Why Sherman should stay, and go

Plenty of reasons in both scenarios

Nine games into this season there's two things we can be sure of about the 2-7 Green Bay Packers:

First, unless the Chicago Bears collapse, the Packers will not win the NFC North Division title for the first time in the division's four-year existence.

Second, despite all the injuries the Packers have been arguably more competitive than some other teams with twice as many wins.

Which leads us the $64,000 question: Should Mike Sherman be retained for another season as coach of the Packers?

Instead of giving you one answer, I'll give you two – one for yes and one for no.

Why Sherman Should Return
The Packers have been in every one of their games entering the fourth quarter, despite having to field players with names like ReShard Lee, Samkon Gado, Jamal Jones and Donald Lee, among others.

The players have displayed a willingness to play hard for their coach, who despite signing a two-year contract extension prior to the start of the season, really could be labeled a "lame duck" coach. The Packers would be able to buy Sherman out for less than the $6 million-plus combined Sherman has owed to him for 2006 and 2007. If this team wanted Sherman out, it would play like it, and so far the players haven't given up. That's a plus in Sherman's column.

Did you see the Packers handle the-then 6-2 Atlanta Falcons last week at Atlanta? Nobody gave the Packers a shot, and with good reason. Yet, Sherman coached his tail off and the players came through with a 33-25 win, which wasn't that close.

If Sherman leaves, will Brett Favre retire? Nobody knows for sure, but if GM Ted Thompson pulls the cord on Sherman, he may be doing more than firing Sherman, he may be indirectly ending one of the greatest eras in NFL history. Would Thompson want that on his resume?

If Ryan Longwell could've made a field goal or extra point against Tampa Bay, the Packers could have beaten the Buccaneers, who won 17-16, in Week 3. That win could've jumpstarted the Packers.

And finally, what I think might be the biggest reason to keep Sherman. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team which has had coach Bill Cowher, it seems forever. More than once Cowher was on the hot seat, but cooler heads prevailed in Pittsburgh and the Steelers kept Cowher.

A top five coach in the NFL, Cowher has installed continuity with the Steelers, who have made four AFC title games under and one Super Bowl under Cowher's lead. Few teams do what Pittsburgh did in today's world of win now or get fired, but keeping around a quality coach through hard times is not the wrong way to go.

So what Thompson must decide is if he thinks Sherman is a quality coach.

Why Sherman Should Be Fired
Now this has nothing to do with his role as a general manager, as he's already been freed up of that responsibility.

In the waning years or year of Favre's career, Sherman has led the Packers on pace to have its worst record since Lindy Infante sat in the pilot's seat. For those who say injuries have decimated this team, aren't injuries part of the game?

You move on and make do with what you have. It might be cruel, but it's the way most teams operate.

With that in mind, the Packers have lost five of their seven games by seven points or less. They have lost to Tampa Bay by one point, Cleveland by two points, Carolina by three points, Minnesota by three points, after leading 17-0 at halftime, and to Cincinnati by seven points, when Favre threw five interceptions. Don't good coaches win some of these games? Don't they figure a way out how to win these games? Would Bill Belichick have lost all these games? No.

There's a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, as this shows, but Sherman repeatedly hasn't won close games, which is why the Packers are in position for a top five draft pick in 2006.

Also, the running game has been disappointing this season. When the Packers had a healthy Ahman Green for four games, Green averaged 15.3 carries per game, far less than any running back needs to find a rhythm.

Now some say Green may have a lost a step, but before he injured his knee and quad in Week 4, his health was never mentioned as a serious concern.

So what happens once Green and Najeh Davenport are lost for season via injury, and Tony Fisher is too banged up to go? The Packers give rookie free agent Samkon Gado, a fifth-string running back, 51 carries in the last two weeks.

How does this make sense?

You would think with Gado the Packers would turn to Favre more often, but the opposite has happened.

When asked why Sherman has run the ball more in the last two weeks than in any other two-week period prior to this, he said, "Part of it is Ahman was never 100 percent healthy."

Never healthy? I don't remember this being a major story prior to Week 4. Sherman continued, saying, "We also had the fact that we had Najeh Davenport at that time and Tony Fisher, so we were able to work all three backs in the run game."

Yes, but the Packers' 58 carries over the last two weeks are more than the Packers had in any two-week period when Green, Davenport and Fisher were healthy. Green Bay basically ignored the run at times this season, for maybe many reasons. However, against Pittsburgh, Gado's debut, he ran 26 times for 62 yards. Hardly great numbers.

Nonetheless, what this does is force the defense to honor the run because the Packers showed the willingness to run. Knowing this, a new section of the playbook can be opened – play-action. Fake a handoff to the running back and find a tight end or wide receiver behind the linebackers in the middle of the field for a big play.

Not giving the defense a worry about the run only plays into its hands, not the offense's, which makes me wonder, if the Packers draft Reggie Bush next season will they give him a chance?

Would Sherman give him a chance?

Good questions, but the first answer we need is, should Sherman be back? I say yes, and I say no.

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 dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

Packer Report Top Stories