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tiggerpolice 06-13-2005 08:19 AM

Sheppard confident in new role as Saints offensive coordinat
Sheppard confident in new role as Saints offensive coordinator

John DeShazier
Mike Sheppard has a simple solution to the riddle that is first-and-20.

"I'll look at Haz and say, 'What do you want here, big boy?' " he said, a laugh littering his reply.

Hopefully, Sheppard, his sense of humor and his offense will remain intact throughout his first year calling the shots for Coach Jim Haslett's Saints. Because Sheppard is the most significant offensive change the Saints made in the offseason, ascending from quarterbacks coach to coordinator, he inherits the not-so-forgiving interrogation light that shines on the position.

And, honestly, he seems not one bit concerned by it. At least not right now, when a mental bust by a lineman, bad route by a receiver or misread by a quarterback instantly can be made into a do-over, with no repercussions.

"I feel pretty comfortable," Sheppard said after the first practice of minicamp Friday. "More eyes are always on you when you add responsibility, and that's OK. It goes with the territory. I was fortunate enough to be a head coach for eight years (in college, at New Mexico and Long Beach State), and so dealing with all that in a college environment is a good training ground.

"People are different, but I don't really think or worry about that much, because it's the same in every city. If you're doing well, then everybody's fired up, (and) if you're not then everybody's critical. And that's OK. Because people want you to win, and they're critical 'cause they want you to win. And if you're not winning, everybody has some ideas. I'm just hoping to get those ideas on Wednesday instead of Monday."

Needless to say, many ideas have been tossed the Saints' way recently. Naturally, Sheppard had some of his own.

Nothing so drastic as to require an overhaul of the offense, which has been more fractured than broken. But subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks here and there, ones that might have been buttressed by Haslett's desire to reduce verbiage, simplify the offense and have the quarterbacks wear wristbands to help eliminate those confounding timeouts by giving them more time at the line of scrimmage.

"When a team is thinking too much and it needs to get out and play, then you've got to do something different," Deuce McAllister said.

The biggest "something different" was to promote Sheppard, who already had a relationship with the players.

"That's the greatest advantage, being able to move up and not have to move," Sheppard said. "Not just from your family standpoint, which is also a great advantage. (But) how lucky are we to be able to be here and have not only the players that you know, but also the coaches you know?

"You know a lot about the players, a lot about maybe what you think you can do to improve the unit and help us win more games. That's been awesome. It's such a transition to have to go somewhere new and you have to put on the tape to find out even who your players are."

"I think the best thing to do is to hire somebody in-house," McAllister said. "He's a laid-back coach. He can be a 'yell' guy when he has to be. But he's also a guy you can go to and talk to outside of football."

Of course, the outside isn't what interests Saints fans. What Sheppard has planned for Joe Horn, Donté Stallworth, Aaron Brooks and McAllister is what they're interested in -- particularly McAllister, who ran for 1,074 yards last season and will be counted on to produce significantly more.

"I'll be the first to admit I'm disappointed from last year," said McAllister, who missed two games with an ankle injury and significantly was hampered by it in several others. "I'm ready to get out on the field.

"I was injured, and everything starts with that. But I'm the same guy (as before the injury). You give me the ball, I'm going to produce."

That'll help keep his coordinator happy -- probably, happy enough to endure a few first-and-20s.

. . . . . . .

John DeShazier can be reached at or (504) 826-3410.

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