Q&A: With OC Sherman Lewis

After eight years as Green Bay's offensive coordinator, Sherman Lewis assumed that same role with the Vikings last year. Although Lewis was offensive coordinator in Green Bay for eight years, 1999 was Lewis' first year of calling plays for the Packers.

During his tenure with the Packers, Lewis oversaw an offense that produced more than 400 points for four consecutive seasons. In 1999, without Mike Holmgren calling the plays, Lewis wanted to develop a more vertical passing game, which could be one of the reasons Dennis Green saw fit to merge his philosophy with talent like Randy Moss and Cris Carter. In 2000, the Vikings averaged 24.8 points under Lewis.

Before joining the Packers in 1992, Lewis coached in San Francisco and spent 14 years coaching at Michigan State.

Q: What are your feelings about the performance of the offense?
A: We have been very inconsistent. I was very pleased after the Tampa game. We played against one of the best defenses in the league, and I thought we did an outstanding job of moving the chains, getting first downs and scoring in the red zone. I thought we did a great job of controlling the clock. (Against New Orleans), I was very disappointed. We got ourselves in a lot of long-yardage situations, a lot of third-and-12s, second-and-15s.

On the road, it's just tough when you are on the road like that and the crowd is getting into the game and you give them all that noise. The crowd gets into the game when they get you in long-yardage situations. …We weren't able to establish a running game. I'm disappointed in the fact we didn't establish a running game and we had too many sacks.

Q: What would you say is the key to establishing the running game?
A: The running game is a team thing. A great back can make some things happen, but I think we just have to run the ball. We have to get more chances to run the ball. That's my fault for not calling more. But I just didn't feel in that situation we had (at New Orleans) … we got behind and got in long-yardage situations. I didn't think there were as many opportunities as I would have liked to run the ball. Even though it may be second-and 15, I have to run it a little bit more I think.

Q: How do you feel Daunte Culpepper has played?
A: I think he has been good overall. I think his rating has been good. He's still young. He's still only a second-year starter. He had a great first year and he's off to a good start this year. But he's going to make some mistakes and (cutting down on those) just comes with experience. We have to live with those. He makes a lot more good plays than he makes bad plays. Every once in a while he makes a bad judgment and we have to just live with that. I know he's going to get better. Nobody is trying harder than he is.

Q: Do you think teams are better prepared for Culpepper, having had an offseason to get ready to face him?
A: I don't see it. People know he's a great threat to run the football. I think they knew that after a few games last year, too. I don't know if everybody has adapted. His statistics and stuff are good. He's learning to be more patient. I thought he demonstrated that against Tampa. Once in a while he just tries to make a play, but when it's not there he would be better off just throwing it away.

Q: Culpepper did not run the ball against New Orleans. Is that something you want to see him do or not?
A: He did not have any opportunities to just take off and just run with it. Usually he was just scrambling for his life to get out of there and make a throw down the field. I remember twice I thought he might have been able to run with it, but he saw somebody open down field and decided to throw it. It was not our intention for him to not run. It was not his intention. He makes that decision instinctively.

Q: How pleased are you with Byron Chamberlain? You have to be pleased with a tight end who can add so much to the offense.
A: He's made a lot of good plays for us. In the red zone especially, and all over the field. He is a good runner after the catch and has been a fine addition for us.

Q: How key is that to have a tight end who is such a threat?
A: It's good because the wideouts get so much attention and so much double coverage that a lot of times the vulnerability of the defense that they are playing is in the middle of the field. We have a guy that can take advantage of it. VU

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