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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mark, Jon Richardson Step Down

Mark Richardson, President of the Carolina Panthers, and Jon Richardson, President of the corporation that owns/oversees Bank of America Stadium, have both resigned. The two men, sons of owner Jerry Richardson, were put in place by Richardson; each have been integral parts to the success (and failure) of the team.

Mark was named president after Mike McCormack, a former lineman and front office executive, stepped down after 1996. In the aftermath, GM Bill Polian left the team and took most of the scouting department with him. Over time, and without a general manager in place, the team struggled until putting Marty Hurney in place.

Jon Richardson's involvement with the stadium has largely come without high profile moves - notably including renaming the stadium's rights to BoA, the largest bank in town. His biggest detriment came in 2001, the team's worst season, which included putting the team's gardener as groundskeeper, a move so disastrous the league stepped in. Before the turf was successfully replaced, it helped cause an injury to LB Dan Morgan, then a rookie; Morgan broke his leg when turf gave way.
No reason was given for Mark Richardson's sudden step down; Jon Richardson had planned his move, wanting more time away. The moves leave plenty of questions for the franchise - they've already released statements that state the moves do not change the ownership (both Mark and Jon are on the ownership committee), that the team won't be sold, and that the team won't move. Moving would be a longshot anyway - the team essentially owns the stadium, and moving would be costly. The team has ties to the area, so it would require an ownership change for there to be any legitimate concern.

What will fill the void in the front office, though?

Carolina has always had a team president. Traditionally, that role is overseeing the entire football operation - fiscally to competitively. That person could have total power, including overseeing the General Manager and coaching staff directly, or could cede control of scouting to the GM and
Either way, it's a position that would report directly to the owner, and would have all others under that position. Some owners handle that duty themselves, from Al Davis to Jerry Jones. So where does the team move from here? It's entirely possible that nothing happens immediately, but something will happen.

Teams make front office changes independent of the calendar year - coaches are gone at the end of the season, front office men usually go after the draft. A team President would likely be appointed before the end of the year.

Options? Carolina hasn't often made many moves outside the team. It's entirely possible that, given his non-scouting role up to this year, that Carolina could put Marty Hurney in the position. An administrator brought through the ranks for his salary cap prowess, Hurney also became a likeable face of the franchise. Hurney's current role is to oversee the scouts, and get John Fox what he wants; he himself doesn't evaluate, as had been said for years. The position of overseeing the team sounds similar to the ideal of a President, more than a traditional General Manager, and if the team is comfortable with Hurney but want a more hands-on GM, this would be a good way of adding continuity.

If Hurney moved up, they could move the director of scouting, Don Gregory, up. They could also promote from the outside for GM, like Reggie McKenzie in Green Bay.

There are numerous GMs out there, most of which have failed pasts or aren't available because they're still with teams - there aren't many candidates of current front office executives that would merit a raise (and the position would most likely have to come with an ideal of total power).

Richardson could also turn to tenured head coaches with strong names - names like Schottenheimer or Reeves, old school names that fit with the team personality- may be options, but it's hard to say there's interest in that type role or whether the team would pursue a former coach to stand over the current one.

An outside hire could also mean bad things for Hurney, Fox, or both - Hurney hired Fox, so a person above Hurney would undermine that position and would tend toward wanting his own guy.

All of this is on the assumption that the team would hire a football man, not a business leader that Jerry Richardson already knows.
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