I'm amazed at how quickly we went from mildly optimistic to completely pessimistic about not only the Panthers 2010 season but in some sense the franchise as a whole. After watching the Panthers offense make preseason history by not scoring an offensive TD, QB Matt Moore throws three red zone INTs in the opener. Charlotte fans are leery of franchise owners not committed to winning having run Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn out of town for a number reasons, including going cheap on players.
If Jerry Richardson is trying to prove you can win without high priced players then he might want to work on the winning part. The question is how much is Richardson willing to risk to make his point? He has more at stake than a bad CBA agreement. He might be making decisions that adversely affect this franchise for years to come beyond any short term CBA contract. We have to look no further than the Panthers narrowly avoiding a black out of their home opener. There were noticeable swathes of empty blue seats in BoA stadium in the 2nd half.
Yet thinking JR might allow a Panthers losing season to make a point is a better thought than the only reasonable other motive. Is Richardson simply a businessman looking to maximize profit? I can't imagine the media hasn't asked him to clarify the reasons he didn't pursue any FA's this offseason, why he purged so many veterans that look like they could be helping us now (Moose & Hoover). Why he won't go ahead and offer contracts to his key upcoming free agents (Williams & Kalil). These are very good questions Panther fans would like answers to. Numerous other teams have re-signed there marquee players with no worries about the CBA. Why should a player like DeAngelo Williams re-sign with the Panthers after playing with the risk of injury in 2010? He will certainly get more money elsewhere and has no loyalty cred to repay the Panthers.
Yet here we are now thanking our lucky stars the draft Gods shined on us in April. Our dice roll with the UDFA QB came up craps this time. Even the most sour Panther fan has to admit Clausen gives the Panthers as much of a chance to win this season as Moore...
And that's when you hear the THUD!
...more after the jump...
Our expectations come crashing like a 40 lb sack of cat food hitting the floor. That's when we realize we are starting a rookie QB for the remainder of the season, a sure indicator of the dreaded ‘rebuilding season'. How many teams go to the SB with a rookie QB? We also realize that if the Panthers are going to turn things around it will have to be with the players on the roster. To suggest the Panthers might pursue a trade for a player like WR Vincent Jackson is nothing more than a lame joke these days in Carolina. Finally, the thud resounds loudly when we get a feeling the one guy that could change things for the positive might not be too worried about it. I can only hope all those empty blue seats were not what JR had anticipated and that maybe he could make a simply gesture of confidence.
But there lies another rub. That would have to include HC John Fox, he of the lame duck collar. In this day and time in the NFL if you don't want a coach you simply fire him regardless of his contract status. You don't let him play out his last season as a lame duck. If that is a wrong characterization of the situation then he should simply make a public pledge of support to the coach and staff. I don't recall hearing from Richardson since he defended the increase in ticket prices. More likely there is a real rift in communication between Fox and Richardson as both coast to their inevitable parting. How does that support winning in 2010? It doesn't plain and simple.
So now that I'm resigned to a rebuilding season I can watch our new franchise QB mature and who knows, maybe a wild card slot is still achievable. One thing I feel about Clausen is that he won't crumble under the pressure. (Of course I thought Moore would protect the football) The kid has moxie and has been in the spot light since 6th grade. Both of his older brothers started at Tennessee and the younger Jimmy has been heralded as the best of the bunch. Already we see I kid not afraid of pressure nor willing to throw a ball into coverage. All of his INTs to date bounced off of a receivers hands. He throws the short passes well and with more zip than Moore. That will open up the deep ball, something we haven't seen much from Clausen but we know he can throw it. The kid does give us hope as we adjust to the thought of actually having a franchise QB.
So Panther fans, did you hear the thud too?