BBAO: Bob Harlan's lament

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
7:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I had only been covering the NFL for a few years when the Green Bay Packers added the general manager duties to coach Mike Sherman's job title. I remember wondering what exactly qualified Sherman, a longtime assistant, to run the front office. But the Packers had been performing well on the field under Sherman, and so I didn't think much of it.

In an interview this week with ESPN 540, former Packers president Bob Harlan called Sherman's promotion "the worst decision I made."
Harlan: "[W]hen Ron Wolf left, there were a number of things that bothered me about picking his successor. First of all, in his first season Mike went 9-7, won his last four games. We did have momentum going into the next year. I had talked to [quarterback] Brett Favre; he said it was the best chemistry he had seen in the locker room in all the years he had been here. And he'd been through a couple of Super Bowls by that time.

"I was concerned that if a new man came in from the outside, Mike might have trouble getting along with him, [or] the new man might want to come in and want to totally change the scouting staff, which I thought was a capable young scouting staff. And so I decided to do something that I don't like to do -- give one man both jobs. And he didn't hurt us on the field – we went 12-4, 12-4, 10-6, 10-6. [Sherman] did a great job of coaching. But it got to the point when we started having problems with players that he almost seemed to be ignoring the team."

Indeed, Sherman's performance as a general manager wasn't nearly as good as his performance as a coach, and eventually Harlan hired Ted Thompson to replace him in the front office. The lesson: There are a limited number of qualified general managers in NFL circles. There are also a limited number of good coaches. The chances of finding someone who can do both well are, statistically, pretty small.

Continuing around the NFC North:

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