Panthers owner Jerry Richardson provided an interview last week that we fanposted and discussed briefly on this site. It seemed to offer some insight on a few topics but little else. In particular he indicated that the veteran purge was not due to the pending player lock out in 2011 and was simply due to needing to get younger players on the field more:
Were they [the veteran releases] the result of the uncertainty surrounding the CBA?
JR: We were at a point with our football team that we had to make some tough football decisions, which were separate of the CBA. As I have said, we have a number of younger players who showed promise at the end of last season and need to get on the field.
Okay fair enough I can buy that. But if that is the case then does Head Coach John Fox remain un-signed for the future? If his decisions up to the point have not been about the lack of a CBA what about Fox? Does this say that he truly intends to let Fox walk? There is no doubt Fox would not remain unemployed, in fact he could end up one of the higher paid coaches in the league. Is that what he is demanding? Would Fox deserve to be paid like one of the top 5 HC's in the NFL? I like Fox and would hate to see him leave so I'm worried he may feel slighted by the this move. If the Panthers make the playoffs like I expect this season and JR then decides he wants to re-sign him maybe he says 'forget you' and waits to see what plays out in NY and goes tot he Giants for the big money. That notion is really bothering me....more after the jump...
My concern is further bolstered by this answer:
What are your thoughts on the direction of the team?
JR: We feel recent drafts have been productive and have players for those positions where changes were made. There are no guarantees going into any season. We saw that last year when we had 21 of 22 starters returning. I think players like Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart, plus a good offensive line, provide a lot of opportunity on offense and Jon Beason, Thomas Davis , and Chris Gamble on defense form a good core of players to build around. There are 26 drafted players on our roster over the last four years, and some like Dan Connor will get an opportunity to play. Others, like Jon, have proven more than capable.
Ummm...John Fox has been an integral part of those 'productive drafts'. If the Panthers draft performance has been so vital to the team's success, both on the field and financially, then why would JR risk breaking up the Furney (Fox and Hurney) draft team? All I can say is he better be ready to through some big money at Fox if he waits too long to start negotiating with him.
Of course maybe he does plan to let Fox walk. Maybe JR is overall not that impressed with Fox or maybe he doesn't necessarily give Fox any credit for the draft performance. Consider this question and answer that confirms what we have all realized about signing big name Free Agents:
Can you address the offseason approach?
JR: We have never been a big player in free agency under Marty Hurney (Duh!). Many of our best free agent signings have not received much attention when we signed them. Jake Delhomme did not come with a lot of attention when he was signed. Players like Ricky Proehl, Mark Fields, Marlon McCree and Tyler Brayton came to the team with little notice, but were starters and big contributors. The years when we were big players in free agency did not seem to turn out as well. The approach has worked well over eight years and we still have the goal of a championship.
Nice to hear he stills wants to win a SB. I could never believe a guy with a loaner heart doesn't have a sense of urgency to win now but I admire the fact he isn't about to forgo his business principles in the hopes of winning now. Well, maybe it would be nice to see him go after at least one guy that would help us (Kampman would have been a nice addition). Just because the big free agent signings haven't worked exceptionally in the past (though I thought Wahle and Lucas played well for us) doesn't mean you should never go after marque players. That notion concerns me as well.
So does it sound like he's giving all the credit to Marty Hurney? I sure does to me.Moving on slightly there is one part of this next answer that I find very interesting:
What were your feelings on the release of players like Jake, Brad Hoover, and Damione Lewis?
JR: They were extremely difficult decisions. They were very good players and even better people. It is impossible not to get attached to players, particularly those who have been with the team for a long time and are good people. We will miss them. That is only natural. They were tough football decisions and were hard on Marty and John. It was the same procedure we have used over the years. A roster changes year-to-year and every six or seven there is an inevitable cycle of transition, and there is a plan for that transition, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
I'm not going to belabor the release of the veteran players but instead focus on this theory of the cycle of transition that JR says occurs every 6 or 7 years. I guess that makes sense given the average length of time a player lasts in the NFL is around 6 years. Yet for a guy or shall I say a team that tends to favor the veterans when it comes to playing time I find it surprising they have a plan for transition. Or was this just a guy just trying to cover his tracks? Meaning he's putting business decisions and financial considerations over winning? One of things I have always loved about this franchise is having a former player as owner, giving the notion that this guy is in it to win and not necessarily to make a buck. Yet JR is just as well known for being a shrewd business man. Any guy that would boot his own sons out of the organization for the betterment of the team certainly deserves the reputation of putting winning first. I think this next year as the CBA negotiations play out he will either solidify that reputation or turn it on its head.
Speaking of the CBA negotiating which JR is playing a firm and apparently very active role, he sticks to the NFL party line on the expected CBA question:
How do you feel the negotiations are going?
JR: I’ll leave any comments on that to the Commissioner. He is in the best position to gauge that and I think it is best if he speaks for the League. I can only say we are seeking a fair agreement that will be good for the players, our teams, and the fans. While I cannot predict the course of collective bargaining, I do know that we will have a new agreement, hopefully before the 2011 season.
Nice to hear he is confident that an agreement will be reached but I couldn't help but notice the 'hopefully before the 2011 season' remark. Trust me, I'll be shocked if this gets done in less than a year from now.
New topic (one very played out) but one I couldn't pass up:
What were your feelings seeing Julius Peppers leave the organization?
JR: I think Julius was a great player for the Carolina Panthers and was sorry that things did not work out for the long term, but that was the case and we wish him the best. He always handled himself well as a Panther and will have a significant place in our history. As Marty said, we were aggressive in trying to get a long term deal and it did not work out.
The fact JR says the Panthers were aggressive in getting Peppers to stay gives me final confirmation Peppers simply just wanted to leave. I will laugh my ass off this season if Alex Brown pusts up more sacks than Peppers. Won't the Bears fans be howling about that!