Sherman Ready For Added Responsibility


Ron Wolf is in the home stretch of his highly successful run as general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

That means Mike Sherman is inching closer to being more than just the team's head coach.

After helping to evaluate and select players in the April 21-22 draft, Wolf will, for all practical purposes, retire. His contract runs through June 1, but once the draft is over, Sherman will pretty much take over the entire Packer show as coach and general manager.

So, Mike, are those palms getting a little sweaty? How have you been sleeping lately?

Sherman, 46, smiled at the notion that his life is about to become more stressful than it was through one year of roaming the same sidelines that coaching giants Mike Holmgren and Vince Lombardi once roamed.

"There's no greater pressure possible than being the head coach of the Packers," Sherman said. "You could make me president of the United States, and I wouldn't feel any more pressure. There's probably so much (stress) you can absorb, and I've absorbed all I can.

"I think it would be a little more tumultuous if we had a new general manager in there who wanted to hire his own head coach, but that's not the case."

True enough. Nevertheless, in his new capacity, Sherman won't be limited to worrying about structuring practices, studying the opposition, and preparing game plans. His day won't be over after meeting with his assistant coaches and offering his considerable expertise in the passing game in one-on-one sessions with quarterback Brett Favre.

No, Sherman's chores will also include finding ways to maintain a competitive team when free agency and the salary cap constantly threaten to take it apart. That was the part of being a general manager that often frustrated Wolf and no doubt nudged him toward the decision he made in February to leave it behind.

"There's a tremendous amount of learning going on in regard to myself, in dealing with that side of the game," Sherman said. "I haven't had to worry about that side of the game: the salary cap, the future and all that goes with it, all the decisions that are made. That's new territory.

"It's a full-time job."

Yet Sherman believes he might be better suited to negotiate such treacherous terrain because he is more willing to embrace the modern business issues affecting the game than rail against them.

"Ron was always anti-cap, but he grew up (in the league) without it," Sherman said. "I've never been in the league when there hasn't been a cap. To me, it's very simple. You have X-amount of dollars. You have to decide how you want to spend the dollars. You want to spend this percentage on linemen, this percentage on linebackers, and go from there. It's just balancing X-amount of dollars. I don't think it's all that difficult."

The Packers have been among the many teams that have not aggressively pursued unrestricted free agents. Instead, they have concentrated on retaining their own key players, such as safety Darren Sharper and kicker Ryan Longwell. So far, their only significant loss was offensive lineman Ross Verba, who signed with Cleveland.

As far as Sherman is concerned, the Packers are doing it the right way, and general managers aren't the only ones who recognize the benefits of that approach.

"I think more coaches are probably aware of the fiscal responsibility that goes along with the position, as far as planning for the future," Sherman said. "A lot of coaches don't think that far ahead because it's a win-now situation in all jobs. But you can't mortgage the future for the present, that's for sure. Because you'll end up losing."

Sherman is convinced he is assuming greater control of a team that is in pretty good shape. The Packers finished with a 9-7 record last season, and have, in Favre, a "more disciplined and patient" quarterback than ever, according to Sherman.

"I think he's admitted just a little bit of (having) limitations," the coach said. "He may not have admitted that too, too loudly, but he's reining and pulling himself in just a little bit in some ways and not taking the high-risk things.

"He's definitely improved as a quarterback. He still has the escape ability and he still can make the rifle throw, that 18 to 22 yards. There's not a throw out there that he cannot make."

By adding a game-breaking wide receiver and some depth to the defensive front, the Packers should be right in the thick of the NFC Central race next season. For that matter, it wouldn't be a stretch to see them return to contention for the conference title.

"I'm not sure we're there yet," Sherman said. "But I'm not sure anybody in the NFC has the exact formula (and can say), 'Hey, we're going to win this whole thing, and no one else is going to come close to us.' I think the NFC is wide open for a lot of people. I know there'll be favorites out there, but I think everybody has a shot.

"I think we played very well against good competition last year. We had the best record in the division against divisional opponents, so I thought we showed that we could beat some pretty good people last year.

"This year, we have a very difficult schedule, with Washington and Tennessee and Baltimore. Maybe we're going to be tested again this year as well."

For Sherman, that's a given.

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