Talented Coaching Staff Orchestrated 1996's Highest Scoring Offense

060927lewis_sherman215.jpg



*As part of the Green Bay Packers' celebration of the 10th anniversary season of the Super Bowl XXXI Championship, Packers.com is running a series of stories about the people responsible for bringing the Vince Lombardi trophy back home to Titletown.

Members of the Packers' 1996 offensive coaching staff have parlayed their Super Bowl success into upper-echelon coaching jobs throughout the NFL. Two became head coaches elsewhere, and another coordinated the second-ranked offense in 2005.

"You never know who's going to get jobs, and if they're going to go, but I knew we had an excellent staff," said Sherman Lewis, the Packers' offensive coordinator during Super Bowl XXXI. "We had a lot of good teachers on that staff. That's what coaching is all about."

That staff helped orchestrate the league's fifth-ranked offense in 1996 despite facing several challenges, including a series of injuries which struck the left tackle position. The Packers had to start four different players -- Gary Brown, John Michels, Ken Ruettgers and Bruce Wilkerson -- to protect Brett Favre's blind side.

When facing elite pass rushers, the Packers withstood the revolving door at tackle by using additional blockers in pass protection. Running backs Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens would jolt defenders with a shoulder before running a pass pattern. Tight ends Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura also helped.

"That's a little tougher than it sounds," Lewis said. "The back and the tackle working together to get a good chip takes some work."

The Packers' offensive prowess in 1996 can be attributed to the comfort the players had running the West Coast offense for the fifth consecutive year.

"They knew the system as well as the coaches," Lewis said. "The guys understood it. They knew what we were teaching."

The offense, which led the league in points scored, also benefited, of course, from the all-around ability of Favre. In earning MVP honors for the second straight year, Favre completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,899 yards, 39 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 1996. He compiled a quarterback rating of 95.8 and served as the offense's catalyst all season long.

"You've got to have that trigger," Lewis said. "We had the guy who could make plays."

After coaching Favre and the Packers for eight years, Lewis became the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator in 2000. Following his two years with the Vikings, he coached the Detroit Lions in the same capacity before retiring from the NFL in 2004.

Last year he provided color commentary on the radio for his alma mater's college football games. At Michigan State, Lewis became an All-American halfback and second runner-up for the 1963 Heisman Trophy.

Lewis also enjoys traveling. He has visited Cancun, Las Vegas, Florida and Honolulu (for the Pro Bowl) of late.

"That's what I wanted to do when I retired," said Lewis, who lives outside of Detroit. "I've been trying to get out of the Midwest for a little bit in the wintertime and try and relax."

While Lewis relishes his golden years away from coaching, one of his sons has started his climb up the NFL coaching ladder. Sherman's son, Eric, serves as the Packers' defensive quality control coach, giving his father added motivation to root for his former team.

"I've always been interested in the Packers," Sherman said. "But now I've got more reason."

Offensive Line Coach Tom Lovat

After the 1998 season, Tom Lovat followed head coach Mike Holmgren from the Packers to coach the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line. Five years later Lovat, 67, retired, but he remains involved in football.

"(It's) basically enough to keep your whistle wet," Lovat said.

A veteran of more than 20 NFL Scouting Combines, he serves as a consultant for the IMG agency, preparing an offensive lineman's technique, mental abilities and physical skills for combine-specific drills.

In 2005, the Seahawks drafted his pupil, center Chris Spencer, in the first round, and the Dallas Cowboys selected offensive tackle Rob Pettiti in the sixth round. This past April, Tampa Bay drafted another pupil, Boston College offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, in the second round.

Lovat instructs coaches as well as players. While performing clinics for high school and college coaches twice a year, Lovat has traveled to Cincinnati and El Paso, Texas.

The former Packers coach resides in Appleton, Wis., but spends summers at his Eagle River, Wis., cottage. His son Mark currently serves as the Packers' assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line Coach Andy Reid

After serving as the Packers' tight ends and assistant offensive line coach from 1992-96, Reid became the quarterbacks coach in 1997 and 1998. In his first season at that position, he helped Brett Favre earn his third consecutive MVP award.

After the 1998 season, Reid replaced Ray Rhodes as Philadelphia Eagles head coach. Reid struggled through a 5-11 season during his first year but molded his squad into a perennial playoff team. He steered the Eagles into the playoffs from 2000-04 and led them to Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots two seasons ago.

Although an injury-plagued Eagles squad fell to 6-10 in 2005, Reid, 48, has earned a reputation as one of the league's best and most diligent coaches. Lewis noticed those attributes when Reid served on his 1996 staff.

"(He) was very well-organized," Lewis said. "He was one of those guys who took notes on everything."

Reid has amassed a 77-47 record as Eagles head coach and received NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2000 and 2002.

Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg

Mornhinweg also used his success in Green Bay as a springboard to advance his career. After winning the Super Bowl in 1996, he became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Following his four-year stint there, he accepted the head coaching position with the Detroit Lions in 2001.

He only lasted two years in Detroit but rebounded when Reid added him to his Eagles staff. Mornhinweg, 44, currently serves as the Eagles assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. As part of his duties, the former Montana quarterback helps guide Donovan McNabb as he did Favre in 1996.

"He understood the quarterback position," Lewis said. "He and Mike (Holmgren) had a good relationship."

Wide Receivers Coach Gil Haskell

Like many coaches and front office staff from the 1996 Super Bowl-winning team, Haskell would follow Holmgren to the Seahawks. Before taking a job with the Seahawks, however, Haskell served as the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator in 1998 and 1999. He then accepted the same position with the Seahawks in 2000.

Along with Holmgren, Haskell, 62, played a crucial role in helping the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl last year for the first time in franchise history. Known as an effective instructor, Haskell conducted a high-octane Seahawks offense, which ranked second in the NFL.

"Gil was a very enthusiastic coach and again an outstanding teacher," Lewis said. "He was a real pro in what he did."

Running Backs Coach Harry Sydney

Sydney, 46, has transitioned from coaching football to analyzing it. As an on-air personality for Green Bay's WDUZ radio, he co-hosts Sportsline with Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Chris Havel on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

Much like when he coached the Packers, Sydney brings knowledge gained from playing in the NFL for six years with the Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

"Harry's a good technician," Lewis said. "He was a guy who understood the offense because he'd been at it a long time."

96coaching_staff.jpg
This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising