Commentary: In Harlan's brain, Part 1

Somewhere deep inside the brain of Packers president Bob Harlan...

I can't believe we lost to the Vikings. I just can't believe it. Worse, I've got fans who vow to never watch another game as long as Mike Sherman is our coach and general manager. Then again, these are some of the same fans who are calling for Brett Favre to retire. All he did was throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns for only the third time in his great career.

Something needs to be done. Our football team is getting worse, not better. But is this all Mike's fault?

Our defense was really awful this season, but is that Mike's fault, too? Sure, maybe firing Ed Donatell and replacing him with Bob Slowik didn't work out so well. But at the end of the day, you've got to have players. And Mike tried to get us players.

Two years ago, he drafted Nick Barnett in the first round. He traded our second-round pick to get Al Harris. He signed Hannibal Navies. He picked up Grady Jackson. Last year, he drafted Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas and a couple young defensive linemen. He signed Mark Roman.

All of those moves should have helped our defense, but they didn't. Is that Mike's fault? No way. Barnett is better than Hardy Nickerson. Navies is better than Nate Wayne. Jackson is better than Gilbert Brown. Harris is better than Tyrone Williams. Who would have thought a guy with Roman's track record would be only a minimal upgrade over Marques Anderson and Antuan Edwards?

Yeah, maybe Mike shouldn't have fired Donatell. But let's be fair to Slowik. Slowik wanted to be aggressive and blitz people, but then Mike McKenzie woke up on the wrong side of the bed and wanted out. Then Grady got hurt. Then Sharper got hurt. That's unquestionably our three best defensive players; one talked his way into a trade and the others were playing at less than full speed with knee injuries. You can't blitz if you can't cover the other teams' receivers, and without McKenzie's coverage skills and Sharper's athleticism to either cover deep or harass the passer, Slowik's schemes had no chance.

On offense, last year's team set all sorts of records, including most points and most rushing yards. This year's team set the franchise yardage record for yards and passing yards. So goodness knows his offense did a fine job. Is it Mike's fault that Brett threw four interceptions against the Vikings? Is it Mike's fault that two of our three wide receivers were injured? Is it Mike's fault Brett threw one up for grabs to start overtime last year in the playoff game at Philadelphia? Is it's Mike's fault that when we lost to Atlanta, the first home playoff loss in team history, that half of our team was injured?

And if I fire Mike, who will I replace him with? And if we have to install a new offense, what does that mean for Brett? He's run the same offense his entire career here. Will all the learning necessary put us so far behind that next year will be a lost cause, too?

Mike's no Vince Lombardi. But he's no Ray Rhodes, either. His career record is stellar, at 53-27. He's won three straight NFC North championships. We've stayed competitive despite the salary cap, which ruined Dallas and San Francisco and Baltimore, among others.

Sure, I could take away one of his titles. But that's tricky. First off, the GM-coach thing has worked pretty well for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Bill Belichick makes all the final personnel decisions in New England. That could be this year's Super Bowl matchup, so to say you can't be coach and GM and be successful is just wrong.

Besides, having Mike be just the GM is giving him the job in which he excels least. His drafts haven't been too hot, and his decision to fire Donatell makes me wonder about his ability to hire his replacement. And if I make Mike just the head coach, then the new GM will have to live with Mike. Most bosses like to hire their own guys.

I had better hurry because Brett needs to know my direction and Mike's agent wants to talk contract. Maybe we need change. Maybe Mike has to be the sacrificial lamb. I'll think about that later.

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


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