Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 Nov 2005

Approval Where It Counts

I'm not saying that the collapse of the Green Bay Packers can be entirely placed upon the shoulders of Mike Sherman. I'm just saying that the players on a 1-6 team probably are way down on the list of people who should be giving advice about hiring or firing a head coach. If I were in the Packers front office, I would be a little more concerned with things like playcalling, improvement of young players, and personnel decisions.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 02 Nov 2005

16 comments, Last at 03 Nov 2005, 2:42am by Antonio Chatman

Comments

1
by walter (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 12:25pm

"If I were in the Packers front office, I would be a little more concerned with things like playcalling, improvement of young players, and personnel decisions."

Since Sherman is no longer GM the only one of those that you can pin on him is playcalling. I'd contend that the playcalling isn't to blame either, since the largest margin of loss, 14 points, occured in week one and the team has had a chance to tie or win at the end of every game. This is a bad team that has been competitive in the face of a poor record, injuries to key players, and turnovers. That speaks to the leadership of this coaching staff.

2
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 1:15pm

"Since Sherman is no longer GM the only one of those that you can pin on him is playcalling."

I have to disagree. Sherman was GM until January 05. So the playing staff that he has is mostly his responsibility. The 'bad team' that is 'competitive' is the one that Sherman assembled.

Mike Sherman might be a fine coach, but the reason he is coaching a sub-standard group of players is that he drafted and signed them.

3
by Duane (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 1:19pm

Aaron, you're right about the players' opinions of Sherman being all but irrelevant in assessing his job performance. Say what you will about Sherman's coaching acumen, but at least the Packers players are still buying in. One need only look West across the river to see the result of players not buying in to the coach's plans and philosophies. Which is why, in the pitiful NFC North, the Packers have at least an outside chance of catching the Bears. I know, I know, it's not likely, but it's more likely than the Vikings doing it.

4
by mike from menomonee falls (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 1:40pm

That's an excellent use of 'Field Goal' as a verb by Nick Barnett.

5
by walter (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 1:43pm

"Mike Sherman might be a fine coach, but the reason he is coaching a sub-standard group of players is that he drafted and signed them."

The starting lineup for opening day consisted of exactly one Sherman player on offense, Javon Walker. Even now the only Sherman players starting on offense are Chatman and Fisher, and once Ferguson is back that will go down to just Fisher.
The defense, which is the part of the team performing above expectations, is however populated by Sherman players.
Also considering that he is now solely a coach, firing him from his coaching position because of things he did in a different position that he no longer holds seems illogical.

6
by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 2:04pm

Well, I don't know how much I would point to the defense as a reason why Mike Sherman is doing well, considering that they have a mediocre run defense and a pass defense that apparently consists solely of Al Harris.

But this does seem like an odd time to go after Mike Sherman. I mean, Aaron just wrote a few paragraphs about why Green Bay is declining, and none of those reasons were things that the coach has any control over. If you're going to argue for firing Mike Sherman, you'd be better off arguing that he's not the right guy to rebuild a roster than that he's responsible for GBs decline this season.

7
by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 2:31pm

I felt that Sherman the GM had to go after the whole Joe Johnson fiasco. However, in the past I have defended his coaching. Now I wonder. There is a problem with his coaching when I can sit in my living room, look at personnel, down, distance and formation and generally predict the play (draw, run left, pass underneath, etc.) If an fan in his living room can figure it out, what are defensive coordinators doing.

Some of it boils down to execution, but you have to put the players in a position to succeed.

Still, does he need to go? I don't think so. Not yet.

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 2:37pm

Walter, the fact that Sherman, who was GM from 2001-05, has only 2 players that he drafted or signed playing for the offense is a stinging indictment of his abiltiy as GM.
I don't know the number of 'Sherman players'on the Defense, but the Packers D is 26th in DVOA and that doesn't make a great case for his player evaluation skills.

It's not his coaching that is necessarily the problem, rather it's the players he's given himself to coach.

9
by Ryan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 3:20pm

re: 5, 8 The fact that there are only 2 Sherman players on offense is more a testament to Ron Wolf than a failing of Sherman. Position by position for starters on offense (pre-injuries):

QB, Favre*
HB, Green*
FB, Henderson*
WR, Walker* (Sherman guy)
WR, Driver* TE, Franks* LT, Clifton LG, Klemm C, Flanagan* RG, Whitticker RT, Tauscher (* = Pro Bowler) So the lineup Sherman was going to field this year included six Pro Bowl players he inherited, which he didn't need to replace. Both guards were brought in to replace Wahle and Rivera, who left after Sherman lost his GM title, and the other two guys are very good tackles. Basically, Sherman the GM didn't have to find any starters on offense, because Wolf found them all in the 90s. His mark is on defense, which unfortunately has included guys like Cletidus Hunt and Joe Johnson. I think he had a tendency to spend more than he needed to for players he thought would be impact players (KGB, Hunt). He also keyed in too much on certain players, trading away picks to draft them. Most picks won't end up panning out, so trading up should be rare. Wolf understood that and routinely traded down and stockpiled picks. I like Sherman as a coach, but for some reason he doesn't seem to be able to finish the job (Eagles game in 2003, losing home-field in 2002). The players are too undisciplined and lack focus at times. The approach at the end of games this year during attempted comebacks has bothered me as well (CLE, TB, CIN). You can't take 5:30 to score when you're down 14 with 8 minutes left. At the end of the year, if Thompson thinks he can bring in a better coach, he should. But he shouldn't make a change as a reaction to the poor start. Sherman is still the fourth best coach in the 87 year history of the Packers (behind Lombardi, Lambeau, and Holmgren). He wasn't as good a GM as Wolf (big surprise), but as a coach he's still won 60% of his games.

10
by Ryan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 3:21pm

Sorry for the formatting, the preview had line breaks and everything.

11
by TomC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 3:35pm

Am I to understand from post #1 that losing close games is a sign of good coaching?

12
by walter (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 4:01pm

"Am I to understand from post #1 that losing close games is a sign of good coaching?"

When a team racked by injury and turnovers is still competetive to the end of every game, yes.

"the Packers D is 26th in DVOA and that doesn’t make a great case for his player evaluation skills."

DVOA doesn't make a great case for much of anything.

13
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2005 - 6:00pm

12: Why? Just curious about your reasons for dismissing
DVOA as a measure of how a team is performing.

14
by Jim A (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2005 - 2:20am

You can’t take 5:30 to score when you’re down 14 with 8 minutes left.

This issue came up on another Packer forum, so I looked up some numbers on this. On their final TD drive against the Bengals, the Packers ran 13 plays and used 5:17 off the clock. That works out to 24.4 seconds per play. The Packers have been among the most consistently fast-paced teams in the NFL. Over the past three years, they have averaged 29.3 seconds per play in
neutral situations, where the NFL average is 29.8 seconds. So while that drive wasn't a breakneck no-huddle speed, it still was significantly faster than their normal pace. Five seconds faster per play is actually quite a lot considering they were still huddling, and it saved them over a minute from what they would have under their
normal pace.

Last season, the Packers averaged 23.0 seconds per play when trailing
by 7 or more points, and that ranked them 3rd fastest in the NFL in that situation. That suggests that a lack of urgency when playing catchup has not been a recurring problem for the Packers.

15
by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2005 - 2:28am

Re 14: The criticism is not neccessarily lack of urgency in calling plays quickly and getting to the line, but could be the plays they are running when you have little time left and need to score quickly. It's not that it took them 25 seconds between plays, it's that it took them 13 plays

16
by Antonio Chatman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2005 - 2:42am

" It’s not that it took them 25 seconds between plays, it’s that it took them 13 plays"
When you've got my worthless ass starting at WR and Fish at RB you're lucky to get any points at any time.