At this point, it's pretty clear that the Panthers are rebuilding. I'm sure that management talked itself into thinking that Moore was the answer at QB and we would make a playoff run, and so did a lot of us fans. But Moore isn't, the Panthers aren't, and now the season is all about finding something that works which can be built on for future success.
It's not like Carolina is the first team that's gone through this. New Orleans had their 3-13 season in 2005 that netted them Reggie Bush in the draft, Drew Brees in Free Agency, and Sean Payton as the new coach.
Atlanta brought in Mike Smith, Michael Turner, and drafted Matt Ryan after going 4-12 in 2007. And Tampa went in for rebuilding last year, bringing in Raheem Morris to do much what the Panthers just did. He purged them of their veterans and drafted Josh Freeman to build around.
Most teams have to rebuild at one point or another. And it almost never involves keeping the same coach around.
Teams that have to rebuild tend to look for something different, too. Remember that old saying about insanity being defined by doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? Usually the new regime is looking to make some sort of change. Be it obvious or subtle, you can count on rebuilding teams to at least try and be different.
So what does that mean for the Panthers? On the field they may go to a 3-4, or they might try something other than a cover-2, or they may install a west coast offense. It may be anything, and it won't necessarily be tied to the personnel we currently have.
Which is where Jimmy Clausen comes in to the conversation.
Here's a trivia question for you. When was the last time that a coach was hired from outside the organization to take over a rebuilding team where that same coach didn't bring in a new quarterback?
Think on that for a minute. And if you get an idea of any situations that might fit just a little, if you bend this condition or that; then ask yourself if the quarterback was well-established. For instance, you can say that Mike McCarthy stuck with Brett Favre for two years after taking over, but that wasn't really rebuilding in the sense that the Panthers are experiencing.
Even in Carolina, the first thing John Fox did when he arrived in 2002 was sign Rodney Peete to replace Chris Weinke. Not that Weinke was ever going to be a quality starter, but the point is that new coaches want to run their own systems, and that usually results in a change at the game's most glamorous position.
Now don't get me wrong. I love Jimmy Clausen. I think he's going to be a great player someday. Give him a little experience and an offensive coordinator who plays to his strengths, and I'm sure he'll win a lot of games.
But will they be in Carolina? As upsetting as it may be, history suggests that it won't.
New coaches don't always make the change right away. For instance, in 1978 Chuck Knox took over in Buffalo, and kept Joe Ferguson. But the team he inherited didn't have a problem moving the ball, and Fergusun was a five year starter.
In 1983 Dan Henning got the head coaching job in Atlanta, and left Steve Bartkowski in place for three years. Bartkowski was a two-time pro-bowl QB who led the league in passing in 1980, he was another established guy on a team was awful on the defensive side of the ball.
There are a few other cases too. In 1986 Gene Stallings took over the head coaching job at Arizona, and kept Neil Lomax in place until Lomax retired after the 1988 season. in 1989 Bruce Coslet stuck with Ken O'Brien for two years after taking over for the Jets. Ted Marchibroda stuck with Jeff George for two years after taking over as the Colts head coach in 1992.
And in 2001, Cleveland gave the team to Butch Davis, who left Tim Couch under center for two years before giving up on him. That story is a little different, because Tim Couch was the number one overall pick in 1999, and was doing well in 2000 before his season ended to injury in game seven.
In all of these cases, the quarterback who managed to persist across coaching regimes had a history of success.
Next year the Panthers will have a new coach who didn't draft any of the guys on the roster, and who doesn't really care what each one has done for the Panthers. Because frankly, none of them will have.
Matt Moore probably won't even get a clipboard. Unless he makes drastic changes to his pre-season performance, he'll lose a job that he only has today because he knows the offense. He won't know the new one.
Tony Pike may be ok. He's a development prospect anyway, and cheap. No one expects him to see the field for a few years, and even if Fox stayed in Charlotte he would be working for the right to hold the main clipboard on gameday.
Armanti Edwards may be an interesting prospect for the new regime. He's not a good receiver yet, and he's never been an NFL Quarterback. His physical skills and work ethic suggest that he could develop into a playmaker, but the new coach may not care. Raheem Morris cut Dexter Jackson his first year, and Jackson was a second round choice. Edwards might be a quick casualty. Or, the new coach could look at him as a potential quarterback in an offense that emphasizes movement instead of pocket presence.
And then there's Clausen. He's smart, throws an accurate short-to-intermediate pass, and he comes from a big-time program. His college stats still mean something, and by the time a new coach rolls in he'll have a years worth of starting play under his belt. Granted, he'll need to learn the new system, but everything about his history suggests that he can do that with the best of them.
Would a new coach want to keep him? If the Panthers get the number one overall pick, would it be more likely that they grab an Andrew Luck? Maybe the new coach tells Hurney that he wants Jake Locker or Ryan Mallet for competition, cuts Pike, and brings in someone like Kyle Boller or Chad Pennington to babysit the offense for a year or two. That's generally how these transitions work.
So what do you think? Should Clausen's agent be working the phones already? Should he try and arrange a trade that will keep his client on the field next year?
Or is this time going to be different?
Maybe not so different, actualy. It's happened before. In 1994, Sam Wyche made Trent Dilfer the 6th overall pick of the draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and started him the following year. Then in 1996, Tony Dungy took over and stayed with Dilfer under center for four more years. And this was a defensive-minded coach taking over a team that was ok on defense already, but terrible on offense.
I'm not saying Clausen is as good as Dilfer, or that Dilfer is as good as Clausen, but it's happened. Once.
So stay tuned. Life in Pantherland is only going to get more interesting as the year unfolds.