Not gonna dwell on this much — either you get it or depend on access to or a paycheck from Jerry Richardson.
Richardson’s performance yesterday — and make no mistake it was all performance, right down to the faux “honesty” CLT’s dopey sports media lapped up on cue — signals two things. One, there will likely be an NFL lockout that costs regular season games. Two, the Panthers are unlikely to return to the playoffs in Richardson’s lifetime.
Richardson channeled an old Southern mill owner’s hostility toward his workers and to impetuous questioning. All that was missing from his jabbing “Who are you? Where do you work?” intimidation was the “Where do you go to church? I know your pastor” closer. Blaming John Fox and his staff’s imaginary unwillingness to play talented young players — Jon Beason, Charles Godfrey, Ryan Kahil say hi — for Jerry’s purge of costly vets was as gutless as it was dishonest, yet it went unchallenged by a press corps cowed into ovine submission.
Richardson could have fired Fox and hired a staff with a mandate to go young. But that would have cost money — money the Big Cat did not want to spend. In other words, JR admitted that the 2010 season was a fraud on every butt that sat in Bank of America stadium. And to the extent that Richardson’s bottom-line obsession extends to the other small market owners there is core group convinced that they must claw back revenue from the players to survive and the only way to do that is break the union, and the only way to do that is cost them game checks come next fall.
In any event, the Panthers are a franchise seem doomed to mediocrity given Richardson’s approach.
We already know the team’s best CB (Richard Marshall) is not coming back. Richardson’s stern “no” on signing FAs — or much talking to them — without a new CBA has to make guys like Charles Johnson very interested in working elsewhere (hello, Mr. Snyder). In fact, contrary to the insipid “commentary” dripping from the likes of WFNZ, the Panthers have no core of talent. On the OL, three question marks assuming Kahil comes back (hello again, Coach Carroll), at LB one Pro Bowl stud and a bunch of injury/contract unknowns, at WR no clear #2 and a #1 halfway out the door. At DL perhaps three of the required eight starter-quality bodies there. Perhaps 1.5 of the required three CBs. Solid at S and at RB. But Jonathan Stewart would have to stay healthy assuming DeAngelo Williams is allowed to walk, so some unknown even there. TE functional, even if under performing given the draft picks spent there.
Any honest take right now sees 14, 15, 16 starter-quality bodies likely to be on the Panther roster for a 2011 season. As we’ve pointed out before, successful franchises find a way to have 25 to 30 starter-quality players on their rosters, year-in-year out. Forget Andrew Luck — starting QB is one of about a dozen holes Richardson has to fill before his team can reach .500.
Before yesterday I thought the Panthers were at least two years away from that — now I’d make it at least three. If so, the Panthers then would face an entirely new free agent crisis just as the team started to break through again. And repeat for the foreseeable future. Given Richardson’s unwillingness to spend in the FA market — and Marty Hurney’s hit-or-miss drafting — I don’t see how it can be otherwise.
As for new coaches, of course the Panthers are looking at DCs, defensive players are cheaper. Everywhere you look Richardson has made the Panthers about money. Money and intimidation. Guess what JR — one only lasts so long and the other only works so long as there is money.
Bonus Confusion: No, FOX Charlotte’s Morgan Fogarty was not harassed when the Big Cat called her up to the front of the room. All the other reporters were, however. Richardson used another old bidness man intimidation tactic — tell the prettiest girl in the room where to go and what to do — to demonstrate his command of the room. So old in fact no one knew what was going on other than to feel slightly uncomfortable about it.
Bonus Flatline: Poor Joe Person. The UPoR scribe thought that Richardson’s slam of Foxy’s penchant for attendance-sapping losing streaks was a call to get his new coach “more involved in the team’s marketing efforts.” No, but thanks for playing. Richardson clearly wants more of a rah-rah, foot-in-butt kinda guy that’ll shake a bunch of young players up if they start to go down the tubes, as opposed to an even-keeled, “keep chopping wood” guy like Fox.
Sounds like a dream job.