Off to Lombardi-like Pace

Talk about carrying out a plan. When Mike Sherman came to Green Bay, he wasn't about to reshuffle the roster and chart a course toward reaching the NFC Championship game in three to five years. Not a chance.<p>

"I pulled Brett Favre aside and said, ‘Hey, this is no rebuilding job. We've got to do it now," Sherman recently recollected. "Every time we take that field, you're either going forward or going backwards. You had better be going forward in this league."

As coaches like Dennis Green, Jim Mora, Tony Dungy and Marty Schottenheimer recently found out, winning during the regular season and advancing in the playoffs is the No. 1 priority among owners in the National Football League. Having teams with potential that fall short doesn't cut it any more.

As long as Brett Favre is behind center, Sherman knows that the Packers' window of opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl is now. The Packers' retained a number of their veterans last off-season and the results this season were impressive. Green Bay finished with a 12-4 regular season record, including 5-3 on the road, and advanced to the NFC Divisional playoffs.

Through two seasons, Sherman is off to a Vince Lombardi-like pace. After posting a 21-11 won-lost record through his first 32 regular season games, Sherman has matched Lombardi's start in 1959-60. Like Lombardi, Sherman also led the Packers to a playoff berth in only his second season.

Unlike Lombardi, Sherman won his first playoff game before his team got whipped by the Rams on Jan. 20. Lombardi lost his first playoff game – 17-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 26, 1960 – before going on to win five NFL titles.

If anyone had doubts about Sherman when Ron Wolf hired him in January of 2000, they probably don't now. Sherman maintains he never felt that he had to prove anything to anybody but himself and his team.

"The only validation I worry about is my family's and they've validated me pretty good," Sherman said after his first playoff victory, a 25-15 win over the 49ers on Jan. 13. "I don't worry about that validation stuff. I think history is the best validation. When you're done you look back on it. Sometimes you can work your ass off and things don't go your way, but that doesn't mean you are any less of anything."

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