Work in Sports
Minnesota hires two more fired Packers assistants
Posted: Tuesday January 25, 2000 01:30 PM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings added two more former Green Bay assistants to their coaching staff Tuesday, one day after Sherman Lewis was brought in to run the offense.
Former Packers defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas was hired as defensive coordinator by the Vikings, and former receivers coach Charlie Baggett takes over as wide receivers coach. The shakeup was the biggest n Dennis Green's eight years as coach.
Thomas and Lewis were fired along with coach Ray Rhodes and the entire Packers coaching staff on Jan. 3.
Thomas replaced Foge Fazio, who left to become linebackers coach with the Washington Redskins. Lewis replaced Ray Sherman, who resigned rather than accept a demotion to coach the wide receivers. Baggett replaced Hubbard Alexander, moved to a front-office job as research and development assistant.
Rhodes, who went 8-8 in his only season as Green Bay's head coach, joined the Redskins as their defensive coordinator on Monday.
Sherman thought he might have been part of Green's postseason purge because he supported re-signing quarterback Jeff George.
"A guy does a great job for us, a fantastic job, it would be ludicrous for me not to back him," Sherman said Monday.
When reports surfaced last week that the Vikings had determined they couldn't afford to keep George -- which the organization quickly deemed erroneous -- Sherman was among George's most vocal supporters.
George and his agent, Leigh Steinberg, insist the quarterback wants to stay with the Vikings. But Green has hinted over the last month that it was his system and not George's talents that allowed him to succeed at long last in the NFL.
On Monday, Green refused to shed any light on the quarterback situation.
"We have never talked about anyone we're going to sign," he said. "We would never tell you what we're going to do."
Steinberg didn't return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment on what the Vikings' latest staff shakeup might mean to his client.
Lewis said he would adapt his West Coast philosophy to the Vikings' high-powered offense regardless of who the quarterback is.
And that might be Cunningham, who proved he couldn't handle Sherman's offense and was benched just 5 1/2 games into his new contract but who said he plans to play next season. He's due a $1 million bonus on March 1.
George, who signed a one-year, $400,000 contract, went 9-3 as Minnesota's starter and guided the Vikings into the playoffs, where they beat Dallas before losing to St. Louis.
He not only salvaged the Vikings' season but his own checkered career and stands to cash in big as an unrestricted free agent next month.
Green said the switch was more a matter of Lewis' availability than it was an indictment of Sherman's performance or any evidence the Vikings couldn't afford George.
"We made a change because there was an opportunity to bring in the preeminent offensive coordinator in the game," Green said.
Lewis was approached about the job Saturday, a day before Green informed Sherman of the switch.
"I take it as a great compliment that I'm the guy to come in and help get him get to the top," said Lewis, who was Green Bay's offensive coordinator for the last eight seasons.
Green also fired tight ends coach Dave Atkins, replacing him with John Tice. The team was expected to announce general manager Tim Connolly's resignation Tuesday. Connolly refused comment when reached at his office today.
The changes follow last week's departure of Fazio, who insisted he left for personal reasons. He left a few days after Green fired inside linebackers coach Tom Olivadotti without telling him.