MILWAUKEE (Jan. 5, 2006) -- If Green Bay Packers players got to vote, Jim Bates might be their next coach.
Bates, the Packers' current defensive coordinator, will interview with general manager Ted Thompson next week for the head coaching job that opened when Mike Sherman was fired.
Bates has the support of his defensive players -- just as he did in Miami at the end of the 2004 season, when Bates was the Dolphins' interim coach.
He knows that isn't enough, but it can't hurt.
"Players don't determine who's the next coach," Bates said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Green Bay. "It's always a positive, I think, that the players believe in me."
Thompson announced Sherman's firing Jan. 2. Players expressed support for Sherman, but many said if he had to be replaced, they would like to play for Bates.
"I think there would be a lot of support for him to be a head coach," linebacker Nick Barnett said Jan. 2. "If that's the route that Ted Thompson and the organization want to take, I'm sure there would be a lot of support for him."
Bates' efforts were overshadowed in the worst Packers season in 15 years. But in his first year as the Packers' defensive coordinator, Bates engineered a turnaround.
Green Bay had the league's 25th-ranked defense in 2004 and lost veteran safety Darren Sharper to free agency in the offseason.
But despite injuries to key players this season, the Packers allowed an average of 293.1 yards per game, seventh-best in the league.
Bates spent the previous five seasons in Miami, where he oversaw one of the league's top defenses. The Dolphins struggled to a 1-8 start in 2004, and Bates took over as interim coach after Dave Wannstedt stepped down. They finished the season 3-4, including a memorable fourth-quarter comeback to beat the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
Bates fondly remembers the "incredible, incredible support" he received from Dolphins players who publicly campaigned for him to keep the job.
The Dolphins interviewed Bates but hired Nick Saban.
"Just by looking at him as far as when he took over at Miami and the job he did and how the players responded to him, I think he would do a good job for us," defensive tackle Grady Jackson said Jan. 2.
Jackson will become a free agent in the offseason, and said he would be more likely to re-sign with the Packers if Bates were going to be his coach.
"I think he's qualified," Jackson said. "He's a great guy. Just being on the defensive side and how he comes down and adapts to the players and messes around with them and jokes around with them, I think he'll be a great coach."
Another potential mark in Bates' favor -- the Favre factor.
Brett Favre has not committed to returning next season, and has hinted that moves the team makes in the offseason will play a role in his decision. Bates says he has a good relationship with Favre.
Could he talk the three-time MVP into playing one more year?
"We'll address that when it comes," Bates said.
The Associated Press News Service
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