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January 2, 2006
The NFL Starts Playing The Head Coach Shuffle

Other NFL shoes started hitting the carpet today, a day after the official end of the 2005 season. As expected, Mike Martz lost his position with the St. Louis Rams today after missing most of the 2005 season with a heart ailment. Mike Sherman unexpectedly joined him on the unemployment line, fired after his first losing season in seven years with the Green Bay Packers:

Just one day after completing the franchise's worst season since 1991, the Green Bay Packers on Monday dismissed head coach Mike Sherman, has confirmed.

The move, which will be announced at a morning news conference, came despite the fact the Packers awarded Sherman a two-year contract extension worth about $6.4 million last summer. It also fuels speculation about the future of quarterback Brett Favre, who said several times during the season that he would not return in 2006 if Sherman was not retained by Packers officials.

Green Bay concluded the '05 season with a victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in a game that might have been Favre's swan song. There was also speculation it might have been the finale for Sherman as well, and general manager Ted Thompson apprised the head coach Monday morning that he would not return.

This shows rather clearly that the Pack wants to start over in 2006, clear of both Sherman and Favre, whose inherent wildness escalated as the injury list grew and his reliable teammates got replaced with journeymen and inexperienced rookies. The chants of "one more year" during the Seahawks game yesterday afternoon apparently had little effect on the Packers' front office.

The next move with come from Brett Favre. If he decides to return even after Sherman's firing, the Pack can hardly refuse to take Favre back. Their fans would eat them alive if they treated their greatest player in a generation with anything but effusive respect and affection. However, it would be hard for Favre to miss this message. Most people would probably have given Sherman a pass for 2005 after having to deal with the deluge of injuries that crippled Green Bay's effort this year. My guess is that Favre takes the hint and retires with his dignity intact -- but that the Packers will not be able to count on Favre for much in the way of public support from this point forward. He has too much class to air this publicly, but Favre will look at this as a slap at him and his worth to the club ... and he'll be right.

Martz, on the other hand, will not be shocked to see the pink slip. He has been on the outs all year with Rams management, who have not been satisfied with the team's direction for a while. He probably needs to assess his own health to determine whether he can withstand the rigors of more years as an NFL head coach, or whether he might do better in a less-consuming role as a TV analyst or booth color man. Martz has a good track record for either direction.

Note that these teams found it unnecessary to announce within an hour of their final games -- all victories -- that they were firing their head coaches. It seems that some teams still have a sense of class about the timing of such announcements.

UPDATE: Should have been Mike Sherman, not Ray. And now we can add Jim Haslett (Saints) and Dom Capers (Houston Texans) to the unemployment line. That leaves seven openings for head coaches with the earlier retirement of Dick Vermeil (KC), and the firings of Mike Tice and Steve Mariucci (Lions). Norv Turner might make it eight today after he hears from The Prince of Darkness, Al Davis (Oakland) today.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 2, 2006 10:42 AM

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