EDEN PRAIRIE -- Ray Sherman has a hunch he might have been part of coach Dennis Green's postseason purge because he came out in strong support of re-signing quarterback Jeff George.
''That could be true, I don't know,'' Sherman said Monday after he was replaced by Sherman Lewis as the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator. ''But what am I supposed to say? A guy does a great job for us, a fantastic job, it would be ludicrous for me not to back him.''
When reports surfaced last week that the Vikings had determined they couldn't afford to keep George -- which the organization quickly deemed erroneous -- Sherman was among George's most vocal supporters.
George and his agent, Leigh Steinberg, insist they want to stay with the Vikings. But Green has hinted over the last month that it was his system and not George's talents that allowed him to succeed at long last in the NFL.
Also, the Vikings have put big money already in Randall Cunningham ($28 million) and Daunte Culpepper ($19 million), including $5 million signing bonuses on their five-year contracts.
On Monday, Green refused to shed any light on the quarterback situation.
''We have never talked about anyone we're going to sign,'' he said. ''We would never tell you what we're going to do.''
Steinberg didn't return a phone call from The Associated Press on Monday seeking comment on what the Vikings' latest staff shakeup might mean to his client.
Lewis said he would adapt his West Coast philosophy to the Vikings' high-powered offense regardless of who the quarterback is.
And that might be Cunningham, who proved he couldn't handle Sherman's offense and was benched just 5 1/2 games into his new contract but who said he plans to play next season. He's due a $1 million bonus on March 1.
George, who signed a one-year, $400,000 contract, went 9-3 as Minnesota's starter and guided the Vikings into the playoffs, where they beat Dallas before losing to St. Louis.
He not only salvaged the Vikings' season but his own checkered career and stands to cash in big as an unrestricted free agent next month.
Sherman resigned rather than accept a demotion to coach the wide receivers.
Green said the switch was more a matter of Lewis' availability than it was an indictment of Sherman's performance or any evidence the Vikings couldn't afford George.
''We made a change because there was an opportunity to bring in the preeminent offensive coordinator in the game,'' Green said.
Lewis, who was fired along with the entire Green Bay Packers' coaching staff Jan. 3, was approached about the job Saturday, a day before Green informed Sherman of the switch.
''I take it as a great compliment that I'm the guy to come in and help get him get to the top,'' said Lewis, who was the Packers' offensive coordinator for the last eight seasons.
Green also fired tight ends coach Dave Atkins, replacing him with John Tice, and reassigned receivers coach Hubbard Alexander to research and development assistant. The team was expected to announce general manager Tim Connolly's resignation today.
The changes follow last week's departure of defensive coordinator Foge Fazio, who left to become linebackers coach with the Washington Redskins. Fazio, who insisted he left for personal reasons, departed a few days after Green fired inside linebackers coach Tom Olivadotti without telling Fazio.
But Sherman said there was no way he was going to stay on the staff out of respect for Alexander.
''I wouldn't say I'm bitter. I'm just disappointed in what has happened,'' Sherman said. ''I understand this is a business and this is the way it is. I'll just move on, let the smoke clear a little and see what's out there.''
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