CSR recently started a Greatest Panther of All Time bracket and the vote between Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers brought up the question of whether the greatest can be judged off of merit both on and off the field. A lot of people would not consider Pepper as the GPOAT due to the insulting nature of his departure from the team for the Chicago Bears. Many simply did not like him just for leaving the Panthers. I bring this up because the situation with Charles Johnson could soon reminisce it (props to JohnnyMac080's fanshot for bringing this to my attention).
CJ made comments (please read the entire exchange and original post, available in fanshot linked above) recently on Twitter related to whether or not he should return to the Panthers as being based on winning and more subtlety on price. Other Panthers have also intimated as much, like Deangelo Williams (who has stated that he would like to return to the Panthers but the team's financial status might force him to sacrifice to stay on the team). As I assume everyone would want, it'd be great if these players could take one for the team and accept a reduced salary than one they might receive on the open market in the hopes that we might become a winning team eventually. But sometimes they don't and fans get upset. But is it reasonable for us to be upset?
Of the two reasons why CJ might leave (winning and money), the first is easy to debunk. The Atlanta Falcons would be presumed by many to be the instant frontrunner due to their need of a skilled DE and the fact that CJ's home state is Georgia. If CJ really wanted to win now as he stated,
"I want to win!"
then the Falcons would certainly be more in position to do so than the Panthers. They just invested this and the next draft on Julio Jones and are widely recognized as in the "win now or bust" mode. Even the most optimistic Panther fan would agree that the Falcons would be more prepared to win now than with the raw Cam Newton/veteran mentor-led Panthers. Therefore it seems unreasonable for a fan to hold a grudge against CJ should he leave for a winner.
The second reason, for money, is slightly harder to debunk, but still reaches the same conclusion.
Suppose Team A offers more money than Team B for a player (hint: it's CJ lol). There are only a few reasons why the player would choose Team B over the greater salary from Team A. One might be the opportunity to win, which we just covered. Other ones might include the occasional players who say they don't want to uproot their families or the ones that have some tie to the area that is essential (like medical care that can only be obtained from the area). So far CJ has not suggested in any way that either of those options have been on his mind and again referring to his tweets, his decision seems based on winning/money. If the player takes the greater money, can you condemn him for doing so? Every man is entitled to seeking more, so it is certainly unreasonable to hate his decision to take more money. Either way, the player CJ should not be hated after departing the team if for money.
Considering these two posits, the last things the average fan could hold against the player for leaving would be:
- The manner in which he leaves (Lebron James is probably the greatest example in any sport).
- An inherent obligation/dedication/favoritism to the team that drafts him.
The first reason is completely reasonable. Many believe Julius Pepper's leaving falls under this category and while it is unfair to hate someone seeking greener pastures, it is understandable if he burns your house down as he leaves. That leaves an inherent obligation as the only reason that a fan could still dislike a player that leaves barring money and winning. But I would argue that there is no such obligation, even if the team took him in as an undrafted free agent, turned him into a superstar, or gave him the world to stay, etc.
I say this with two main reasons:
- If you expect a discount from the player to be resigned, then all players would expect the team to resign them as a gesture of good will also for past services rendered. For example, Richard Marshall, who is not the greatest player ever, would deserve to be at least given a chance (if no other team signed him) because he was part of the home team.
- Giving a home team discount also suggests that the player had a choice in which team he would go to. We expect players to automatically love the team they're drafted too but CJ could have incredible ties to Georgia that makes him still prefer the state over Carolina. Maybe he never fell in love with Carolina like so many other players do, but he gave a very good performance (both on and off the field) in order to win fans and a better contract once he became a FA.
In summation, nobody should hold a grudge against CJ for leaving unless he leaves in an insulting manner (à la Lebron James) because there is no inherent obligation to a drafting team.