Sydney Speaks! Times have changed

Harry Sydney was running backs coach in 1996 when the Packers won the NFL title. Since then, the team has gradually slid downhill from the top of the league. Sydney offers his thoughts on why the Packers are where they are today.

We all watched this franchise climb to the top of the mountain in 1996 as it was crowned Super Bowl Champions. As fans you pounded your chest with pride you wore your Green Bay Packer sweatshirts and hats as if you were making a statement to the world saying the Pack is Back, and they were, or I can say we were because as a player and coach I felt I had a part in that rebirth. So when I talk about the pain of what I am seeing this season, let's just say the pain runs deep because this team is destroying what I was part of helping build, and I hold everyone responsible for that!!!!

I hold Ron Wolf responsible because as a man that is supposed to be about preparing for the future I don't think he thought enough ahead. If he did, Mike Holmgren would be still in Green Bay instead of Seattle. Ron Wolf is reportedly a war historian, which doesn't surprise me, but most wars aren't won in the first battle. Things have to be planned out for quite a while. I say this because I still don't understand why Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren didn't have a conversation saying something like, ‘Mike, I'm thinking about retiring in 2 to 3 years and I want you to be the guy when I leave because we brought a Super Bowl back to Lambeau. I know you want to be general manager and head coach, so why not here because you will have the Packer Nation at your finger tips.' Then I could hear Mike Holmgren saying, ‘you mean complete control?' Ron: ‘Yes, complete control.' Boy do I wish that conversation had taken place because I believe if it had this organization wouldn't be where it is right now.

Then to some degree I blame Bob Harlan for doing what he didn't want to do, and that's putting the direction of this organization in one man's hands. And that was the hands of Mike Sherman. I don't know about you, but aren't you tired of that hindsight crap. If Bob Harlan didn't feel it was the right thing to do he shouldn't have, especially after Ron Wolf sold him on Ray Rhodes.

I'm not sure how many times you have to stick your hand in fire before you realize the fire is hot. Usually it only takes one time. We all know the Packers had a good win-loss record under Mike Sherman and that's great if you enjoy meaningless wins, but when it counted all those wins didn't bring in any Super Bowls. They should have because they had enough talent and were in position but couldn't get over the hump or past the Eagles or Rams or Falcons. Then again we all know why, don't we? We could say it was because of fourth and one, or fourth and 26, or we could say it was because of a lot of turnovers or lack of turnovers. There have been plenty of coaching decisions related to the downfall of this team, but it hasn't been all about coaching. There have been plenty of player errors as well.

With that being said, we must look at the career of Brett Favre and how he has impacted the current state of the Green Bay Packers. As he has declined, so has this team. I know most people say he gives the Packers the best chance to win, and maybe so, but unless I'm mistaken this team was 4-12 last year and 4-8 this year. So what has changed? I have said he was making better decisions, then I realized that usually happens when he's winning and playing under control. The problem is as soon as you think he gets it then you look at his stats and realize other things. He's had the most fumbles in the last two years of anyone in the NFL, or in the last two games he has only thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions. Is it all his fault? Heck no, but we must realize that their have been changes. Some things have remained the same and one has been Brett Favre.

Then we come to Mike McCarthy, who I really feel was hired because of his previous relationship with Brett. Because the way I look at it Ted Thompson wanted to get a coach that Brett didn't mind playing for and had a relationship with, and that could hopefully control him. Therefore, Thompson hired Mike McCarthy and a plan for success. He thought McCarthy could control Brett, which he has for a portion of the season, probably the games they have won. But now for the real problem Brett Favre is 10 touchdowns away from Marino's record and what happens if Brett doesn't get them this year? Does he come back for another year? What does that do to the direction of the team? Or more importantly, what does that do to Brett's legacy because he has always said it isn't about records, but if he comes back after two losing seasons on a team that is sinking, what else would be the reason?

I haven't forgot about ‘Double T' Ted Thompson. He now is responsible for getting this team going in the right direction. I know he has gotten rid of some hefty baggage in Ahmad Carroll and Cletidus Hunt, for starters, but he now has to look at the future of this team and decide things like Mike McCarthy's fate. We all know that defensive coordinator Bob Sanders ain't getting it done and needs to be gone next year without question. If he isn't, doesn't he have to take a long, hard look at Mike McCarthy's ability to be objective. Besides, some coaching decisions McCarthy must demand is that Brett decide his fate for 2007 as soon as possible because this team can't stand the drama this off-season.

There are other issues as well, like what to do with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, especially since this week against the 49ers they will be using Corey Williams at defensive end on run downs. This could be a sign of the times. Besides that you have Nick Barnett and Al Harris, and their future with the Green bay Packers.

Think about it: Here it is, December 8, when we were so used to thinking or talking about the playoffs, but we haven't in a couple of years. Instead in another week we will be talking about the draft of 2007. Boy, HAVE TIMES CHANGED.

Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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