What Would You Do to Save Your Job?

jerryrichardson.jpgBack in the early part of January, Carolina Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, met with general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox at his lake house in North Carolina.

The substance of their conversations included the future of the team and what they wanted the team to look like. The answer? Make the team look like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We want to be a physical team and we want to be able to run the ball and stop the run,” Richardson said. “And if you’re able to do those two things, you are likely going to be able to have opportunities to exploit the passing game, particularly with Steve Smith. And we always want to be very good on special teams. That is different than saying we want to be a West Coast pass offense, or that you want to be a fast or a so-and-so type-team.

“You know how I feel about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rooney family. I would like martyhurney.jpgfor the Carolina Panthers and our team, and our work, and the way we operate our team to emulate the Pittsburgh Steelers. And John and Marty know that.”

Obviously they didn’t want to be a “so-and-so type-team.” They wanted to remake this roster in the image of a physical, bruising, over-powering team.

Going back to the end of the season, the Panthers had struggled on offense. They had a carousel at quarterback where four different players had started throughout the season. The running game had suffered and the passing game had become questionable.

Much of what happened on offense was attributed to the injury of Jake Delhomme, and rightfully so. However, some of the blame went to the offensive line where the team recognized that they wanted to be more physical at the point of attack – namely to be like the afore-mentioned Steelers.

Meanwhile, the defense was hardly living up to advance billing as Julius Peppers seemed to be going through a season-long meltdown. The linebackers had played relatively well especially rookie Jon Beason. But they were the one bright spot on the defensive unit.

The defensive line as a unit produced only 11.5 sacks while the defense as a whole collected only 14 interceptions. This made both the defensive line and the secondary major question marks entering the offseason.

johnfox3.jpgFans weren’t happy with the team’s play and were looking for a change. However, Richardson put his faith in Fox and Hurney to run his team. He said the three men were on the same page and that they shared a common vision for the future of the team.

Marty Hurney confirmed as much. “We’ve always been on the same page, but it just confirmed that we are on the same page as far as what we need to do and what we want our personality to be,” Hurney said.

“It was a very detailed and thorough discussion of what we need to do to get back to where we want to be,” Hurney said. “To get the personality of our football team to where we want it to be, to reach our goal of winning football games and making the playoff consistently with the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.”

And if the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, and if the team has designs on getting back there, they knew this offseason would be critical. When asked if this offseason would be a busy one, Richardson said, “Yes I do. I think it will be. John and Marty are prepared and they have a lot to do. It’s not going to be a ho-hum offseason I wouldn’t think.”

So, where do we stand now? Has this been a productive offseason for the Panthers or a ho-hum offseason? Let’s break down what the team has done up to this point.

  • Guard Mike Wahle was released and eventually signed out west
  • Tackle Travelle Wharton was re-signed to an extension
  • Defensive tackle Damione Lewis was given a new contract
  • Safety Chris Harris had his time with the team extended with a new deal
  • Linebacker Dan Morgan was released
  • Tackle Jordan Gross was designated the team’s franchise player. A move that will keep him in Charlotte through next season
  • Running back DeShaun Foster was released. He also went west.
  • David Carr, the failed experiment as the backup QB, was released
  • Fan-favorite Muhsin Muhammad was signed
  • Cornerback Dante Wesley was retained with a new contract
  • Kris Jenkins, the sometimes-happy and often disgruntled defensive tackle, was traded to the Jets for third and fifth round picks
  • The team re-signed fullback Brad Hoover
  • Signed free agent cornerback Ricardo Colclough
  • Signed free agent guard Keydrick Vincent

The team was heading into the dead of winter with some needs at defensive tackle, offensive tackle, guard, safety and wide receiver. Thus far, only Muhsin Muhammad fills a need as Vincent and Colclough will be backups.

The team still has holes to fill. This is making Panthers fans everywhere very uneasy which is understandable. I have to admit that I’m one of them.

This team still plays in the very competitive NFC South where the Buccaneers have been making moves, the Saints have been aggressive (even if they haven’t signed a tremendous amount of talent) and the Falcons just picked up one of the prized free agents in Michael Turner.

Winning within the division will be critical. That job may have just become more difficult.

An offseason void of big names is not necessarily the issue. But an offseason lacking in creating depth or youth could be damaging to hopes of a playoff berth next year.

Do the moves made thus far by this team add up to a new physical, bruising, over-powering team like the Steelers? Hardly.

In fact, some positions are much thinner now than they were at the end of the regular season. For example, the team gave up on both Drew Carter and Keary Colbert while signing Muhammad. This leaves at least one wide receiver spot open.

Further, after trading Kris Jenkins the team is now much more at risk of failing due to injury along the defensive line. That is one move that I won’t argue with, though, since Jenkins really didn’t want to be here anyway.

The bottom line is this – a team looking to improve itself and remold itself has done little to accomplish those two tasks. There is simply too much to suggest that the team is standing pat when they should at least explore all avenues to improve. We’re not asking them to sign every player. We’re simply asking them to take a closer look.

Afterall, how do you know if you want to make the purchase if you don’t even kick the tires? These guys haven’t even walked onto the lot yet much less ask the salesman what kind of mileage they’re going to get.

So, Jerry Richardson has given a vote of confidence to Marty Hurney and John Fox. He says they’re on the same page. The problem is what is written on the next page. If Hurney and Fox don’t do enough now, they might find written there, “You’re fired!”

What would you do to save your job?

Sources: Gaston Gazette, Yahoo! Sports

Topics: Carolina Panthers, Free Agency, John Fox, Marty Hurney

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