John Fox Is "All In," Must Finally Take Some Chances

John Fox must win now

It’s no secret.  Carolina Panthers Head Coach John Fox is, if nothing else, embattled.  There are fans who have been calling for his job after the team followed a Super Bowl appearance with a 7-9 season in 2004.  But, alas, like his Panther teams, the man will not fade quietly into the night.  Fox has followed his own advice:

He “never laid down his sword,” he “kept his head down,” and he “kept fighting.”  You have to give the guy credit, like him or not, for not listening to the naysayers.  He refused to look at this season as a “lame duck” year, despite it being the final year of his contract.

Many experts claim that Fox will have to lead his team to the Playoffs this season, or he will not be offered another contract.  If he is going to be the Head Coach in 2011 and beyond, Fox is going to have to finally take some chances.

John Fox and General Manager Marty Hurney agree on quite a bit.  They share many of the same basic football philosophies.  They often see eye-to-eye on player personnel decisions.  Based on some observations of the two men, you could even say they are friends.  But they have always had one distinct difference:  Marty is a risk-taker, John is not.

Look at the last few drafts.  Marty has been wheeling and dealing.  He has traded future picks in order to select more players in the current draft.  He’s traded down to acquire more late round picks.  The man has been up and down the draft board (que image of Hurney with a headband holding a phone to his ear, ala “the eighties blue-tooth”).

Fox, on the other hand, has been the uber-conservative.  When you have a veteran-laden roster, a cagey Cajun quarterback with a knack for late dramatics, and a sometimes dominant pass-rush, you have bought yourself the right to be conservative.

When you have one of the youngest teams in the league, a first-year starter at quarterback, and what some think is the worst defensive line in the entire league, well, you have not bought yourself much of anything.

Is it fair that Fox has been stripped of most of his veteran players in favor of less-experienced, less-expensive ones, and then been asked to give Mr Richardson a winner?  Well, no, probably not.  The old cliche, “turn @#$% into gold” comes to mind.  But, perhaps that analysis is a bit over the top.

The reality is, Hurney worked his tail off in Free Agency and in the draft to find Fox some new blood.  Yet guys like James Anderson, Dan Connor, Charles Johnson, and Matt Moore sat on the bench in favor of Fox’s trusted veterans.  In order to get some of these young players on the field, the vets had to go.  Perhaps the mass exodus earlier this year can be equated to ripping off a band-aid…just get if over with all at once.

On the surface, it appears that Fox may have been dealt a bad hand.  And that could be the case.  But if he can take these young players and make them competitive, consider it the finest piece of coaching he has done while in Carolina. There would then be no reason, money aside, that Fox shouldn’t remain in Charlotte for another contract.

How will he do it?  Let’s examine some of the conservative behavior that no longer fits this Panther team:

  • The days of John Kasay drop-kicking a fake field-goal attempt, to in essence punt the ball away, are gone.
  • The dreaded third-and-long draw play is not going to get it done anymore.
  • The days of taking the five-yard delay of game penalty to give Jason Baker more room to punt instead of attempting a 52 yard field goal have fallen by the wayside.
  • Sending the field goal team on for every fourth-and-inches in the red-zone may no longer be the smart play.
  • Hiding your quarterback behind your otherwise strong team is no longer an afforded luxury (and it may not be necessary any more, minus Jake Delhomme).
  • Avoiding the short and intermediate passing game in favor of a low percentage deep-attack where an interception is more of a punt, is not going to produce enough first downs for this young, run-first offense to flourish.

The 2010 Panther team will have to grow up in a hurry.  There will not be much room for error.  Anymore significant injuries could be crippling.  But above all, if John Fox decides that his young team needs to be protected, or that parts of it should be hidden, we are in for a long season.  And Fox might find himself with the short straw come February.

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  • kenneth picklesimer

    well i agree with most if not everything but sending John Kasay in for a 52 yrd is a bad move Yes at one time we would laugh at those who said can he do it? but not now not anymore John Kasay Super strong leg just isn’t there anymore like it or not but maybe just maybe the coachs will let the young guy at least try one

  • Eric Quackenbush

    NICE post, Evan!

    “On the surface, it appears that Fox may have been dealt a bad hand.”

    To quote a movie that I really like, “Sometimes ‘nothing’ is one cool hand.”

    I could be wrong, but I have a gut feeling that there is going to be more to this than folks are willing — some unwilling — to give the Panthers credit for. All we can do is lay back and see where the chips fall.

  • Mark

    John Fox is going to have to do something that is not in his blood,and that is roll the dice. Conservative ball is not going to cut it in 2010,and I believe we have the talent this year to play TO WIN instead of NOT TO LOSE… Fox has no other choice if he wants to stay in Carolina.

    • Eric Quackenbush

      I must agree with you on all aspects which you comment about. This team has what it takes (offensively) to show a different side this season, aside from the usual grind-it-out running game. Although, that will still be the staple diet. However, I do believe we will see more passing involved this year, as much there should be.

  • J. Gore

    agreed 100%. kasays leg is not what it used to be. just like muhammads, hoovers, diggs, and delhommes arm?? if we’re willing to let these type of core players go then we gotta do the same with kasay, loyalty be damned. rhys loyd was kickin 65-70 yd fgs in practice last season but never got a chance on gameday. i know that practice was probably fair conditions with no o-line or d-line, but that’s gotta translate into 60-65 yd fgs on the field right? if he boots one for a league record or more in the dome in minneapolis then we look like fools. that reverts back to the rest of my comment. i like fox and all but no more 3rd and long draws, no more 4th and short punts on the other side of the fifty, and no more fear of kickin the long ball. i wanna know why we drafted jarrett in the 2nd round, why we kept goodson around, why we had an extra kicker on the roster. i don’t wanna wait till next year to see them after they developed. give them to us now. give us edwards breaking a play open when he looks surrounded, lafell blocking someones head off to clear the sideline for d-lo, gettis streaking for a 70yd bomb, norwood and hardy creating turnovers and getting sacks. we drafted these guys to play these positions let them earn their paychecks. there is no substitute for gameday no matter how hard they practice. moore was no more ready to play week 11 than he was week 3. put our youth on the field and open the playbook. otherwise we’re in for another disappointing season and no new contract for fox. but i think by not restructuring his contract or giving him a new one and by making the move to become a younger team the front office has forced his hand. we could be in for the most exciting season since ’03. not saying superbowl or anything but who knows? that’s why they line up and play on sundays. GO PANTHERS!!

    • Eric Quackenbush

      Good stuff, J.

  • John

    Kasay is a great guy. I have worked with him at several charity functions, he is a great team ambassador, he is great with the kids and he comes off as guy you’d like to be friends with. He has won us too many games to count. He really embodies what I think Mr Richardson had in mind for the individual behavior and character of the players on his team.

    With all that said it’s past time. To me really he should have retired last year. Every time he goes out and isn’t the kicker we have all grown to respect he diminishes his accomplishments a bit. And it can’t be fun to see your range restricted a little more every year. He is becoming the athlete who doesn’t know when to call it.

    He should get honored in every way the Panthers can. He can have a statue to as far as I am concerned, he has meant that much to this team IMO. But it’s time.

    • J. Gore

      agreed john he’s a great guy and one of the league’s greatest kickers but it is past due. i’ve always loved the fact that we could say that we still have an original panther on the offense. he’s given us everything he has as a person and athlete. i hope he proves us wrong and starts booming them from 50+ again but i just don’t see it. give him a statue and put him in the broadcast both with mixon and robinson. i think he’s 3rd on the alltime scoring list, maybe he’s tryin to get the record and possibly a spot in canton. i could be wrong on the stats. but if that is the case i think he deserves a spot there regardless. but we all know how tough it is to get into canton, especially for kickers. well either way good luck to #4 and the rest of the squad no matter what happens. you’re our horse and we’ll ride you if you never win another race.

    • Eric Quackenbush

      I have a love and respect for Kasay like most fans do. But I am in agreement with you, that he should have retired. I also think the coaching staff should have allowd Rhys Lloyd some opportunities to kick field goals. That guy had a leg!

      I’d hold off on the statue of Kasay though…For now, anyway. If this team carries him this season, and IF they go to the Super Bowl (I’m a fan too, I can dream), and so long as he doesn’t pull a kickoff like he did against the Pats, then put a statue of him up. Otherwise, Kasay having a statue next to Sam Mills…just doesn’t add up.

      • John

        I have to disagree. While I have great respect for Sam and am glad he got his statue Kasay has meant at least as much to the success of this team. Only the 7th kicker to reach 400+ FGs. Only kicker to ever kick 4 46 yards FGs in one game. 1731 points scored in his career. All in all he has made his case. By the way the closest Panther to him for points scored by a Panther is Smith. He only has about 800 to catch up.

        • Eric Quackenbush

          That’s a valid argument.