“I hope I get it, I really hope I get”
That is the line in my head right now as I think about what this year is in Charlotte for the Carolina Panthers. An Audition Year. You could go back and label the last few seasons, when you look at it that way.
2007-The Year of the Tease: Jake Delhomme came out and played like his name was Brady or Manning until his elbow “popped” early in the season. Then Vinny Testeverde was called out of his garage, David Carr moussed his hair and the term “Mr. Mittens” was coined. Things got so bad the Kris Jenkins……let me repeat that…..KRIS JENKINS was complaining that the team “had no Heart”. Panther Fans discovered some Cowboy cast-off named Matt Moore and some kid named Williams gave DeShaun Foster a break every now and there with a pretty good running game. And Jake Delhomme still outperformed the old guy, the pretty boy and that Moore guy who looked like he was a better QB than they thought.
2008-The Great Reunion Tour: Moose was back from the WR Hades better known as Chicago, Smith would almost get to be on the field with DeAngelo Hall again,(Funny, Al Davis must have gotten tired of him) Tyler Brayton would get some chances to reintroduce his knee to Jeremay Stevens man-package,or rather reciprocate if needed again And the real Julius Peppers (The one who wasn’t on break) seemed to return to the fold for the most part. Kris Jenkins was sent to New York where he could wait a year before enjoying some subs and cupcakes with Rex Ryan. And Jake was back under center. And in a wonderful twist “Double Trouble” was born. That eventually caused a couple in Memphis to raise their eyebrows and divorce. At last account one of those parties was last seen at a Shoneys in Seattle waiting for a bus-ride. What was a fantastic year ended with a sudden playoff collapse and foreshadowed the coming 2009 season.
2009:The Year of the Facepalm: Oh My.
“They went 12-4 and are returning 21 of 22 Starters”
“Jake just had a bad game. He will bounce back”
And then the “facepalms” began.
There was no tease about it at all. From Week 1 on, the epic disasters just came one right after another. The interceptions, the unannounced 3 week vacation by the guy who was wearing 90, one starter going out on IR after another. If I had to give that season an Anthem it would be “Time to say Goodbye” but it would be this version of it that I think is more appropriate. After all, what was looking like a comedy of tragic errors was somehow crafted into an 8-8 season somehow. (At this point it is best you imagine John Fox screaming “Boats and Ho’s!”)
So…lets see who the contestants are this year 2010-The Year of the Auditions!
Bear in mind I am going at this coldly and trying to be realistic. I may type some things that are hard to digest so brace yourselves.
John Fox: The featured contestant. The “Lame Duck” coach is on the stage. Consider this. Jerry Richardson has cast no illusions on what he is modeling his team after. Also, Richardson has never been called a compulsive owner like, Davis, Snyder, or Jones. By all accounts he is a deliberate businessman who puts some thought into his business decisions, so what does that mean for Fox? Well I see it like this. As frustrating as it can be for me and thousands of other fans watching Fox call plays sometimes, the fact remains he is the most successful coach in franchise history. Even if he is on the way out, it will behoove him to win games this year. Obviously he will be in a much better position to negotiate his situation with whoever is his next suitor, or compel his current employers to keep him around. Let’s call this “Putting the meat on the table” scenario.
I look at it this way. Fox has a history here of producing when he is put on the spot. (Now if he can just stay on the gas when things are going well. Had to throw that in) I do not recall a time when he has had this kind of pressure on him.
So here we are with an owner that wants to model his franchise after an organization that is notorious for being patient with its coaches, and a coach that is notorious for doing well when things are going bad.
I like those odds.
The Drew Rosenhaus Crowd: I live in a rural area. There is a certain feeling of dread I get when I go into my backyard and see a snake crawling by. Odds are I am not in any danger but there is just that feeling. Ever wonder when The Big Cat or Hurney see Drew coming they get that same feeling?
Well Drew has Clients that want to get P-A-I-D. “Show me the money!”. Here is the thing. To get paid they must PRODUCE or the Big Cat shows them the door. “Meat on the table”. Obviously the more they get paid, Drew gets paid. And that motivation may have some bearing this year. The situations with Dwayne Jarrett and Richard Marshall have already reared their heads thus far. We all know Jarrett is solidly on the hot seat so we do not need to elaborate on that point. Marshall wants the bucks as well, so he will have to continue playing solid football. Even Jon Beason opened his career in Carolina with a holdout. It was not that long ago that his contract was at issue when Patrick Willis was given his payday.
And it does not stop there.
Lets take a look at some more of Drew’s Clients in Electric Blue: Dan Conner and Charles Johnson. Two players who will certainly need to step up with the departure of Peppers and the injury to Thomas Davis. A good deal of this team’s fate rests in the hands of Rosenhaus Sports Clients. An agency known for aggressive negotiations.
Tony Fiammetta: One thing Panther Fans were reassured of this off season was this: Anything can happen. Now Brad Hoover is currently a Free Agent. Now think about where this puts Fiammetta. In his second year, he finds himself replacing one of this teams’ most beloved players and will be charged with blocking for the only RB tandem to ever each boast 1100 yards of rushing in a season. Not that I am trying to put any pressure on him.
Any Player that has QB attached to their name: After the Draft the funniest thing I heard was this. “Looks like they plan to hire Gruden. They are working on having his QB collection in place for next year.” I think this point needs to have no further elaboration. whether you like it or not, we have a QB controversy. Even to the point that players do not really want to discuss it. But one thing I am really curious about. What Jimmy Clausen’s contract is going to look like. I am anxious to see this.
Any Player that has WR attached to their name and do not have their own “Rules and Regulations”: Now is the time fellas. You will have Training Camp, Practices and the Pre-Season to yourselves. For years Panther Fans have been begging and pleading for WR No. 2. You have a new coach, a new QB — so if you are going to make it happen, there is no better time.
Everette Brown: Here is another second-year man who will be asked to fill in at a crucial spot. Again, here is a point that has been covered.
Any player or coach who hears his name called a lot when special teams are mentioned: Over the last couple of seasons there has been a sharp decline on special teams. The Front Office seems to be somewhat serious about this, so there is a big audition going on at this point in the Special Teams Area. How serious are they? Go to the Locker Room and ask to speak with Dante Wesley or Danny Crossman.
I am saving this for last for a reason. Before you go any farther I CAUTION YOU. I am about to carry you to a very dark place and you will not like this. So I recommend you grab whatever you use as a security blanket or have your mommy hold your hand for this.
Tyrelle Sutton and Mike Goodson: Time for you to be prepared to step your game up a few notches. Here is where things will get bad as far as this article goes.
1. DeAngelo Williams is in a contract year. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE once this coming season ends. This is just simple reality. I think that Williams is happy here and there will be a contract waiting for him.
2. I love Double Trouble. These guys look like they are just having the greatest time when they are out there playing and scoring. BUT there is a another reality we will have to face. Injuries! And this has already caused some problems here and there. In fact it just seems that Stewart has missed a lot of practice time due to Injury.
3. For the last two seasons the run game has gotten off to a slow start. With Double Trouble rebounding from injuries and surgeries, this is very likely to be the case. Not to mention that Otah and Gross are trying to rebound, as well.
Taking those things into consideration, I think Sutton and Goodson need to be ready to be at a level to be starters when the time comes. Neither need to be complacent coming into this year. If anything, they really need to put in the work to be a starter. I hate to say it, but reality is just staring us in the face on that one.
So let the Auditions begin this year. Personally, I like it. Sure, there are some issues that need a serious look like the Defensive line and a couple of others. But I like our odds this coming season and I think a 9-7 season is realistic. I have read so many season previews that have us doing a lot worse but history has proven that this is a team that does find a way to pull that rabbit out of the hat when not expected to do just that.
To be honest I am looking forward to the pre-season more than I ever have. It is more than just seeing some football, and cooling off my withdrawal symptoms. It just seems we have a lot of questions, more than usual, and I want to see how they are answered and how it plays out. With a little more than a month to go and a lack of football activity, I anxiously await the outcome on all these questions.
Everybody else can have that American Idol or whatever it is, but this is the show I am dying to see this coming fall. Who knows, DeAngelo may even remix pants on the ground again, as long as he and Stewart are not singing Duets anymore.
Topics: Carolina Panthers, Charles Johnson, Dan Conner, David Carr, DeShaun Foster, Double Trouble, Dwayne Jarrett, Everette Brown, Jake Delhomme, Jerry Richardson, Jimmy Clausen, John Fox, Kris Jenkins, Matt Moore, Mike Goodson, NFL, Richard Marshall, Special Teams, Thomas Davis, Tony Fiametta, Tyler Brayton, Tyrelle Sutton