Prior to the start of this season it was a common assumption that if the Panthers didn't return to the playoffs John Fox would be out of a job. The same could probably be said for GM Marty Hurney. With former Steelers coach Bill Cowher relocating to NC that only added fuel to the fire. I ran a couple polls (here and here) on this topic late last season and as I'm sure you can imagine they were not favorable for Fox or Hurney.
Fast forward to today and the Panthers find themselves playing for the #1 seed in the NFC and John Fox once again is being regarded as one of the best in the NFL. It would appear Pantherinsider.com would agree:
There may have been some question about coach John Fox's future with the Panthers earlier this year, but no more. With Carolina reaching the 10-win plateau, rest assured Fox will be back next year. He's proven his doubters wrong, much the way Tom Coughlin did last year in New York.
That's a good thing for Fox, especially since he just built a big home in South Charlotte.
You have to admire the guys' confidence by building a new house in Charlotte when his job is seemingly on the line. What I admire more was his completely ballzy move in trading away next's years #1 pick for RT Jeff Otah. How does that move look now? Pretty good in my view (but I'm Eagle fans might not agree!). Shoot, let's trade our '10 #1 pick to move up in the '09 draft. I'm no financier but when you borrow future dollars that are worth less and spend them now that's a good move. Okay, maybe that analogy doesn't work.
More after the jump....
Of course no matter how well the Panthers do this year there will still be the idiot on Charlotte.com yelling FIRE FOX, FIRE FOX! Like I said..."idiot". If the Panthers should for whatever reason cut Fox loose (never happen mind you) he would be unemployed about 5 minutes before his phone would start ringing.
I think more than any other year John Fox and Marty Hurney have shown they know how to build and manage a winning franchise. They wanted a power running game and got one. They wanted to get more weapons on offense and they got them. The result is a balanced offense that nobody can stop except the Panthers themselves with turnovers. On defense they wanted to improve the pass rush and they did it. The found a leader for the defense in the form of MLB Jon Beason who should be a Pro Bowler for years to come. They have a defense that is equally good against the run and the pass. Want more evidence of John Fox's job performance? The Steve Smith - Ken Lucas ordeal could have easily shattered this team but instead Fox has turned it into a defining moment that has galvanized this team's purpose. This team is on a mission to go to the Super Bowl and every player on the roster is on board.
Honestly, no matter how the Panthers season turns out from here, even the worst case scenario of losing the final two games and in the first round of the playoffs, I want John Fox to coach this team long term. I think the actual results will be quite different though. let me be the first to say it on this blog:
John Fox - 2008 NFL Coach of the Year