It seems as though every year I sit down on draft day with some apprehension. Although I'm excited about the possibilities, I wind up yelling at the TV and walking away scratching my head. Hurney normally does a great job with his first rounders (almost every one is a solid "hit") but swings and misses in the second round. The third round, and those afterward, are a 50-50 proposition as they are for most everyone.
This year was different. This year I think that Carolina hit on almost all picks and I had to crack a beer or two to celebrate. If we keep drafting like this, Mr. Richardson's dream of emulating some of the consistently great teams will become a reality. Without getting into the individual choices, I'd like to talk about Big Picture Philosophy after the jump...One of the keys to success is that everyone is pulling in the same direction and sharing the same vision. Because of that, the connection between the Head Coach and General Manager has to be open, honest, and fluid. Although the Panthers did well during the John Fox era, I got the feeling that HC and GM weren't always working together like they should.
DISCLAIMER: I REALLY liked Fox when he was here. Helluva coach. If he's good enough for Mr. Peyton Manning, he's good enough for me. But I digress....
Under the Fox regime, I saw changes from year to year in focus. Fox and Hurney started by drafting guys who had been very productive, regardless of measurables. It worked more often than not. Unfortunately, as Carolina began to get better, they changed their focus and started looking more for athletes regardless of what they did in college. For no other reason than intuition, I feel this was due to early success which bred arrogance. "Just get me an athlete. I'll motivate him. I'll teach him what he needs to do to be successful." As any Raider fan will attest, great athletes and great football players aren't always the same things.
A few of these drafts and Carolina began to falter. In fact, I think our changing philosophies are what caused the constant yo-yo between good years and bad years. The Steelers, although adaptive to changes in the league, don't change their core philosophy. Look at their success.
Along comes Ron Rivera and changes the inconsistency. Coach Rivera seems to clearly articulate exactly what he is looking for and Mr. Hurney is able to deliver. THIS is what will breed long term success. The last two drafts have one thing in common: Football Junkies. Our front office is now looking for guys that want to eat, sleep, and think about football. If you read between the lines, it is what sold them on Cam last year. Kuechly is the best example this year, but I think that Alexander, the DE out of Oklahoma, fits the mold PERFECTLY. He just gets better every year. He really WANTS IT.
Here's what I did NOT see on the scouting reports for our newest Panthers: "questionable motor", "questionable tackler", "didn't live up to expectations", etc... Although no player grades out PERFECTLY, it looks as though we are wary of certain flaws.
Welcome to the new era in Carolina - consistent, aggressive, and hard-working teams that leave it all on the field. It's about time.