First, Mike Sherman is still the coach of the Green Bay Packers. He was given a two-year extension before this season. Also, Mariucci is still the coach of the Detroit Lions. Finally, Favre appeared to throw a lifeline to Sherman last week regarding his future with the Packers. Favre indicated that his future might be tied to Sherman's when he said, "I don't think there's one specific thing that would make me say yeah or no. It's just a culmination of a lot of different things, that being one of them. Maybe you're on the verge of saying yeah, and then you say, you know what, do I really want to sit in meetings and have to learn something all over again? That could be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
When Ted Thompson gave Sherman the contract extension, he certainly didn't expect the team to be 1-7 after eight games. To Sherman's credit, he still has the team playing hard, even with a myriad of key injuries and some big losses in free agency. In fact, the Packers are the only team in NFL history to be 1-7 and to have more points scored (168) than they have given up (159). That adds up to a lot of close losses. Still, there are those that will be clamoring for a change if the Packers don't start winning some football games.
Mariucci is in a similar situation. A lot was expected of Detroit this season. The Lions have a lot of good, young talent on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Lions had a very good young back in Kevin Jones. The team appeared set at WR with Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and rookie Mike Williams. The key for the offense was getting QB Joey Harrington to elevate his game to the next level. That hasn't happened. The Lions are 3-5 in the NFC North. The wide receiver position has been in disarray for a variety of reasons. There is speculation that G.M. Matt Millen might be ready to part ways with Mariucci if the Lions don't finish strong.
Mariucci was born and raised in Iron Mountain, Mich., as a Packer fan. He was quarterbacks coach for his boyhood team from 1992-1995 on Mike Holmgren's staff. That would make him Brett Favre's position coach. Mariucci and Favre are close, both on and off the field. Favre credited Mariucci for helping the young QB become one of the best in the NFL. There was a point in 1994 when the Packer coaching staff was considering benching Favre for Mark Brunell because of Favre's inconsistent play. Mariucci didn't pull any punches with Favre. He kept pushing his young QB to get better. Within a year, Favre had won his first MVP. Mariucci's stock went up as well, as he took the head coaching job at the University of California after the 1995 season.
Sherman certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt regarding his future in Green Bay. Although he lost his G.M. duties this year, Sherman had accumulated a 53-27 record over his first five years in Green Bay, including three straight NFC North titles. But the Packers are only 2-4 under Sherman in the postseason.
Yes, the Packers are currently 1-7. But it is also obvious that the effort is still there. When it becomes obvious that the effort is lacking, then Sherman would have to look over his shoulder. Certainly Mariucci is looking over his shoulder. The NFC North is wide open this season. There are many that would argue that the Lions are the most talented team in the division. Millen knows that the Lions need to have success soon before he starts feeling pressure as well.
Could there be a Favre-Mariucci reunion in 2006? The stars would have to align correctly, but it is a definite possibility. If the Lions don't win the NFC North, Mariucci could be let go. Ted Thompson will evaluate Sherman closely over the next eight games. If Sherman is fired and Mariucci is available, the Packers would have to take a long look at "Mooch". The key would be the familiarity factor. Mariucci runs the West Coast offense and he would relish the chance to coach Favre again. Favre certainly wouldn't have to start over again in 2006 because Mariucci runs the same offense Favre is used to running. The friendship between the two wouldn't hurt either.
Thompson and Mariucci also worked together in Green Bay in the early 1990s. The other ingredient Mariucci would bring to the table is a fiery attitude. The Packers of 2005 are playing hard, but are missing a spark that would get them over the hump. A lot of things have to happen, but Mariucci might just be that spark in 2006. If that indeed happens, I could see Favre playing for a couple more years.
Bob Fox is a freelance writer from the Tampa, Fla. area.