The Charlotte Observer has just published a long and fairly revealing interview with Jerry "Ultra-BAMF" Richardson. JR goes in depth about the off-season, and how he is very happy with the team's progression so far, but what might be the most interesting part of the article is him firing up the bus and mowing down the old coaching staff several times. When asked if he was comfortable going into this season with either Cam or Jimmy as the starting QB, he had this to say:
"I feel very comfortable. They have to be coached and they have to have time. I don't expect them to play like they've been in the league three or four years. But the coaching staff will coach to the strengths of the men. They won't say, 'This is the way it is, do it,' and then go to (general manager) Marty (Hurney) and say, 'He can't do it.' "
"This is the way it is, do it" refers to former head coach John Fox, whose contract wasn't renewed after the 2010 season ended. I reported on opening day last season that Fox, now the head coach in Denver, was out. The longer the season went, the more dysfunctional the Richardson-Fox relationship became.
Ouch! Seems like Foxy fought the law and the law won. These aren't the only disparaging words JR has for Fox and his staff in the article, more on that after the jump...
JR finally puts to rest our greatest suspicions that Fox simply was not giving proper coaching to certain players. Here is what he had to say when asked about his expectations for the team in 2011:
What does he expect from his team in 2011?
Richardson: "I don't have expectations as far as how many you win and how many you lose. Our expectation is that Ron (Rivera) and the coaching staff will really make these players better."
Two players who have looked better in camp are receiver Armanti Edwards and running back Mike Goodson. Richardson: "I think Armanti is a classic example of drafting a quality individual who is very athletic and not coaching him and making him better. As opposed to lifting Armanti up, it's like they (Fox and his staff) just beat him down. I don't understand it...He's going to be a very good player. We just wasted a year."
Richardson: "Mike Goodson knows very clearly that he is in good favor with me when he does not fumble the ball."
The Panthers drafted Edwards and Goodson. Richardson says the philosophy is to draft well and after three seasons reward their successful picks with a contract extension. The idea, finally, is to develop a winning program.
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/08/09/2514140/big-cat-happy-with-offseason.html#ixzz1UYFpQWQQ
JR is not holding back at all. He directly says right there that Fox held back some of the younger players that he was not enamored with, and that was ultimately the reason for his being replaced as head coach. We as fans have been whispering about it for months, this is good validation to tell us our instincts were right.
But this article is not all JR hating on the old coaching staff. He touches on how things went down with Smitty:
Richardson: "He came to see me recently. He and I had a very candid 20-minute conversation. He talked five minutes and I talked 15."
Smith told Richardson he wanted to play for Carolina.
Smith also told Richardson late last season that he wanted to be traded. The Panthers shopped him unsuccessfully. They've stopped.
Richardson: "I think Steve (who is 32) is obviously getting to the end of his career. I have had, I guess you would say, a lot of ups and downs with him through the years. I hope he'll end on the best route possible."
On how he is happy that all our free agents decided to return to the Panthers:
Richardson is moved that the Carolina players they pursued elected to stay.
Richardson: "You understand that they didn't have to. They all could have left. To their credit, they're all with us and they're the kind of men we want. They are selfless."
He adds: "My personal goal was to keep every one of our core players. We were not going to lose (free-agent defensive end) Charles Johnson. Everybody would be very naïve to think that Atlanta was not going to be all over Charles Johnson. And we surely didn't want him in our own division."
And finally, his thoughts on the Olsen trade:
If retaining players is a priority, why trade Chicago a third-round pick for tight end Greg Olsen?
Richardson: "Marty said, 'I'm reluctant to bring this (acquiring Olsen) up because we talked about keeping our own players.' I said, 'Marty we'd be crazy not to do this. We (can) take a 26-year-old tight end we coveted coming out of the draft.' "
Ultimately, the entire article is a refreshing read. This isn't the reclusive but lovable JR of old. This is a fiesty, excited, and much more open JR. He isn't afraid to say anything, and has gone out of his way to have open dialogue with the media and fans. No longer do we have to read between the lines when it comes to interviews with Panther brass, the new MO seems to be to tell it like it is. The only time JR doesn't directly answer a question in the whole interview is when he is asked about his eventual successor, where after a pause he replies:
Even if his stamina has returned, he is 75. I ask him who will run the team when he no longer can. It's as if I asked about his color. He pauses five seconds before answering.
Richardson: "Well, I don't really think a lot about that. I'm in good health. We have a good organization in place and - hopefully - that's too far in advance."
Panther fans... I don't know about you, but I'm excited. It seems like this whole team has a new life and fire to it. I can't wait to get this season started. I feel like we have top notch ownerships, coaching, and players... and that good things are in store for this team sooner rather than later. GO PANTHERS!