Work in Sports
Sherman quits as Green shakes up coaching staff
Posted: Monday January 24, 2000 02:12 PM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Ray Sherman quit Monday rather than take a demotion, and tight ends coach Dave Atkins was fired.
Minnesota hired Sherman Lewis, offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers for the last eight seasons, to replace Sherman.
"Sherman Lewis is considered one of the premier offensive coordinators in the NFL," head coach Dennis Green said. 'He brings a great deal of experience, and he's going to help us a lot. I felt we need changes to make us better. He is very familiar with the NFC Central Division, and that will be a strong plus for us.'
During Lewis' time in Green Bay, the Packers were 83-45. He was fired recently along with the rest of the Green Bay staff.
"We had the No. 3 offense in the league and I don't understand what I would be a scapegoat for," Sherman told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. "I will wait to see what my options are. ... I am not going to stay here."
In other changes, John Fontes was hired as outside linebackers coach and John Tice was made tight ends coach. Receivers coach Hubbard Alexander was reassigned to a front-office job as research and development assistant.
Fontes spent five seasons as defensive backs coach for Detroit from 1992-96. He is the younger brother of former Detroit coach Wayne Fontes.
Tice moves to tight ends after spending last season as an assistant. He played in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints from 1983-92.
Green had offered to make Sherman receivers coach in a meeting at Winter Park on Sunday morning.
"No, I didn't see it coming," Sherman told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press late Sunday night. He did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Monday.
Lewis said Green approached him about the job over the weekend and it didn't take a lot of persuading for him to come to Minnesota. He said he will have to adapt his West Coast philosophy to the Vikings' high-powered offense.
"I've always admired those guys," he said at a news conference Monday. "I've thought they're great players. I'm looking forward to working with them, and it was exciting when I talked to Denny about the possibility of coming in. You always want to have some players, and I think they've got great wide receivers, a great running back. I've always respected the offense."
Lewis said he looked forward to playing the Packers twice a year but had no ill feelings toward an organization where he spent eight mostly successful seasons.
He said he was concerned about the uncertain status of free-agent quarterback Jeff George, whose asking price might be too much for the Vikings. Green declined to discuss the chances of the team being able to keep George, who was 9-3 as a starter after replacing Randall Cunningham.
Atkins told the Pioneer Press he couldn't believe he was fired.
"Denny said it was just a change of chemistry that he wanted," he said. "That's the only reason. He couldn't look me in the eye and tell me I didn't do a good job with my guys."
Atkins, 50, spent three seasons as the team's tight ends coach and is a 14-year NFL assistant. He said he is exploring coaching options. He did not immediately return a telephone call Monday.
Sherman shouldered much of the blame for the Vikings' disappointing 2-4 start, which led to the benching of Cunningham. But replacement George fared well under Sherman, and the Vikings finished third in the NFL in total offense, averaging 362 yards a game.
"I thought in this profession it was based on what you've done lately," he told the Pioneer Press. "When we struggled early this season, I stood up and took responsibility for that. I didn't duck it. And then we had success. And I took my share of credit for that."
The changes follow last week's departure of defensive coordinator Foge Fazio, who left to become linebackers coach with the Washington Redskins. Fazio, who insisted he left for personal reasons, departed a few days after Green fired inside linebackers coach Tom Olivadotti without telling Fazio.