When the 2007 season ended, the Carolina Panthers were finishing a two-year run in which they had struggled to a combined record of 15-17. There had been no playoff appearances and little hope of one.
Then came a meeting at the lake house of team owner Jerry Richardson. He sat down with head coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney. The meeting of the minds led to the retention of the braintrust of this team as well as a goal – to become more physical as a team.
That’s when the makeover began.
Mid February saw the release of both guard Mike Wahle and linebacker Dan Morgan. DeShaun Foster followed them out the door only ten days later. They weren’t done and far from it. David Carr was released and Kris Jenkins was traded. Players were leaving, the team’s makeover had begun and all of this had taken a little over two weeks.
The team also saw the retirement of one of the stalwarts of the defensive line in Mike Rucker. This was a big loss but likely one that the team was willing to accept since the makeover had begun in earnest.
Then came the draft. Additions of players like Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah signaled to everyone at HQ and to all the fans that this team was about to become bigger and much more physical.
Transformations take time and this team had just started. Justin Hartwig was sent packing while guys like Toniu Fonoti and Keydrick Vincent were added.
Not just becoming bigger and badder, the team also had intentions of getting better at key positions. Drew Carter and Keary Colbert were fired and Muhsin Muhammad was brought back home while D.J Hackett was added to the receiver position.
The defense has undergone some major changes as a result of the Jenkins trade and the Rucker retirement as well. Tyler Brayton, Darwin Walker and a host of others were brought in to shore up the defensive line.
Change has been the one constant during this offseason. It’s been the one thing we could all count on. And now all those changes appear to be complete and the season looms.
What good is a makeover if there are no results to show for it? That is a question that the fans may be asking if this team fails this season. If they succeeed, however, the changes, the makeover will be looked upon as not only necessary but also as a blessing.
San Diego is the first stop in the trip from mediocrity to the playoffs. The team is assembled and the work of the braintrust is complete. Now it’s up to the players to produce on the field.
Will the braintrust or the players still have jobs after this 16-game odyssey is complete? Are the playoffs in the cards for this team and this organization? One makeover has been completed and if the answer to either of those questions is no then another extreme makeover will begin.