Commentary: An embarrassing new low

Welcome to the bottom of the National Football League, everybody. I hope you enjoyed your stay as a championship-contending dynamo, but those days are over.

This football team stinks. The players stink. The attitude stinks. The coaching stinks. The personnel evaluation stinks. They stink so much that being locked in a small room with an angry skunk almost seems preferable.

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course, so let's start doling it out.

1. Mike Sherman's ability to be coach and general manager is rightly coming under fire. At this point, it's hard to say he deserves to hold either title, much less be limited to just one.

As a talent evaluator, only wide receiver Javon Walker has emerged as a legitimate difference maker in Sherman's three drafts. In 2002, he selected Walker, safety Marques Anderson, running back Najeh Davenport, defensive end Aaron Kampman, quarterback Craig Nall and guard Mike Houghton. Davenport and Kampman are nice players, Nall has done nothing to prove he's the real deal, Anderson was a bust and Hougton didn't make the final roster.

In 2003, linebacker Nick Barnett was taken in the first round and had a standout rookie season, but he's regressed instead of progressed this year. Defensive lineman Kenny Peterson has done nothing. Defensive tackle James Lee has done nothing. The other six selections have either been thrown off the island or are injured.

It's too early to judge the 2004 draft, but the whole Mike McKenzie saga clearly set back first-round pick Ahmad Carroll, who was just starting to flash his promise before he was cast aside in Sherman's quest to get the malcontent McKenzie ready.

Sherman screwed up the McKenzie mess and he stubbornly hangs onto B.J. Sander as if the rookie punter were the last life preserver on a sinking ship.

Sherman's decision to fire Ed Donatell and replace him with Bob Slowik appears to be an unmitigated disaster. With essentially the same cast of characters, Slowik has turned an average defense into a laughingstock. The Titans scored 48 points on Monday night after averaging about 15 in their first four games.

In the Indianapolis game, Slowik was about three touchdowns too late in making adjustments. He had no answers for the offensively inept Bears, the mediocre Giants and the offensively challenged Titans. After showing so much promise against Carolina, the Packers rank 30th out of 32 teams in total defense. They've allowed 400-plus yards in the last three games.

Sherman continues to live with Ahman Green's fumbles. When you live with mistakes, you can expect the mistakes to keep on coming.

2. While my e-mail box is filled with "Fire Sherman" letters, a lot of the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the players.

The Packers showed no fire against the Titans. Sherman's not a rah-rah type of guy, but if the players are looking to the coaches for motivation, then they should consider becoming Wal-Mart greeters or encyclopedia salesmen. Look, "Monday Night Football" is a showcase game. The other 30 teams are watching. If a must-win game doesn't provide enough motivation, if playing in front of 70,000 fans in one of the showcase stadiums in all of sports doesn't get the juices running, if seeing the great No. 4 under center doesn't put some spring in your step, then simply showing up so you aren't humiliated in front of the rest of the league and a national-television audience should provide the spark.

Instead, the players rolled over. Again. After showing so much fortitude in overcoming all those injuries to win 12 games in the 2002 season, and after stepping up in the wake of the death of Brett Favre's father last season, this team lacks heart. It's a harsh word and I don't use it to be provocative, but it looks like the Packers are a bunch of quitters.

Ever since they were exposed by the Bears in Week 2, the gutless defense has had the best seats in the house to watch the franchise's demise. They were outclassed in Indianapolis in Week 3. They were trampled by an average Giants offense in Week 4. And, on Monday, they were riddled by the inept Titans.

Not once has this defense made a play when it needed to make a play. Not once has any of its alleged playmakers even come close to delivering a goose bump-inspiring hit or game-changing turnover. Cletidus Hunt is stealing money from the organization. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila rarely gets close to the quarterback. Barnett constantly overruns plays to create huge holes. Has anyone seen Darren Sharper?

This football team should be embarrassed by what they see on the scoreboard. They should be embarrassed when they see thousands of fans running to the exits just minutes into the fourth quarter. They should be embarrassed that their level of play is going to drive Favre into retirement. But you can only be embarrassed if you actually care. And there's no evidence these guys care.

Brown County residents such as myself every day are paying for the Packers' new playground. We certainly didn't pay to see a bunch of poorly coached, overpaid quitters.

Huber writes for packerreport.com. Contact him via e-mail at packwriter@hotmail.com


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