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tiggerpolice 08-08-2005 08:25 AM

Henry, Sheppard two-headed attack for Saints' offense
Henry, Sheppard two-headed attack for Saints' offense
Tandem expected to boost unit
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Mike Triplett
Staff writer
When it came time to replace offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy this past offseason, Saints coach Jim Haslett took advantage of more than one resource on his staff.

He promoted quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard to offensive coordinator. But he also promoted offensive line coach Jack Henry to associate head coach and running-game coordinator.

"I wanted to fix the running game, and I thought he was the perfect guy for it," Haslett said of Henry, a 33-year coaching veteran in the college and pro ranks who came to the Saints along with Haslett in 2000. "He's been a coordinator before (on the college level). He's a great line coach. When I was playing, I used to go hear him speak.

"He could be a great coordinator if he wanted to be. And he and Mike Sheppard have a great relationship and work together extremely well. I thought it was just a natural fit."

Sheppard and Henry have worked together over the past three years, so there won't be any drastic changes in store. Still, things will be run a bit differently.

Early in the week, Henry will put together the running game plan, along with assistant offensive line coach Jim Pyne, running backs coach Johnny Roland and tight ends coach Bob Palcic.

Meanwhile, Sheppard will put together a passing game plan with quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert and receivers coach Jimmy Robinson. Then somewhere around Tuesday evening, Sheppard will consult with Henry before putting together the entire offensive game plan.

"It's been awesome," Sheppard said of the working relationship so far. "He's an expert at what he does, and I'm fortunate to work with him. We think a lot alike.

"If he weren't such a good person, it might be hard because you've got two different guys trying to settle on one offense. And yet, it hasn't been at all. Like I say, we both really see things on the same wavelength. And I respect him a lot."

On game days, Sheppard will be in the booth and Henry will be on the sideline. Sheppard said they probably will compare notes between offensive series, and Sheppard will make the ultimate play call on every down.

Sheppard's promotion has received a lot more attention this offseason. But part of that is by design -- Henry doesn't grant interviews to the media.

Players say Henry, 59, is both tough and laid-back, depending on the moment. Both veteran Wayne Gandy and rookie Jammal Brown said what they most appreciate about Henry is he is open to their input and suggestions, rather than acting like he knows it all.

"I'm so proud he got a promotion," Gandy said. "He's a very dedicated, loyal coach. He tries to stand for the right things. And one thing about Jack, he never tries to attack you personally. If he's talking to you or straightening you out in something, he's talking about the guy on the back of the uniform, not the human being."

Henry, a native of Houston, Pa., played linebacker at Penn State in the mid-1960s before transferring to Indiana University (Pa.) and playing guard.

He began his coaching career with the freshman offensive line at West Virginia in 1970 and later made stops at Edinboro, Louisville, Millersville, Southern Illinois, back to West Virginia, Appalachian State, Wake Forest, his alma mater IUP and the University of Pittsburgh.

His NFL career began with a two-year stint in Pittsburgh, from 1990-91, then continued in San Diego (1996), Detroit (1997-99) and New Orleans.

Henry is married with two children. His son Chad is an area scout for the Lions, and his daughter Jacqueline works in the Saints' community relations office.

Sheppard said Henry's new coaching position is "more than just a title," and that he is getting some "well-deserved input" into the game plan.

"If I'd have had a vote, I'd sure have voted for it," Sheppard said. "He's an outstanding football coach and one of those guys that it seems like every time there's a job opening somewhere, his name's buzzing around because he's a sought-after guy.

"I think it's a major responsibility for him. But here's how we'll do it: If we play well, it's Jack; and if we don't, come to me."

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