Sherman making the right calls

On Sunday afternoon, the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles host the 6-0 Green Bay Packers.

The 6-0 Green Bay Packers?

The Packers, indeed, are 6-0 since Packers coach Mike Sherman took over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. In what started as a fill-in gig to tide the Packers over until Rossley recovered from an angioplasty has become an unstoppable offensive roll.

While the offense wasn't solely to blame for Green Bay's 1-4 start, that unit wasn't exactly leading the way, either. Even with the 31-point outburst against the Colts, Green Bay averaged 19.8 points per game during that miserable start. In home games against Chicago and the Giants, Green Bay scored a dreadful total of 17 points.

Then Sherman — remember that guy who was wearing too many hats? — took over and the offense suddenly began to flourish. In his six games calling the shots, the Packers are averaging 33.7 points per game. Outside of being held to 16 in the victory at Houston, the Packers' worst offensive performance was a 28-point effort at Washington.

The difference, quarterback Brett Favre has said repeatedly, is his ability to have face-to-face discussions with the man who's calling the plays.

"He sees, he hears, he feels what's going on," Favre said during his weekly Wednesday meeting with reporters.

With Sherman taking more responsibility over the offense, Favre has done the same.

"I told Mike, 'I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be to call the game.' I know it's difficult, but I said, 'Put it in my hands."'

That was good advice by Favre and good listening by Sherman. Favre was November's NFL Offensive Player of the Month, and during this six-game winning streak, he has compiled a stellar 102.9 passer rating with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Communication is the key to a solid relationship, and apparently it's the key to a finely tuned offensive machine. Favre and Sherman get together throughout the game, especially during kickoffs before the Packers' offense takes the field.

"He'll come over to me after a series and ask me what I think," Favre said. "We meet in here before the game and he'll show me 10 or 15 passes that he recommends or, really, I've recommended. And he'll throw in some. He'll say, 'What do you think?' And I'll say, 'I like that.' Or if I don't like it, ‘You move this one up, you move this one down.'"

It's not as if Favre and Rossley didn't communicate. But as anyone with a family knows, face-to-face conversation is so much more efficient than talking over a telephone. Or in the case of Favre and Rossley, communicating via a headset.

"One thing about Mike is he listens, especially during the game," Favre said. "Maybe at practice or meetings he may brush it off or make a joke about it, but during the game when it's crunch time, everyone's true colors show. And the mark of a good coach is a guy who will listen and will not become too overbearing or have a know-it-all type attitude. 'OK, can you beat the guy? All right, let's try it.' You've got to be willing to give a little bit, too, and he is."

Rossley, in his diminished role, remains a classy, team player. That the Packers are winning certainly must help massage any bruised ego.

"It's working well now and there's no need for any changes when stuff is working good," said Rossley.

It's not as if Rossley is out of the loop. Far from it, actually. Rossley remains in charge of coming up with the weekly gameplan. Perched from above, Rossley can concentrate on seeing how the opposing defense reacts to certain situations, plays and formations, and then give Sherman suggestions, instead of the never-ending cycle of watching one play then quickly calling the next.

Rossley still calls some plays. He has directed a couple of the two-minute drills. A few weeks ago, Rossley gave the example of Sherman calling a second-and-short play but telling Rossley to have a third-and-play ready should Sherman's play fail.

"As long as we're winning. Whatever it takes to win, that's the bottom line," Rossley said.


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