Sherman canned as coach of Packers

Mike Sherman's tenure as head coach of the Green Bay Packers came to a skidding halt, the morning after his team finished the 2005 season with a 4-12 record. Packers general manager Ted Thompson met with Sherman this morning, then addressed the media at Lambeau Field.

Sherman, the team's 13th head coach, led the Packers to a 57-39 record (.594 winning percentage) during his six years in Green Bay. Despite a number of injuries this season, especially at running back and wide receiver, Thompson felt he needed to make a change but declined to explain the reasons why he fired Sherman.

"I'm thinking in terms of where we are and where we need to get to," said Thompson of his decision. "I just think it's time for a new face in that position."

Three other coaches were let go on "Black Monday," the day after the regular season ends and the traditional day for firing coaches. St. Louis' Mike Martz, Houston's Dom Capers, and Jim Haslett of New Orleans also were released.

They join Mike Tice of Minnesota, fired after the Vikings' final game on Sunday, and Dick Vermeil of Kansas City, who retired Sunday at the age of 69. With the firing of Detroit's Steve Mariucci in November, that brings the number of vacancies to seven, with the prospect of one more - Norv Turner of Oakland, who could learn his fate Tuesday.

There were just three new coaches this season. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, an average of 5.9 jobs per year opened up, according to the Associated Press.

Sherman, 51, has come under fire from critics this season for questionable decisions during games. The Packers lost eight games by seven or less points and some feel his play-calling led to those losses. The fact that the Packers were just 2-4 under Sherman in the playoffs, including a bitter setback in the NFC Divisional playoffs against Philadelphia after the 2003 season, may have been factors in Thompson's decision.

In Sherman's defense, the Packers finished the 2005 season with 13 players on injured reserve and led the league with 45 turnovers. Quarterback Brett Favre was intercepted a career- and league-high 29 times, often at critical times during games. Prior to this season the Packers won the NFC North Division three straight seasons.

Thompson, hired as general manager in place of Sherman a year ago, said he decided to fire Sherman three days ago. His decision came less than five months after he handed Sherman a two-year contract extension worth $6.4 million. The two met when they arrived at their offices early this morning at Lambeau Field.

"It was a brief conversation," Thompson said. "Naturally, he was disappointed. I thanked him for all he has done for the Green Bay Packers over the last six years. I think he's done a fine job under some difficult circumstances and maintained a winning tradition of the Green Bay Packers."

Thompson then met with the players in the main team meeting room. Sherman also addressed the team before it gave him a standing ovation in appreciation of his effort as head coach.

"I was a little surprised," said long snapper Rob Davis, who has been with the Packers since Sherman was a tight ends coach with the Packers in 1997-98. "But we don't make those decisions.

"Any of you guys ever have had a chance to meet Mike personnally outside of his profession would know that he is a very strong man and has a lot of pride," Davis said. "He's a guy who can handle adversity well and will be OK."

Sherman's contract was extended last August for two years at $3.2 million a season with no buyout clauses. The Packers owe Sherman $6.4 million, minus any salary he makes with another NFL team this season.

Thompson said he will begin interviewing potential head coaches this week, including defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Bates signed a three-year contract with the Packers last year as defensive coordinator. Under his scheme, the Packers were ranked eighth overall after finishing 25th in 2004 under Bob Slowik.

"We intend to follow all of the guidelines that the NFL has set up to hire coaches," Thompson said.

Thompson said that he will speak privately with Bates. "Whether that leads to an interview or not remains to be seen.

"I think this is a marvelous place to be in the National Football League. There can't be much more attractive place. There will be competition. Every team is trying to hire coaches, but I don't think the Packers will have to take a backseat to anyone."

Thompson said that there was never any friction between he and Sherman. He said that Sherman was "very gracious" toward him when he took over as GM and understanding. Thompson said Sherman was surprised and disappointed over the decision, but understands leadership and the difficult decisions that need to be made at times.

"I just think that it's time for a new face in that position," Thompson said.

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