By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jan 02, 2006 at 10:17 AM

The Green Bay Packers have fired head coach Mike Sherman, it was announced Monday morning. General Manager Ted Thompson made it official at a 10:30 a.m. news conference.

"I've come to the decision to make a change with the head coach. These decisions are never easy and require a lot of thought," said Thompson.

"I felt like we needed to go in another direction."

Thompson said he told Sherman this morning, though he made his decision a few days ago. Thompson said Sherman was disappointed, but he thanked Sherman for all he did "under difficlt circumstances."

Thompson met with the players this morning to inform them of the move. He said he did not tell Brett Favre in advance of the firing.

"Mike Sherman is a good man," added Thompson. "But he also understands leadership and the need to make decisions."

Thompson said Sherman was surprised. "But at the end of the day, it was time for a new face."

He said he will begin the interviewing process for a replacement this week. He said he is unsure if he will look for an offense or defensive-minded coach.

"I haven't had a chance to speak with any of our staff since I came from our meeting" but Thompson didn't rule out the possibility of promoting defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Thompson said he intends to have a private conversation with Bates, and that may lead to a formal interview. He said the decision to retain some of the existing Packers assistant coaches will fall upon the new head coach.

Mike Sherman's regular season record with the Packers:

2000: 9-7
2001: 12-4
2002: 12-4
2003: 10-4
2004: 10-4
2005: 4-12

Total wins: 57
Total losses: 39

"We'll let the process work itself out," he said.

Thompson did say, however, that the next head coach will not have to employ a West-Coast offense, the only system Favre has played under in Green Bay.

The news follows Sunday's win over the the Seattle Seahawks, bringing the team to a record of 4-12, the Packers' worst record in more than a decade. In Sherman's six years at the team's helm, he held a record of 59-43 (.578).

Thompson said he believed the team played hard during the losing season, but Favre's performance played no role in the decision. He also said Favre's decision to play or retire next year had nothing to do with Sherman's dismissal

"That didn't have anything to do with it," he said. "I don't think it's appropriate to discuss something like this with a player."

Before the 2005 season, Thompson awarded Sherman with a two-year contract extension worth $3.2 million annually. Sherman was also relieved of his GM duties, which he held since Ron Wolf retired in 2001.

The Packers suffered several key injuries on offense, including Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Bubba Franks.

The team is also facing several free agency decisions during the off season, and Thompson said he expected some personnel changes.

"The thing about this organization was that we were able to keep all the core players together for a long, long time ... but once you've held them together ... there will be movement in the next year."

"I still believe that the best way to build your core players is through the draft," said Thompson. The Packers own the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

Defenders of Sherman, however, criticized Thompson for not plugging holes in the Packers offensive line, which lost two key players in last year's off season.

"My job here is to watch, to learn, and see where we are. None of us can look into the future. Mike, while he did a really good job ... now is the time for a new person to take that role," said Thompson.

"I've never hired a head coach ... but this is my role ... and I take my job very seriously. This is a very important step today."

Thompson said he's aware of teams that have success with a new coach, and he pointed to Mike Holmgren's first year in Green Bay.

"I'm not resigned to say we're going to have a throw-away season next year."

The news isn't particularly surprising to most observers, including former sports reporter and current OMC columnist, Gregg Hoffmann.

"I think it was inevitable after the season they had, and justified, as much because he put together the sorry mess that now is in Green Bay while he was GM," said Hoffmann. "He did give them five winning seasons and should be commended for that, but it is time to move on. I personally think Brett Favre also should retire, so the Packers can get on with the tough job of rebuilding. To use a baseball analogy for a football story, as long as Sherman and Brett are around, the Packers can't really head for second base since their foot is still on first."

Said former Packer Mark Chmura, who is now an analyst with Milwaukee's ESPN Radio, "I'm not surprised by the firing, and at this point, I would fully expect Favre to retire. But no, I'm not surprised by this move, whatsoever."

Sherman will meet with the local media on Wednesday.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.