Longtime WR coach Richard Williamson has retired, the team has announced.
Williamson, an old-school and gruff assistant, has been with the team since its inaugural year. He's as big a staple on this team as John Kasay - the team's first signee - as Williamson himself was hired before first head coach Dom Capers. Williamson's been here through three head coaches, six offensive coordinators (he himself even took a turn at it, in 2000-01, years he was also assistant head coach), and fifteen years.
He's been the team's WR coach, excluding 2000-01, the entire time. Every playoff game, every major achievement. Two Pro Bowlers, the two penultimate receivers in Panthers history, are his benchmark, and you can't think of Steve Smith or Muhsin Muhammad without Williamson.
His history with Alabama, some of the greats of all time, started his legacy - being coached by, and then coaching under, Bear Bryant. Catching passes from Joe Namath as a player. After a few eventful stops in the league, including head coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a few games in 1990, which earned him the 1991 season before being the next in a long line of fired coaches under bad management.
Now that such a huge hole has opened, the next step is replacing him.
And there's not a lot there to use. Of the assistants not retained:
*Tyke Tolbert (Buffalo) - solid run with the Bills, but raised heads when he almost left for LSU mid-season
*Robert Prince (Seattle) - first year assistant coach, who was a third-tier (assistant WR coach) guy in Jacksonville
*Stan Hoke (Washington) - six years in Washington, without a lot to show for it
The team could pull a college Offensive Coordinator or WRs coach, but the results and options vary - you're pulling from a group of hundreds hoping you find a gem waiting for the jump to the pros in a bad market.
A far-outside shot might be from two guys in the team's past - James Lofton or Gil Haskell.
Haskell, offensive coordinator in 1998-99, was a WRs coach before that with Green Bay; he wasn't fired by the team, but he was allowed to leave and he's seemed to wait for Mike Holmgren to come back. Since he may not, if he's willing, we probably would be, too.
Lofton, a Hall of Fame receiver, was a favorite of the team's, using him as a color commentator on preseason games for years. He was a receivers coach with the Chargers 2002-2007, coaches with the Raiders' trainwreck in 2008, and went back to broadcasting in 2009. He has ties to the team, has received head coaching mentions in the past, and is experienced (with winning teams).