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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Retreat

It's not just a word for how the Panthers played in their many blowout losses this year mid-season, or what our fans do when games aren't going our way.

Sources state that Jerry Richardson, Marty Hurney, and John Fox have retreated to the mountains to convene on the future of the franchise. The meeting involves the three decision makers of the franchise, reportedly does not involve Mark Richardson, the coaches under Fox, or the staff/scouts under Hurney.

It does appear under logical assumption that the trio will all be involved in the making of next year's football team. Essentially, it comes down to this - will keeping the pair mean more of the 2007 approach - stay with what you have - or will the team realize that sweeping change must come? And to that end, how much change?

Front Office
  • Will Hurney stay as GM, or move to an executive Vice President role? Hurney's current role is much more of an executive approach anyway. He doesn't do the evaluating, he finds solutions to get everything together under the constraints. He doesn't manage the cap himself, he doesn't negotiate the contracts, and he relies heavily on pro personnel man Mark Koncz and college director Dick Gregory
  • Do Koncz and Gregory stay? The team hasn't gotten a lot of bang for their high-dollar buck in free agency long term, save for Ken Lucas; their low dollar approach put them in this position. Gregory's drafts seem to have been solid, but could go if the staff determines a need to start over underneath him.
Offensive Staff
  • Will the team keep new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Davidson? A former player expected to bring toughness along with elements of the New England offense, the end result left the team without that much of either, though much was beyond Davidson's control. Davidson, who called some very good games and some poor ones, only rarely opened up the offense after Jake Delhomme went down, and struggled overall.
  • How about Mike McCoy? Put in charge of the passing game as its coordinator, it was the lowlight of the team. As of right now the quarterbacks total 5 games, 4 starts for QBs behind Jake Delhomme, between Matt Moore and Brett Basanez (on the logical assumption that David Carr need not return to Mint St), and a more experienced QBs coach or even former coordinator would make more sense behind Davidson.
  • Dave Magazu? The OL struggled all year to have consistency. Pass blocking wasn't bad overall, but run blocking was. Some feel that Magazu wasn't the right hire, and that he and new TEs coach Geep Chryst should've stayed in place where they were, or could've gone away with OC Dan Henning and former OL coach Mike Maser.
Defensive Staff
  • Is it time to replace Mike Trgovac? The defensive wizard/pariah has taken a lot of flak for not being Jack Del Rio, for not blitzing more, and for Julius Peppers' health. The defense finished 18th/run, 12th/pass: they were 23rd in INT, and an awful 31st in sacks, but 1st in fumble recoveries/forced fumbles, 4th in rush yards/attempt, all without Julius Peppers at full speed and with Mike Rucker coming off injury. The back 7 play was spectacular considering the team got hardly a sack and a half per game.
  • How about Sal Sunseri? Another guy who's gotten criticism because he was a replacement coach, Sunseri is a quality coach but his units have underperformed overall.
Special Teams
  • Danny Crossman, another coach with no pro experience coming into Carolina, has disappointed despite bringing in talent specifically for ST play. A disappointing key toward the late surge put on by Ryne Robinson for returns, was note that Steve Smith, not Crossman, was working with the rookie during the change. Crossman has a deep history with Fox, going back to playing under Fox, Sunseri, and Scott O'Brien, but just hasn't performed. Assistant Tony Levine isn't critical one way or the other.

Personal Wishlist
With the staff still in need of tweaking, here are some suggestions:
  • Move Hurney up a level. Make him in charge of dealing with the community, overseeing the entire staff, coordinating ideas and making things happen as he already does. That's what a VP does, not what a GM does. Put Donnie Shell directly under him, giving the should-be Hall of Famer more power and find another former NFL player - Gerald Williams, perhaps - to help cultivate current and former players. Increase PR toward the community through programs led by the team and players; put the players in accessible reach of school children to better facilitate the young fanbase.
  • Bring in a GM. Taking the focus off John Fox and his assistants doing these jobs, they can take a more active role growing players and innovating. Candidates: Tom Heckert, Philadelphia, if ATL doesn't take him first; Reggie McKenzie, director of Pro Personnel for Green Bay; Ron Hill, VP with the NFL; Charles Bailey, pro personnel exec with the Jaguars; Ideally, the hire would be for McKenzie.
  • Let that GM make a determination on Koncz. The draft under Gregory has been good enough. Add scout to each side.
  • Keep Jeff Davidson. The scheme is good, but he needs help. Fire Magazu, hire deposed KC OC Mike Solari for the offensive line. Fire Mike McCoy, and go get an experienced coach - maybe recently fired Rams OC Greg Olson or local hero Steve Logan.
  • Reassign Chryst, and add Pete Metzelaars as TE coach as we should've last year.
  • If Richard Williamson retires, hire Charlie Joyner.
  • Add Mike Rucker to the coaching staff. The technique-driven, aging star is a free agent, and if he'd let us, he'd be a killer coaching assistant. If he responds, he has a strong future; if not, put him in the pro personnel department, or put him in player development under Donnie Shell. Or just put him on Julius Peppers, to teach him good handwork and keep him on the right track.
And, after that, it'd be time to tackle personnel, which is more complicated.
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