Lombardi: The ever-changing NFL

Columnist John Lombardi gives his opinion on Ted Thompson's decision to dismiss Mike Sherman as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

As would be expected for a man with my last name, I get asked about the Packers all the time. I have my opinions of course, but most of the time I do not give them. I am more covert and sneaky about it. I couch my answers in conventional wisdom or I talk about what others might do or think. It is not that I am a weasel or afraid of going out on a limb. In fact, if you asked my wife, she would tell you that I am very opinionated and stubborn. The thing is that there is usually a difference between what you think will happen and what will actually happen. There are rarely any situations in pro football that are black and white anymore. (Except for the firing of Mike Tice of course.)

In the NFL, most people seem wishy-washy or indecisive. Bill Parcells retires, then comes back, then retires, then is going to the Bucs, then not. And so on. My Grandfather retired as the Packers' coach and then went to Washington. Look at the current Packers. They give Mike Sherman an extension and then fire him. Then they say that it is not because of just this year. Well, why did he get the extension then? Things change, people change, players get hurt, guys retire, teams lose and people get fired.

The NFL is like that. I may not feel that Sherman deserves to get fired, but I understand why he is. He has won a lot of games, but not many playoff games. He never lost the team, but it finished 4-12. He seems like a good guy, but does not tolerate dissent very well. The players give him a standing ovation when he addresses them after being fired, but these same players will gravitate to the new coach just as easily. We all have our ups and downs. In the NFL, ups let you keep your job, downs get you fired.

In reality, almost every coach and most general managers could be fired if you think about it. Only one team wins the Super Bowl and therefore the other 31 teams have failed. Some survive because they are in a rebuilding mode or suffer a lot of injuries or have patient management. Others have won recently and get a pass, hoping that they will be back on top soon. Eventually, everyone will get fired or forced out. Look at Dick Vermeil. He just retired (under pressure?) with 10 wins and no playoff appearance. Look at Bill Belichick. He was run out of town in Cleveland on a rail. It is a tough profession.

Sherman has had some success and some failures here. The team decided to go in a different direction and it is time for a change. Ted Thompson believes that Sherman is not the guy to take the team to the Super Bowl. I do not disagree with his assessment. He knows more than me. But he must hire "the guy" now. He has already hitched his ride to Sherman once. He was able to cover up that decision with a pink slip and $6.4 million dollars in severance. He will not be able to survive another mistake. Unlike Sherman, his short tenure really has no successes, some incompletes and some failures. He will live or die with his new coach. That is the NFL and as much as Sherman knows it now, so will Thompson.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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