Is it the West Coast Offense that Mike Holmgren redesigned in Green Bay that made the difference? Is it the building of a young defense that has made it work? Is it just dumb luck?
Call it what you want, but the Packers coaching tree is on the verge of NFL history -- even if the master isn't a part of it.
Heading into this weekend, if the playoffs were to start now the division champions would be Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and San Francisco. What do they all have in common? Their coaches were all on the same staff at the same time.
There may be something to the Packer mystique. There surely is no way to argue the success rate. When the Packers were the dominant force in the NFL a few years ago, as typically happens other teams pillaged the coaching ranks of their top assistants. But never has the success rate been this high.
San Francisco tabbed Steve Mariucci from the Packers coaching staff, who has turned the 49ers around and has them well on their way to a division title. When Oakland's Al Davis was looking for a new direction, he went after former Packers assistant Jon Gruden, who was the only coach to lead a team to division titles each of the last two years. While it could be argued that the pieces were already in place when he went to Tampa Bay, Tony Dungy didn't have a winning record after seven games in the last five years -- Gruden has his team at 7-2 and off to the best start in franchise history.
When Ray Rhodes, another Packers assistant who won a division title, flamed out in Philadelphia, they brought in relative unknown Andy Reid. He took the Eagles to the NFL title game and has the Eagles poised for another division title and playoff run. Then there's Mike Sherman. Another coach from the Holmgren staff, he has the Packers at 8-1, and with a win and a Detroit loss Sunday, the Packers would clinch a division title in just 10 games and have the fast track to home field advantage in the playoffs.
Never in the history of the NFL have there been four coaches who worked together win division titles in the same season. Right now it looks like all four NFC champs will be guys who saw their careers travel through Green Bay.
While Holmgren himself is struggling in Seattle and talk is he'll be fired after this season, his legacy no longer needs to be his own coaching record. Like Bill Walsh's coaching tree before him, Holmgren's disciples are making their own mark -- at a record-setting pace no less. His four proteges have a combined record of 28-8 this season. Maybe there is something to the system the Packers put in place years ago ... and maybe something the Vikings should try to steal as they rebuild their own franchise.
* Cris Carter may end up getting put on injured reserve or just released. A VU source with the Dolphins said the talk now is that Carter may be out a month or more. If he can come back, it wouldn't be until December and the team is seriously considering using his roster spot for another player and either putting him on injured reserve or cutting him outright.
* Randy Moss' court case concerning his driving mishap and marijuana possession scheduled to start today has been continued. It likely won't be handled until after the season.
* WR LaVell Boyd was signed to the practice squad Tuesday.
Vikes Should Learn from Packers
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