It's not cookin' at home for Packers

During the Mike Holmgren era, the Green Bay Packers returned to the glory days for many reasons, but one of them which cannot be overlooked was the team's ability to dominate at home.<p>

Between 1994 and 1998, Holmgren's last five seasons, the Packers posted an incredible 37-3 record at home, including a 25-game winning streak. When a team is that automatic at home, that's eight wins in the bank. Split on the road and you're 12-4.

But since Holmgren and his ego went west to Seattle, the Packers have had the "welcome" mat out much too often. Since 1999, the Packers are 31-10 at home during the regular season, including Week 2's embarrassing loss to the Bears. Including postseason, dating back to the Atlanta playoff loss in the 2002 playoffs, the Packers are a mediocre 6-5 at home.

The recent slide with the Packers indicates they are declining, but just how far? The Packers appear to be solid this season, but solid doesn't get you to Jacksonville in early February.

Early in 1996, we all knew how good the Packers were. In back-to-back games against Philadelphia and San Diego to start the season, the Packers won by a combined score of 71-23.

When teams are that dominant at home, it can carry onto the road, where that season the Packers won its five road games by at least 15 points. To no surprise, the Packers won the Super Bowl that year.

There is no question the NFL is the best team sport alive today, and the reason is parity. Every Sunday we sit down to watch games and think we know what's going to happen. Packers at home against Bears? Packers, easy. Wrong! Broncos at Jaguars? Broncos. Wrong!

The reason these results happen is most teams are good to OK, but little else. Just being off a little bit, or another team being hot can be the difference.

The only team that doesn't fall under this category is New England, which has won its last 17 games.

Personally, I think the slight decline in the Packers at home starts with the man on the sideline. Mike Sherman has been a good coach, and led Green Bay to an 8-0 home record in 2002, but he's nothing close to Holmgren.

Like him or not, and every fan did when Holmgren was in Green Bay, once he and Ron Wolf assembled the talent, Holmgren went to work.

He made Lambeau Field a place teams didn't want to visit. Between 1994 and 1998, opponents would glance at their schedule and see "at Green Bay." Then they said, "Shoot, that's a loss."

Holmgren always had the Packers ready at home, or about 95 percent of the time. He was a motivator, was an assistant with some great 49ers teams and had a more-experienced background than Sherman.

There has always been questions on whether Sherman is a good enough motivator. He doesn't have an electric personality, he doesn't have the background Holmgren had when he took over in 1992 and he doesn't have the personnel, which is also his responsibility, being a GM and a coach.

Unfortunately, Brett Favre is aging and Reggie White and LeRoy Butler retired. Sherman couldn't stop this from happening.

Yes, Sherman's from the Holmgren tree, but so is Dick Jauron and Marty Mornhinweg. Some head coaches are better as assistants.

If the Packers are to regroup and become a Super Bowl contender in 2004, Sherman has to figure a way to make Lambeau Field an intimidating place to visit. It all starts at home. I remember going to Dallas for regular season and playoff games between 1993-1995 and Texas Stadium had that feel that's so hard to describe. It just felt different.

The stadium had "it." You just knew, no matter what happened early in the game, Dallas would end up on top and it did. The Cowboys had a swagger.

The Packers had the same thing during its strong home run from 1994-98, and especially during the winning streak. It was a foregone conclusion the Packers would win, you just didn't know the score.

Nowadays, you're not sure.

Sunday, the New York Giants visit Lambeau Field, and one would think after the Bears' setback, the Packers would come out ready to lay claim to Lambeau as their turf. However, as we have seen in the last 11 games at home, the Packers have been gracious hosts.

It's up to Sherman to change that. Rile this team up, give them the "Win One for the Gipper" speech, show them "Rudy," do whatever it takes to make Lambeau truly a home field. Because what's been going on since late 2002 has the makings of a mediocre team, home and away, and I don't think that is the goal this season.

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