After years of silence or simply using his patented answer, "It is what is it is" when asked about personnel moves, Carolina Panthers coach John Fox recently began to speak up a little when asked about the debacle that is the 2010 Carolina Panthers.
The first nod that there was trouble in paradise was the preseason trade of Chris Harris to the Bears for a backup linebacker. When coach Fox was asked about the reasoning behind the move Fox replied,"We've got a budget and that had something to do with it."
The answer Fox gave that day in May signaled something was up, somewhere in Pantherland. But what was up would remain somewhat of a mystery for a few months.
Recently Fox was asked by Carolina Growl reporter Steve Reed, if he regretted not adding a veteran wide receiver to the offense in the offseason. This is where Fox finally confirmed what many have suspected for months. Fox said, “Again, those aren’t my decisions." With that answer Fox fired a shot across the bow at team owner, Jerry Richardson.
It was obvious that the Panthers needed to secure a veteran wide receiver this past offseason to accompany Steve Smith in the passing game. But that did not happen. Without a true number two wide receiver NFL defenses who face the Panthers simply play against the run and double team Smith, then they are left to take advantage of the Panthers rookie receivers inability to get open. The outcome? The NFL's worst offense is owned by the Panthers.
Fox wants no part of the blunder that is the formulation of the 2010 Panthers but he finds himself on the high wire here. At the end of the season, Fox is done in Carolina. There will be no great comebacks this season that would warrant Fox being brought back to Carolina. Fox will be in the job market in January and he has to prepare for that.
The problems the Panthers are having are simply ones of economics and of brinksmanship. The problems are rooted around the Panthers owner Jerry Richardson being the NFL ownership's group mouthpiece in the looming labor lockout that is on the horizon following this season. For one thing, Richardson does not want a bloated payroll if there is no football in 2011. But the big thing Richardson is doing is showing the league's players that a team can be operated, in the short run at least, with inexpensive, young players.
Unfortunately, for Fox, the problems the Panthers now face are ones simply above his pay grade and he is finding that out the hard way. There is no quick or easy fix. So, that leaves the future and teams needing a new coach at the beginning of the next football season.
One possible landing spot for Fox may be with the Cleveland Browns. However, for almost any team president or general manager, hiring Fox may be a tough sell. If Eric Mangini wins five games in Cleveland and Fox wins only two or three in Carolina how logical would it then be to hire a guy who is statistically worse than the guy he replacing is? It makes little sense, if you are looking at recent history. So, Fox has to get busy.
But busy doing what? It may be too late but Fox needs to ruffle feathers and simply tell the truth when asked about matters concerning this team. If Fox happens to call out the team's owner, Jerry Richardson, then that just comes with the turf. Fox may become more vocal, that is, unless he already feels he has the Cleveland job or some other job already secured.
What would calling out the owner do? Hopefully, for Fox and the Panthers benefit, it may get him fired. Is getting fired a good thing? If Fox were fired today he could quickly distance himself from the losing he will be associated if he sticks around. Letting Fox go would also give the Panthers a chance to begin looking at potential new coaches while someone within the organization steps up to coach the team in the interim.
The least thing calling out the owner might do is show the rest of the league and fans that this current Panthers roster was not his idea at all. It is hard to believe this is a roster that Fox made or rubber stamped. Who wants to knowingly put together a losing team? Nobody, that's who and certainly not a man who possibly had the chance to be the hottest head coaching commodity on the market in 2011, that is, if there is football.
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