Panthers Fox Bucks Lame Duck Status

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers reacts to a call against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 28 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) He's not cutting the refs any slack either!

Lame Duck Coach (def) A coach at the end of his contract where it is known the coach is leaving thereby making them less effective as a coach; weakened, unable to make decisions

John Fox current status with the Panthers may fit the definition of a lame duck coach but you wouldn't know it with some of his recent decisions. Fox has long been painted a pragmatic, old school coach who is short in answers to the media but long in keeping his players respect. Fox remains a players coach regardless of his contract status. Part of that respect comes from the consistent manner in which Fox meets out player punishment. No player is above getting benched for poor performance, as we found out last week when CB Chris Gamble was benched for 'performance reasons' per Fox.

He just told me I was going to come in at nickel and that was about it," Gamble said. "I kind of struggled in the Baltimore game. So I kind of figured that’s where it came from. But I’ve got to just keep praying and play football and have fun like I know how to do."

What we have since learned is that Gamble didn't handle the critique in the film room well and subsequently left/skipped practice:

"It's easy to come in and come to work and be chipper every day when you're winning. But when things aren't going your way, sometimes those things happen where you act out of character," Brown added. "But being the team that we are and having the character that we have on the team, we all hold each other accountable. (Gamble) was disciplined for his actions and that was the end of it. "It's not anything we hold a grudge against a guy or say, 'Aw man, he's a quitter. He backed out on the team.' He was back at practice the next day working hard. So you've got to commend him for that and for the team holding together."

So Fox took Gamble's walkout as a sign he didn't want to start, since he makes these decisions every week based on what he sees in practice. I loved this quote about what criteria he doesn't use to make starting decisions:

Gamble is the fourth-longest-tenured player (behind John Kasay, Steve Smith and Jordan Gross) on the roster, and the third-highest-paid (behind Smith and Gross). Fox said that didn't matter to him in making the decision. "Again, I don't get into tenure and expense when I evaluate players," Fox said. "So I don't really understand that part of the question.... Never have, never will."

So my point is that Fox is hardly any less effective than he's been in the past. I stated it that way because we might have different definitions of what 'effective' is within OC Jeff Davidson's offense. That's another argument!

Even if Fox should finish with a .500 record in Carolina I still think he's the best coach in our franchises short history. I think the way the players continue to support him this late in a doomed season is respectable. Here's something I consider additional evidence of player respect:

Brown said Wednesday. "He came back the next day and apologized and that's been the end of it since. He's been out working every day and getting better and getting ready for the Seahawks."

Gamble came back the next and apologized and now the team is moving on. No grudges, no pouting, etc...just expression of a desire to get back on the field and prove himself. We don't hear of football players being so humble very often these days do we?

Here' s my second point regarding Fox's anti-lame duck posture:
Fox acknowledged he didn't think it was right to take the job away from Goodson, saying: "It's been his ball for the last couple weeks, and I didn't think it was time to take it away from him."
This from the guy who took three season to start RB DeAngelo Williams. Additionally, Fox has usually given the vet his job back after returning from injury. You can't say this guy isn't learning or adapting in this regard.

Now before you think I'm Fox's long lost love child, there are still some issues that bother me. The main one that comes to mind is his loyalty to OC Jeff Davidson after a dismal 2009 rooted in a loyalty to a QB who had lost his edge. It's obvious that Fox is friends with his staff and isn't going to embarrass them by firing them mid-season.

As much as I hate being 1-10 I still find it hard to blame Fox for the state of the franchise. I'm sure its the Panther Homer coming out in me but how can you not put some blame on the personnel department as Fox has so clearly iterated?

So you might be thinking, "If he's a good coach he should be able to pull out a couple more wins". Sounds good in theory but with two games against the 9-2 Falcons, and matches with Steelers and Cardinals remaining after the Seahawks its not probable. 

Panther fans will line up on one side or the other regarding Fox's legacy in Carolina. I'm pretty sure I'll still look at him positively with no lingering impressions of a so-called lame duck coach. You are welcome to disagree.

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