Lack of opportunities baffles Packers’ Lewis

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sherm Lewis slumped in his seat at Qualcomm Stadium on Tuesday and admitted he was stumped.
What more did he have to do, as the Green Bay Packers’ highly respected offensive coordinator, to get an interview for a head coaching job in the NFL?
“I can do no more. As an assistant coach, I can’t,” said Lewis, who’s in charge of drawing up the game plan for Sunday’s Super Bowl encore.
“I think I’ve served a hell of an apprenticeship, though.”
Lewis, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting as a halfback at Michigan State in 1963, has been to five Super Bowls as an assistant, three with San Francisco and two with Green Bay.
He’s 4-0 in Super Bowls and running out of fingers to put the rings on.
During the past 15 seasons, his teams have compiled a cumulative 172-68-1 record, a winning percentage of .715. He knows the complex West Coast offense as well as anybody. He’s coached Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Brett Favre.
None of this has resulted in as much as a courtesy phone call from an NFL owner.
Lewis was the focus of a New York Times story on Tuesday that said a small group of black assistant coaches has privately talked about the possibility of filing a class-action discrimination lawsuit.
He was not interviewed for any of the 11 coaching vacancies after the 1996 season. None of the jobs went to blacks. Two more jobs have been filled since the end of the 1997 season with Buffalo hiring Wade Phillips and Indianapolis going for Jim Mora. Two others, Oakland and Dallas, remain open.
“I heard about the article five minutes ago,” Lewis said as he settled into his chair at the Packers’ media day and was promptly surrounded by as many reporters as any player.
Lewis said he didn’t know why he hasn’t been seriously considered for an NFL job despite his glowing resume, “but I’d like to think it’s not a racial issue.”
Running back Dorsey Levens isn’t so sure.
“I can’t think of any other reason,” he said.
“I can’t call somebody a racist,” Lewis insisted. “I don’t know why they make those decisions. I would never stand up and call a guy a racist for making a decision.”
Bob LaMonte, who represents Lewis, said, “There is no man who has served a more qualified apprenticeship in the National Football League, black or white, than Sherm Lewis, that is not a head coach in the league.”
And Lewis said he realizes his opportunities may be shrinking.
“I’m 55 years old, the clock’s running, I’m aware of that,” he said. “But I’ve had a great career. Nobody owes me nothing. I can’t make anybody give me a job. I can be frustrated, but I can’t get mad about it, really. There’s nobody to get mad at, who do I get mad at?”
The league?
“Yeah, but I’ve talked to Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and I really think he’s sincere in that he would like to see some African-Americans get some opportunities,” Lewis said. “What can he really do?”
Tagliabue met with a group of nine black assistants last March and later discussed hiring practices with owners, general managers and head coaches.