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Your Texans: Mike Sherman

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He's no Steve Martin. He won't break you up like Jim Carrey or George Carlin.

But Texans coach Mike Sherman, the team's assistant head coach and new offensive coordinator, has got his funny side.

Maybe not funny ha-ha. But still as funny as you can be on a football field.

"I know how he works and he knows how I work," said running back Ahman Green, who played for Sherman in Green Bay before coming here this season. "He always throws a shot at me, but I'm used to it. He just busts your chops.

"You really can tell he wants to have a good time out here coaching. He wants to put smiles on your faces and he wants to have fun. He is serious at times, but he's one coach who wants to have a good time."

Quarterback Matt Schaub, who came from Atlanta in the offseason, already can tell what Green means about Sherman.

"At the least expected time, he'll throw a joke in on somebody," Schaub said. "He's got a good, dry sense of humor so sometimes you're not sure if he's really joking or if he's being serious. It keeps guys on their toes."

It's not all fun and games, however. Sherman considers the football field his office and he is a no-nonsense guy who views each practice with a critical eye. But he admits, he likes poking fun occasionally, especially to the offensive linemen. Long known as one of the league's top offensive line coaches, his sense of humor perhaps runs along the lines of those behemoths in the trenches.

"I always try to keep my head on a swivel," Sherman says. "If you see someone doing something or not doing it, you have to notice. There's enough targets out there. On offense, I think we have 45 guys, so there's always a player you can make light of which will get a response particularly from the offensive line because they'll laugh about anything. They're just looking for a break."

It's no joke on or off the practice field for Sherman, who was assistant head coach his first year with the Texans last season. He is one of the league's most respected coaches and players know he can be as tough as he needs to be. Just ask center Mike Flanagan, who probably knows Sherman better than anyone on the Texans.

Flanagan first encountered Sherman when he was the offensive line coach at UCLA in 1994, then played for him in Green Bay for 10 years before coming to Houston. He knows Sherman has a very serious side.

"Sherm's always tough," Flanagan said. "But at the same time, he's fair. I think one of the few things in common that everybody who has played for him says is that Sherm is honest.

"If you do something wrong, he's going to tell you, you did something wrong. He'll just be a fair evaluator. I feel I'm one of his guys, but I don't doubt in a heartbeat he'd fire me. Whatever's going to make this team the best, he's going to do it."

{QUOTE}Sherman smiles at the thought of Flanagan saying that because while he knows it's harsh, it's reality.

"I think Flanny has a good perspective on things and I'd say that's fairly accurate," Sherman says. "He knows this is a production-based business and you have to be able to produce and he's held accountable just as I am. We're both on that same line."

And Flanagan knows the Texans are lucky to have a coach with Sherman's resume.

"Without a doubt, obviously he went to the Super Bowl as a tight ends coach, he was a coordinator in Seattle, a head coach in Green Bay," Flanagan said. "He's been a renowned line coach both in college and the pros.

"He has experience at every level. He understands all the facets of every aspect of the game. I think him and (coach Gary) Kubiak work real well together. Obviously, this is Kube's show, but I think sometimes it's good to have somebody sometimes who you trust that you can bounce ideas off of. I'm assuming that's what happens sometimes because Sherm is so experienced and knows so much about this game."

Sherman admits he and Kubiak are close. They have been since both coached at Texas A&M in 1992-93.

"Gary and I've been friends for quite some time," Sherman says. "We worked together for a while and then we went our separate ways in coaching. After our Texas A&M days, we stayed in contact.

"I'm very familiar with his family and he is with mine on a personal level. But here at the Texans, we also have that professional level. Gary's one of the most honest people I know and if things aren't right, he's going to tell you, and if things are going great he's going to tell you. I think we have a very honest and giving relationship."

Sherman's role will change somewhat as he takes over as offensive coordinator, a role he played for one year with the Seattle Seahawks in 1999 before going to Green Bay as head coach.

"I don't now how he'll change this team," said Green, who admits Sherman's presence was one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Texans. "But I know with what he brings to the table, it's going to be a nice little mixture with coach Kubiak's philosophy in terms of the running game and passing that he inherited from Denver.

"So with those two minds working together, it's going to be interesting to see. The way I know, coach Sherman mixes his offenses up, it's going to be tough for defenses to adjust during the game."

Sherman, who coached the Packers to five winning seasons including three straight NFC North Division titles from 2002-2004, says his primary coaching philosophy is just getting everyone on the same page.

"I think in coaching you have to be able to handle the present," Sherman says. "And when you talk to your players you have to tell them, there's going to be ups and downs and highs and lows, but we'll work our way through it if we hang in there together.

"I think you try to keep everybody in the boat. If you can keep everybody in the boat, paddling in the right direction and if a guy wants to jump out you pull him back in. Then some guys you have to kick out of the boat. But overall you want to keep everybody rowing in the same direction.

"There's going to be cloudy days and rainy days and clear days, but as long as you keep everybody paddling, you'll get to the other side and hopefully this year we'll get to the other side and the other side is the playoffs."

And that's no joke.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.



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