Former Vikings Coaches Making Moves

Former Vikings assistants under Dennis Green are making their moves around the NFL. One has been hired as Green's offensive coordinator in Arizona and another is looking to leave Green Bay for family reasons. Plus, get updates on two former Vikings defensive linemen.


Ray Sherman, the assistant coach credited with developing the Packers' wide receivers into one of the NFL's finest groups, will explore other opportunities in the offseason in an attempt to be closer to his Florida-based family.

Sherman, the team's wide receivers coach throughout coach Mike Sherman's five-year tenure, expressly declined to sign a contract extension after last season so his deal would expire after this season.

In other words, the 53-year-old Sherman now is a coaching free agent. He was the Vikings quarterbacks coach from 1995-97 and their offensive coordinator in 1999.

"We have to see what happens," Sherman said. "This (the Green Bay Packers) is a great organization, but it's hard for me being away from my family. There's no guarantee I'll be leaving here, but I have to try to get closer to my family."

Sherman's wife, Yvette, and their two daughters, Erica, 13, and Alana, 6, moved from Green Bay to a new home in Bradenton, Fla., in August 2003. Sherman has seen them only about five times in the last four months.

Last January, the Packers gave Sherman permission to discuss an assistant coaching position on coach Dave Wannstedt's staff in Miami, but he eventually decided to stay.

The family's move to Bradenton was planned before the tragedy of May 18, 2003, when Ray Sherman II, 14, died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head that was ruled an accident in the garage of their home in Green Bay.

Still, the move probably couldn't have come at a better time.

Sherman has said that his wife and daughters had bad memories of Green Bay that wouldn't go away easily. He and his wife also remain embroiled in a controversy involving their son's death.

Two days after Ray II died, the Brown County medical examiner ruled the act as a suicide. The Shermans spent more than $100,000 challenging the ruling in the Brown County court system and, in May 2004, a judge ruled that Ray II's death was accidental.

Since then, the Shermans have initiated legal proceedings in Brown County to recover the cost of their legal bills.

Several of his players have described Sherman as a father figure to them. Both Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson said they had never been closer to any assistant coach than Sherman.

"There'd be no replacement for him," Ferguson said. "What he means to us is far more than a coach or anything like that."

Driver said Yvette Sherman was like a mother to him, and their daughters were like family. The receivers gave game balls to the girls Dec. 24 during the 34-31 victory over the Vikings at the Metrodome.

"To be honest, I don't want to talk about that," Driver said. "He's special to us. One thing about it — it will hurt us if he does (leave)."

Nevertheless, both players said they were well aware that Sherman might leave for family reasons.

"That would only be natural," Ferguson said. "He could be a coordinator, head coach, whatever. Who knows what the future holds for him?"

Sherman was an offensive coordinator with the New York Jets in 1994, the Pittsburgh Steelers in ‘98 and the Minnesota Vikings in ‘99. He also has coached both wide receivers and running backs in Houston and San Francisco and quarterbacks in Minnesota.


After an opening year in which he made several decisions that at times seemed more impulsive than instinctive or intuitive, Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green hired an offensive coordinator — Keith Rowen — who hasn't called a play in 21 seasons, and that was at the USFL level.

"From our time together in Minnesota, I know that Keith has a tremendous grasp of this offensive system and what we expect from it," said Green. "We had some outstanding offensive seasons with the Vikings and Keith has also been involved with some incredible offenses since then, most recently in Kansas City under the legendary Dick Vermeil. I'm confident we can have similar success in Arizona with Keith as offensive coordinator."

But Green had uttered almost those exact same words of praise and confidence when introducing Alex Wood as his offensive coordinator less than a year ago. And Rowen was the line coach at Minnesota.

Rowen has been an NFL assistant for 21 seasons but has not been an offensive coordinator since his USFL days more than two decades ago. Rowen coached the offensive line on Green's staff in Minnesota for three years. He is not known as a QB guru, though.

Rowen succeeds Wood, another longtime crony of Green, who was fired the day after the 6-10 season ended with a win over Tampa Bay.

Green moved tight ends coach Mike Wilson outside to coach one of the league's strongest groups of young receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson. He succeeds Robert Ford, who was fired along with Wood 24 hours after the finale.

Carl Hargrave, hired as an offensive consultant before the season reached the midpoint, was retained to coach tight ends. Many observers expected Green to make Hargrave the coordinator. He was with Green for eight years in Minnesota.

Green was not happy with the offense from Day 1. Yet he hired Wood and Ford. Perhaps the timing of Green's hiring gave him little time and fewer options when assembling his initial staff, or perhaps he simply whiffed in his assessment of the coaches.

Green came in regarded as an offensive guru, yet that unit was near the bottom of the NFL in every category.

Green had fired offensive line coach Bob Wylie after six games and said that Everett Lindsay, a former Vikings offensive lineman brought on at midseason, will remain the line coach.


Keith Rowen's departure for Arizona may not seem like a major loss to anyone who didn't closely follow the day-to-day workings of the Kansas City Chiefs.

People on the inside, however, understand how important Rowen was to the overall structure of the potent Chiefs offense and why his departure for Arizona was a coup for Cardinals coach Dennis Green, who once employed Rowen as his offensive line coach at Minnesota.

It also suggests to those on the inside that more shakeups in the Chiefs staff might be imminent.

Rowen was a major player in the improvement of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who this past season set an NFL record for single-season receptions by a tight end (102). Gonzalez's 1,258 receiving yards this year was the second highest total for a tight end in league history. Only Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow has more (1,290).

Gonzalez was a raw talent before he met Rowen in his third pro season (1999). In that year, however, he jumped from 59 catches to 76 and has never had fewer than 73 since then. Rowen helped Gonzalez become a believer in the daily work necessary to improve his ball-catching skills — something Gonzalez battled in the early years of his career.

Today, Gonzalez catches everything that comes close, and he cites Rowen as an important factor in that improvement.

Moreover, Rowen developed the team's weekly game plan in short-yardage and goal-line situations — areas the Chiefs have excelled in during the past three seasons. He worked closely with offensive coordinator Al Saunders in implementing the double-tight end offense the Chiefs used often and effectively.

His departure leaves a hole that may not be appreciated by Kansas City's fans, but one Dick Vermeil knows is appreciable.

"I'm very excited that Keith has received the recognition he deserves and the opportunity to run his own offense," Vermeil said. "He's done an outstanding job in making a contribution to the success of one of the best offenses in the National Football League.

"I'm excited yet disappointed to lose a guy that I care so much about. I'm proud that we were able to enhance his opportunities so he could go do his own thing and be his own boss and continue to grow, because he has the talent to do so."


DE Robert Mathis doesn't expect to be available for Sunday's game at New England. Mathis suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee in the latter stages of last week's wild-card win over Denver.

He is expected to be replaced in the defensive line rotation by third-year DE Nick Rogers. A former fifth-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2002, Rogers was signed by Indianapolis on Dec. 22 after being waived by Green Bay.


DE Chuck Wiley (UFA) was signed as a street free agent when cut by Minnesota and showed a little flash until he was injured. The Giants will probably try to keep him, but not try too hard.

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