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Saturday, September 12, 2009

v/s Eagles, Gameday 9/13/09

Carolina's season and home opener will be the first true taste of football this returning team will face - all the statements of returning 20 starters, or being the league's fourth youngest team, those won't matter. Injuries stop being a point to cover - it's time to go with what you have.

The 9-6-1 Eagles last year were a playoff team; they snuck in but went deep, playing in the NFC Championship game at Arizona. They finished the year hitting stride on both phases, got hot at the right time, and hope to carry that over to this year. Coach Andy Reid mostly stayed put in free agency, having only spent big on the offense line (money that seems, at this point, mis-spent). Like Carolina, Philadelphia seemed content to stand pat on last year's success.

The offense must carry this team, so offense will get its matchups first.


Philly lost its defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, to cancer in the offseason. They lost their young starting MLB Stewart Bradley to an ACL injury. So, this isn't the team that finished 3rd in yards given up in 2008. They didn't sign a significant free agent on defense, and 5th round pick Macho Harris was the team's highest defensive addition - he's forced into action at FS to replace long-time Eagle favorite Brian Dawkins. Some of the heart and soul has been ripped of this class defense, and it showed in preseason with numerous mistakes. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles defense will respond if they have problems against the potent Carolina offense.

In what should be the two teams' first real taste of 90-degree gametime weather, depth will be a big deal. Carolina has more offensive depth than the Eagles, but those two units of course don't face each other. Still, while the Eagles' DL is deep, it's not as experienced or as talented as hoped.

Passing Game

A prime matchup shows Steve Smith on storied corner Asante Samuel. The 5'10 190 lb corner and 5'9, 200 lb receiver are a Pro Bowl matchup, and both are physical players. The Eagles would certainly prefer to leave Samuel on Smith and not require a double; Smith will attempt to find ways to get free against one of the league's best corners. If the Carolina running game can force an 8th man in the box, it should force the Eagles into a lot more man - cover situations.

So, with that in play, the Panthers must distribute the ball more freely. They got significant experience with this in preseason, using the TEs and backs more to sustain drives, which allows more carries for the RBs. TEs Jeff King and Dante Rosario have both weight and height on safeties Harris and Quentin Mikell, and on the Eagles undersized linebackers. Omar Gaither, the replacement MLB, isn't the playmaker Bradley is, and he's not the cover man Bradley is. The Eagles were 19th best in the league covering the tight end, their worst ranking against any position, and are missing some of their key components, so the tight end should be worth some tough receptions at the sidelines and up the middle of the field.

Muhsin Muhammad matches up against corner Sheldon Brown, another high energy, physical DB. The hard hitting Brown is a solid matchup, but gives up height. Ellis Hobbs is the nickel, coming over from the Patriots, and has a definite experience advantage over Kenny Moore. The team may be better served to use Carolina RBs in space to spread the Eagles' base defense instead of going to 3 WR and getting the Eagles into 3 WR.

The Eagles bring a lot of players, so screens may be in play. If the Eagles are in nickel and are looking to bring pressure, this is a good counter - getting DBs trying to tackle backs and being blocked out by OL.

In the trenches, Carolina's matchups are favorable on the edges; Carolina only gave up 20 sacks last year. Eagles RDE Trent Cole had 9 sacks last year, and has some speed on the edge; he doesn't give up much to Gross physically, but Gross shouldn't need help. Jeff Otah and left end Victor Abiamiri are a more odd match - at 6'2, 265, Abiamiri is a speed rusher, who may require a chip occasionally but is generally harmless. The third year end has only started one game, and only two sacks. They liberally rotate in Darren Howard, the former Saints star rusher, and Jason Babin, a former first round pick; Howard had 10 sacks in limited time in 2008.

Inside, Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are good one-gap run stoppers, but Patterson hasn't become the rusher they expected. Last year's second round pick, Trevor Laws, rotates in but hasn't fully developed. Each of the three are built as generic one-gap DTs - 6'3, 300, good first step, strong. Of the three, Bunkley is the most able, facing Carolina's best guard, Travelle Wharton. Patterson faces Keydrick Vincent, who struggled a bit in pass protection in preseason.

Center Ryan Kalil, of course, faces an open spot against the Eagles' 4-3, but will have keys calling the defense against a very aggressive Eagles' blitzing front. Still, young OLBs Chris Gocong (6'3, 260) and Akeem Jordan (6'1, 230) don't have a lot of experience and two career sacks apiece. Still, the Eagles bring a little of everything - stunts, twists, overloads, corners, safeties. Carolina can build in a little more to the TEs if the RBs are blocking, and vice versa. Leaving at least one hot read open will keep Delhomme at the ready.

Running game

Carolina gets Jonathan Stewart back for the first time since last season, and will need him. Philadelphia's defense struggled in preseason, but it would be a mistake to suggest that will continue. Philadelphia was 3rd against the run last year, and 9th against power running. They were 7th in stops behind the line of scrimmage. They were top ten in outside runs and against the right end; they were 24th against left end and 21st between the DTs, leaving a bit of a weakness in the middle. With Bradley out, that shouldn't change. Carolina will attack the middle to attempt to catch Philadelphia in stunts and blitzes, and will continue to do plenty of lead runs with FB Brad Hoover.

Carolina runs the least of any team in the league out of 3+ WR, and in this case there's no reason to. While they do block well on the edges, the team is more suited to power running. They can block better one on one and win those matchups, but should only consider running in 3 WR if the Eagles consistently bring the SS up.


The Eagles are, as always, a pass first team. The WCO based team doesn't have a significant run threat despite solid vetern RB Brian Westbrook. Their attempts at adding beef and experience to the OL failed due to injuries; consequently, the first team line hasn't worked together in preseason. It will start inexperienced backups at LG and RT and have two others nursing injuries to play. Since the Eagles' OL is banged up, Carolina will have a decent shot at getting to McNabb if coverage holds up. As always, with running QBs, there's a problem with losing contain and letting him run free. The Eagles only gave up 23 sacks last year, but their revamped line isn't totally in place.

With RT Winston Justice in, Carolina has a legitimate shot at making dents in McNabb. Justice's last start, against the Giants, saw him getting rocked for four sacks. He'll face Tyler Brayton, rookie Everette Brown, and most likely a bit of Julius Peppers as well. Left tackle Jason Peters nursed injuries throughout camp; he's a Pro Bowl player but gave up over ten sacks last year. Peppers can certainly pace Peters throughout the game. LG Todd Herremanns gives way to Nick Cole; Stacy Andrews has been banged up at RG. This may actually be a situation where Carolina's strength at DE, and lack of strength at DT, won't hurt them.

McNabb's still got a deep arm, but in this offense, his reads are more often inside-out. He's going to start with the shorter reads first. Carolina was #4 in the league covering RBs, and hopefully that passes along to 2009. Westbrook finished 2nd on the Eagles in 2008 with 54 catches, and led the team with 5 receiving TDs. He's almost always on the field in passing situations, giving way to rookie Lesean McCoy for base snaps. The Eagles were 22nd in rushing offense last year, don't do well in power situations, and don't rely on the run much at all. A quarter of their runs are draws; they definitely set up the run using the pass, but even then only somewhat well.

Desean Jackson is their playmaker at WR; they don't have much else. The speedy Jackson is going to require press at the line and a trailing safety. Otherwise? They cut Kevin Curtis, they kept Reggie Brown but don't plan to activate him; that leaves Hank Baskett, Jason Avant, and rookie Jeremy Maclin looking for the scraps. Don't leave them uncovered and you shouldn't hear from them. TE Brent Celek should take on a larger role without LJ Smith on staff; that could push him toward 5+ receptions per game. Of course, with the Eagles' short passing game, tackling is a must, and the Panthers haven't done that well.

Improvement there is a must.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jones Fails Physical; Dexter Jackson In?

Mark Jones, in last night for a physical to have another shot at being the Panthers' return specialist, failed the physical and remains a free agent. Having had some hamstring problems, the physical showed a remaining muscle tear that hasn't healed.

Jones vowed for a return by next week, but more likely Jones is a plan B for Carolina. The team would certainly not want to wait a few weeks for their returner situation to improve.

This afternoon Coach Fox said on Sirius Radio that the team would definitely use a "veteran returner", noting alternatives Chris Gamble and Steve Smith. While there's an offhand chance that they turn to one of that pair, they seem to look toward outside figures.

With that said, the Panthers seem to turn next to Dexter Jackson, the former Tampa and Appalachian State WR (not the former Super Bowl MVP safety for the Buccaneers). The 5'9, 180 lb receiver and return specialist was a 2nd round pick for the Buccaneers, and his 4.3 speed does show promise. However, he never seriously played for the Bucs, and returned 14 kickoffs for an average of 23.4 yards and added 20 punt returns for a 4.9-yard average.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mark Jones To Return? Stewart To IR?

To add to the two waiver claims, it looks like the Panthers are going to make an attempt at reviving Mark Jones.

Jones was one of the various roleplayers that left in the exodus that some would call the offseason of 2009 - with more and more veterans being replaced by inexperienced or just outright green backups. Having signed a two year deal with $200,000 to sign with the Titans, many believed the Panthers would pickup the leftovers from Tennessee, Chris Carr, but the Panthers stood pat and in traditional fashion lately, drafted their way into a replacement (or two, if you count KR/RB Mike Goodson).

Candidates to Cut?

The Panthers would have to release one player to let Jones back on, so one young player who obviously just celebrated making the opening day roster will end up leaving disappointed. A young player makes a lot of sense to cut - they have three spots left on their practice squad, and that player could quietly transition there.

Captain Munnerlyn - kept primarily for his promise as a corner, he showed as a solid punt returner but can't hold onto balls. He won't stay ahead of Sherrod Martin, who's struggled, but he does have a future here as a defender (the team has starter Richard Marshall as a free agent after the year, along with vet backup Dante Wesley; current nickel CJ Wilson is RFA). With Jones here, Munnerlyn would definitely be at least inactive, if needed at all this year. If Munnerlyn doesn't make it, he'd be the first 2009 draft pick to be cut (3rd rounder Corvey Irvin was the first to depart, to IR, but the team obviously keeps his rights).

Hilee Taylor - Taylor didn't play in nine games, so he could easily go to the practice squad. But it's not a certainty Taylor makes it past waivers. As the 5th DE on a team stacked at DE, the best hope there is that a late cut means another team won't want to clear room for him, but a team would come calling eventually.

Garry Williams - the team's 9th best lineman in theory, having not been drafted or tenured from last year, Williams is the backup at left tackle who'd never be active. They'd put Travelle Wharton at a tackle spot if they had a need. Only the 3rd undrafted rookie to make a John Fox team, Williams has promise but would probably make it to the practice squad.

They could, of course, cut one of the two waiver pickups they just received. Sutton makes more sense than Harris, since the team does still need a DT worse than a RB, though they'd have two days to take a good hard look at either player if that's all they wanted.
Then there's the nuclear option -

Jonathan Stewart.

I've been quiet about Stewart's lack of practicing - and he says he'll play against Philadelphia. If he shows any signs of improvement, it's obviously within reason to keep Stewart on and hope, at the least, he could return after the bye week (that would give a full month's rest to go with the month he just took). But, at some point it's possible he's going to need surgery to repair that Achilles' injury he says came from compensating for the turf toe that's now said to be fine.
If he gets any work done on it, he's essentially done for the year.

With Mike Goodson taking so many backup snaps, and with the team picking up a very similar player to Goodson in Terrell Sutton, the possibility is still there. Stewart may not play this year.

Practice Squad

The Panthers signed five players who they cut on Saturday to their practice squad: Quarterback Hunter Cantwell, receiver Jason Chery, linebackers Kelvin Smith and Mortty Ivy and defensive tackle George Hypolite.

Hypolite was an interesting choice since he wasn't able to beat out Marlon Favorite, who wasn't signed; Smith and Ivy are athletic and ably talented choices who won't be nearly as popular as if Jeremy Leman would've made it, but have a shot at a future he doesn't.

Cantwell will get time to develop, and Chery was by most accounts their 5th best WR.

What's left for the remaining three spots? They already have 3 defenders of 5, but expect a DB, probably a safety. They have no OL on staff, so they'll probably bring a G/C or a versatile tackle who can move inside, to round out a second complete line (they have nine on the active roster).

The 8th spot is hard to say. They're probably looking for a returner to develop, which could be a corner, WR, or RB. They could do anything with this spot, though.

All three spots are likely to be taken from outside the team's cuts, unless they cut a player like Gary Williams to fit a veteran onto the roster.

Two Waiver Pickups; Three Misses

Carolina lost on DTs Derreck Robinson, Antonio Dixon, and Vance Walker, but received Ra'Shon Harris, NT from Pittsburgh. The 6'3, 310 lb nose had a sack Thursday against the Panthers, getting a clean hit on Matt Moore; he also had pressure that resulted in Hunter Cantwell smacking his hand against Harris' helmet. Harris was a 6th round pick for Pittsburgh.

The Panthers also claimed Tyrell Sutton, an undrafted back out of Northwestern, one of the top gaining RB in preseason with 191 yards at a 4.8 ypc average. Sutton also picked up 5 kicks for a 24.4 average to lead the Packers.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cuts - to 51? -- The Panthers sent rookie Corvey Irvin to injured reserve and released a slew of players in paring down the roster in advance of the league's deadline Saturday evening. Irvin, a third-round pick in this year's draft, suffered a knee injury during the second half of the preseason finale against Pittsburgh on Sunday. The list of roster moves follows:
TERMINATED VESTED VETERANS: Justin Geisinger, OL Vanderbilt
Kevin Kaesviharn, S Augustana
WAIVED: Larry Beavers, WR Wesley College
DeCori Birmingham, RB Arkansas (Injured)
Casper Brinkley, DL South Carolina
Patrick Brown, OL Central Florida
Hunter Cantwell, QB Louisville
Jason Chery, WR Louisiana-Lafayette
Paul Chiara, S Syracuse
D.J. Clark, DB Idaho State
Andrew Davie, TE Arkansas
Marlon Favorite, DT LSU
Joe Fields, DB Syracuse
Keith Gray, OL Connecticut
Anthony Heygood, LB Purdue
George Hypolite, DT Colorado
Mortty Ivy, LB West Virginia
Jamall Lee, RB Bishop’s University
Jeremy Leman, LB Illinois
Kevin McMahan, WR Maine
Marcus Monk, WR Arkansas
Jonathan Palmer, OL Auburn
Kelvin Smith, LB Syracuse
RESERVE / INJURED: Corvey Irvin, DT Georgia

*51 on the roster
*Irvin's IR leaves them with 3 DT. That won't stand, they'll go get someone. Favorite could've made it instead, but they chose not to.
*3 DT but 5 DE - they kept Hilee Taylor.
*Garry Williams made it at OT, giving us 9; Geisinger, the vet backup, didn't make it
*6 LB. Many thought Leman would get in, but he really tailed off.
*9 DB, though only 3 safeties on the roster.
*All 3 TE, and both FBs, made it.
*for the first time in numerous camps (think Randy Fasani, Stefan Lefors, Rod Rutherford, Brett Basanez, and so on), they kept their top 3 QB.
*51 means they have waiver claims in and would have to cut someone to take players; With two spots open they clearly have numerous waiver claims in.

It's anticipated they'll take a shot at a DT or two, and a returner.
We'll see what the waiver wire clears.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Immediately after the Pittsburgh-Carolina game, the team has to start work on getting down from 75 players to 53. 22 have to go - traditionally, Carolina picks up one or two players from other teams as well.

Say you take the top 2 at each spot in the depth chart - that's 44. Then you add in the four special teams guys, that's 48. If you keep 9 OL, which is typical, you've gained one back - 47. So that leaves five spots you can have an extra player amongst QB, RB, WR, TE, or any of the defensive positions. Many of them wouldn't even dress on most weeks, a consideration that must come into play. What are the roster-filling options?

A third QB isn't a foregone conclusion - especially if it's McCown dropping to the third spot, where his money in a tight cap spot could come in handy. It's also not a heavy likelihood he would get cut - he's the experienced backup, and the team did put a 7th round pick into getting him.

A third RB is necessity. There's no way the Panthers or any other team in the league would go without at least three RBs, even if not all were active on gameday. But Mike Goodson, a 4th round pick and expected kick returner, would definitely make the roster.

A third TE isn't as critical. But the team does run two tight end sets about 45% of the time, and all three have talent. All three are versatile, all three have roles on special teams.

A fifth WR doesn't have much of a shot. After the starting pair, Dwayne Jarrett and Kenny Moore are in, and the fourth guy must be good to stick…the Panthers often kept only three active in the Ricky Proehl days unless you include Karl Hankton. Keeping a 5th WR that would sit in street clothes all year isn't a priority.

A fifth DT looks like it could be necessary, if things stay as they are - Damione Lewis is the only sure thing, and third round pick Corvey Irvin isn't amongst the top three right now. Marlon Favorite and Nick Hayden are, for now, but one could go if a quality starter shows up in trade. It'd also be more likely the team would keep four instead of five.

The 5th best DE could get left out, being that there are four good DE in front of Hilee Taylor. The 5th DT could be the necessity, if they don't find a starting defensive tackle soon. The team can't afford to hold 10 DL.

A seventh LB doesn't look terribly likely, but Jeremy Leman could be tough to pass up on special teams. The team has a top notch starting trio, James Anderson has played very well at WLB in Thomas Davis' absence, and both Dan Connor and Landon Johnson have the ability to play either spot remaining.

A ninth DB could be in play simply from a development standpoint. Behind the starting corners, Dante Wesley and CJ Wilson look to be in the plans; with Captain Munnerlyn and Sherrod Martin not in that top four, there's a difficult decision to be made. Quentin Teal should be the third safety, and the team likes Nate Salley at SS. Salley's million dollar salary is a negative; his lack of speed in a defense that thrives on it is a concern, as is the lack of practice time. Wesley is a special teams guy who also plays some FS as of this week - could that allow the team to keep three safeties and five corners? Martin, who probably doesn't play much this year based on the depth chart, is a 2nd round pick who was a college safety, aiding in the depth without a third dedicated safety; Munnerlyn may be our punt returner. Wilson, at this point, is the nickelback. There's little room to cut down to 8 if they keep Salley. They're not going to cut the 5th best CB, Martin. If he elevates ahead of anyone but Munnerlyn, they'd keep that guy too (Munnerlyn would only drop to 5th if he's not punt returning). The team has no real option of keeping five safeties.


The OL and fullback roles are the only ones that could make room typically. A run-heavy team like Carolina can't afford to not carry 2 FB, and backup Tony Fiammetta is both the future and a player who could get critical roles on special teams if healthy.

The team won't keep 10 OL, but the decision becomes whether to keep 8 or 9. Can vet Justin Geisinger be the swing player at tackle and guard, leaving Mackenzie Bernadeau the interior "Lego Lineman" and Duke Robinson the inactive guy to develop? Or would they keep promising run blocker (and concerning pass blocker) Geoff Schwartz as well? The team probably wouldn't play Geisinger or Schwartz at tackle unless something major went wrong, likely expecting that Travelle Wharton would slide out. But Geisinger has played guard to this point. Given the lack of experience backing the line, hard to say they can afford to keep just 8, but they did it last year. Geisinger would be the odd man out.


There would be five spots open, if there are two deep at every position plus the 4 specialists, and minus one OL. There are 8 places the team would typically want that extra backup, so someone has to go. LB is the quickest way to cut one; next easiest is WR. That leaves one position to make the tough cut:

FB would follow traditional roles in the past but wouldn't fit the current team concept. Same for TE. QB is almost always 3 players, and they have something invested in each. The team could actually go to 8 DL if they got the right DT in, but won't. They'll probably keep 9 DL and 9 DB, and 3 RB.
Carolina played Pittsburgh better than the 21-10 score showed - they ran the ball well, they didn't have many breakdowns. But those breakdowns were costly - the rushing TD that at least six Panthers had a chance at tackling; the punt return for touchdown where numerous Panthers simply fell; the interception return for touchdown by Matt Moore.

Some things came out about the Panthers' intentions this game:

They want to attack the middle of the field with the tight ends. TEs have gone up the field on streaks, posts, and comebacks; they've split TEs wide, and they've even pushed the TEs as receivers from the FB position. This and attacking the sideline like last year are the only things they've pushed the TEs into, but they've continued to push them.

They've worked hard on the slot. Famously stating that Mike Goodson would be able to play some slot, Goodson hasn't been used there yet; one of the stronger battles was Dwayne Jarrett v/s Kenny Moore for the 3rd WR position. Moore ended up coming up with the spot, and has become a favorite target for Jake Delhomme.

The above two ideals, of course, are thoughts that would theoretically design more plays away from the two starting wide receivers and toward molding to fit the defense's weakness. Delhomme hasn't stopped forcing balls to Smith and Muhammad, but

The defense continued to run to the ball. They continue to lack finishing, but they're getting better.

The new DT, Leonard, and Nick Hayden have done a great job penetrating this game. This is obviously something they want to do - they just need the right guys in there. Corvey Irvin, who deemed himself a disruptor after the draft, has yet to do much of it.

They want to rush the passer, and did so well against Pittsburgh.

Things they are still very unclear about:

Will Jonathan Stewart suit up this year?

Who will return kicks and punts? Initially assumed to Ryne Robinson, Mike Goodson became the KR and Captain Munnerlyn became the PR. This game muddied that, with Munnerlyn and Moore

Who's the backup QB? Matt Moore made things happen downfield (unfortunately, one of those a TD that went the other way) and on 3rd down, and both he and Josh McCown drove the ball well. McCown's experience probably puts him ahead. Moore's more talented, but not ready.

Will they attempt to tackle better?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Danny Morrison new Panthers President

Former TCU athletic director, Southern Conference commissioner, and Wofford College senior vice President Danny Morrison is the Panthers' new President:

The impact on the team is somewhat minimal. A football guy (albeit not a pro football guy), Morrison won't come in with agendas; he's not going to bring in pro guys he's familiar with. He's not a finance guy, so he's not going to cut salaries in an effort to push profits. He's not the type to get power hungry, so you'd assume he'll work well with the front office instead of getting into squabbles to prove himself.

Long term, it's just a guy that Jerry Richardson feels he can count on, and that's really all he needs. The team could very well still create a post of Vice President/Football Operations to give legitimate power to an office over the GM, but that's an entirely different ideal.

Panthers trade for Louis Leonard; Boone next?

As most media outlets reported quickly, the Panthers traded for mammoth DT Louis Leonard. The 6'4, 325 lb run stopper is going into his third year in the league, having been a star at Fresno State with 28 starts, registering 68 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He was a teammate of current Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall at Fresno State.

The 3-4 veteran has 4 games started in his career, all with Cleveland. He played in 20 games over 2007-08 under Romeo Crennel in the 3-4, starting four. Primarily playing 3-4 defensive end, Leonard also played time at nose tackle. Before going to Cleveland, he was with St. Louis under DL coach Brian Baker for six weeks, and before that was in camp with the San Diego Chargers.

Leonard is a wide-body, run-stopping depth player at DT, and a good fit for the nose tackle position vacated by Maake Kemoeatu. He's a part time player at DT, and probably a rotational player. He's never played in a one-gap scheme before, so he probably doesn't fit as a penetrator; he doesn't have a great first step, he doesn't slip blockers, and he isn't the athletic player to run to the ball. But he's the type player to hit the center in the mouth, require a second blocker, and hopefully help the defense stop the run.

On the heels of the Leonard trade, states that the Panthers are likely to sign DT Alfonso Boone. The former Chief and Bear was cut Tuesday; the 9th year DT opened Chiefs camp as a starter as the team moved to the 3-4 but Boone didn't fit. He has experience in the one-gap Tampa 2, having started 18 games with the Bears from 2001-06; he moved to the Chiefs in 2007, starting 15 games; he was moved to DE in 2008, starting four more contests.

Boone's experience makes a lot of sense; he doesn't fit as a NT specifically well, but would be a good run stopper.

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.