Is Sherman set up to fail?

If Packers coach has winning season, he deserves new contract

Training camp began this week and Packers coach Mike Sherman got some great news when supposed holdout Javon Walker nixed the idea of holding out and reported to camp on time.

This, along with Brett Favre's return, though, is about all the good news Sherman has received since the end of the 2004 season. Listening to his opening press conference of training camp, Sherman was predictable, saying "I'm very excited about the upcoming season.

"I'm really looking forward to that first practice to get on our new field and get going. It seems like it's been a long off-season, and I'm anxious to see the development of some of our young players."

It's been a long off-season, that's for sure. Shortly after the season concluded with a playoff loss at home to Minnesota, Sherman was no longer a double-title man. The coach/general manager was just the coach as Packers president Bob Harlan stripped Sherman of the GM title and handed it to Ted Thompson.

This was just the beginning. Through free agency, the Packers lost Pro Bowl-caliber guards Marco Rivera (Dallas) and Mike Wahle (Carolina), and lost the services of safety Darren Sharper (Minnesota), who although he couldn't tackle, was better than rest of the sieves in the secondary.

Then Sherman had to ride out the Favre saga — will he or won't he return? Favre, as we all know by now, is back. Whew! Then the draft. The Packers drafted Favre's heir apparent in Aaron Rodgers in the first round, and in the second round picked defensive back Nick Collins (who most thought was a sixth-round pick) and wide receiver Terrence Murphy (who will be at best fourth on the depth chart at receiver).

So in other words, Sherman can't expect much from his first three picks in the draft this season. For a coach with one year left on his contract, that has to be a concern. Normally, first- and second-round picks are expected to help, but in his first draft with the Packers, Thompson went in a different direction — a direction without Sherman in mind?

Furthermore, the Packers didn't add any decent defensive players in the offseason to a unit which stunk as bad as stale beer last season. And, nose tackle Grady Jackson wants to be cut or traded as he's unhappy with his contract. The only notable addition to the defense was defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who was previously with Miami. He was good there, but with the likes of Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison and Zach Thomas, among others, he had help. In Green Bay, the help is minimal.

Sherman was asked about having one year left on his deal, with no signs of an extension coming in the near future. He didn't answer the question directly, saying most coaches are always on a one-year deal in the NFL.

It can be argued Sherman deserves an extension. He has guided the Packers to three consecutive NFC North titles, and is 53-27 in five seasons. Nothing to snicker at. Still, the Packers have not been a real threat in the playoffs since Mike Holmgren left after the 1998 season.

The Packers have lost two home playoff games in their history — both with Sherman on the sideline. Not something you want to be known for. And with Favre's career winding down, the window of challenging for another Super Bowl is just about open a crack, right now. Still, Sherman publicly doesn't admit he's under any unusual pressure this season.

"It hasn't changed from one year to the next," he said. "Every year when you're the head coach of the Green Bay Packers you have extremely high expectations, and this season's no exception."

The expectations are there, but you have to wonder with what has transpired since the end of the 2004 season if Sherman can weather the storm and receive a new contract. If he does, it'll be earned.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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