame to go around offensively, of course. The line, without starters Mike Flanagan and Mike Wahle, was pushed around. Even Pro Bowler Marco Rivera gave up a sack. The play-calling was nothing special, as you'd expect from a preseason game, but why Sherman and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley insist on running reverses is a greater mystery than the fate of Atlantis. The reverse didn't work in the games last season, it hasn't worked in practice this summer, and it didn't work on Monday.

The good news is the Packers are four weeks from the start to the regular season. That gives them plenty of time to fix all that's wrong.

Bill Huber writes for Contact him via e-mail at

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