Stills: Finding the right guy

Next head coach has to have special qualities, chemistry with Thompson

In this "What have you done for me lately business" we call the National Football League, I don't think anyone should have been surprised by the firing of Coach Mike Sherman. It's too bad, I like Coach Sherman and admired everything that he has done with this Packers team, which was decimated with injuries this year. His team always played with class, it worked hard and played to the finish.

If you look at Sherman's coaching history, three division titles in the last four years, how can you not be impressed? But like I said, a lot of organizations in the NFL are all about what have you done lately. I hear coaches and front office personnel saying it all the time, and I agree. "Your only as good as your last game" or in Coach Sherman's case, your last season." That's all people seem to care about and remember. It's too bad, but winning and being the best every season is what makes today's society thrive.

Listening to Coach Sherman's press conference on Wednesday, I was surprised to hear his responses to questions from the press regarding Ted Thompson and their relationship. Coach Sherman mentioned that they really didn't have a personal relationship other then on a professional level.

I truly believe that if you're going to have a successful business for the long haul then you better have a strong working relationship with the people you interact with every day. If Thompson and Coach Sherman didn't have that kind of relationship, then firing him wasn't an issue. Thompson probably didn't know the direction Coach Sherman was headed with the team or even how he felt in general about the team. Yes, it is a business and you don't want to get too close to everyone you work with, but I think that's overrated. Maybe that statement is true regarding a player and a coach, but not with the general manager and head coach. I would think they could sit down and talk about the team and its direction over dinner and not always have to be in a corporate setting. I'm not saying that Thompson should go out and hire a coach who he has to be with every second of the day or know his every thought, but at least be on the same page regarding personnel, staffing and any other pertinent information regarding the team.

Thompson didn't hire Sherman. Ted might feel that he needs to hire someone who he can connect with and have that strong working relationship. Is that always important? Is it necessary? Maybe in Thompson's eyes it is. When he introduces the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers and he's shaking this guy's hand, he'll be thinking, this is my coach and my decision. If the team has success he'll feel that he has something to do with it. If they don't, well then maybe Green Bay will be hiring its next general manager.

Head coaching headaches
What makes a good head coach? In my opinion what makes a good head coach is a guy who already has head coaching experience. In my 25 or so years around football I've found out that guys who were great offensive or defensive coordinators don't always make good head coaches. All of a sudden the weight of having to manage an entire football team and not just your position of five or six guys becomes more of a challenge than you expected. Small things like knowing all your position player's names now turn into knowing the entire roster names. You might be used to coaching just your position, now you're involved with every aspect of the team, from assisting with special teams to organizing staff and team meetings, practice time, travel schedules and all the other important aspects of being head coach.

Lindy Infante is a great example of a good coordinator, turned head coach, where things didn't work out. Lindy was the offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals before he became head coach of the Packers in 1987. As soon as he took over the responsibility of head coach and trying to manage the football team and its players, things started to unravel. Coach Infante started thinking about what his star running back was doing with his off time, or whether his all-pro defensive end was out chasing women at the nightclub. Things that had nothing to do with football, but all the sudden became his responsibility. The combination of the off field distractions and trying to put together a game plan can drive a coach insane. It happens all the time. Ask Mike Tice about the "infamous boat ride" and how it affected the Minnesota Vikings.

Coordinators and position coaches don't have to worry about off-field distractions from players. They just go out and coach and let the head coach deal with the discipline issues. In turn the head coach has to endure more non-football-related issues, which takes away from their main focus and what's really important and that's winning football games.

Now the coach that used to be pretty good as a coordinator is struggling to be the head coach because his mind is on so many other different things beside football. There's a lot more to being head coach then most people think and know. Believe me, these guys have to be a special breed.

Why Broncos coordinator would be a good head coach for Packers
Who will be the next coach of the Green Bay Packers? When you start talking about coaches for the Packers you need to realize it's going to take a special person to coach in Green Bay. Maybe I'm biased because I played there, but it's hard to coach in Green Bay. Ask Ray Rhodes. He went 8-8 in his first season and got fired. It takes someone with a special aura. Guys like Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. Coaches that just carry themselves a certain way and have a certain mystic about them.

When I look at the list of potential coaches, the first guy that sparks my interest, if he becomes available, is Gary Kubiak, the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. Why? He's not a guy who cares about his ego and he's very loyal. He's been with the same organization for 12 years. He's had other opportunities to be a head coach, but has stayed with the team that has given him his opportunity. The word around the league is he hasn't taken another job because he isn't ready. That isn't true. The only way to get ready in this business is to jump into the fire with both feet and get burned. Until you do that, you'll never be ready and Gary knows that. He feels that he owes the Broncos for what they've done for him. That's the type of coach I would hire, someone who's loyal to the organization and the team. Besides his loyalty, Coach Kubiak has been involved with running the so-called West Coast Offense his entire career. Something that would help in the maturation process of the players already here in Green Bay, since that is supposedly the offense the Packers run now.

There are other coaches out there like Jim Bates, Brad Childress, Steve Mariucci … the list goes on. In my opinion I feel Kubiak would be the best choice for Green Bay.

It's going to take a special guy for this job. Is that coach out there? Will Ted Thompson find him? These and many other questions to be answered soon.

Former safety Ken Stills played for the Green Bay Packers from 1985-89. He is currently an assistant coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

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