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Thursday, December 30, 2010

FAs Want To Stay

Carolina, despite its losses this year and lack of money running around lately, is still an attractive place for its pending free agent players:

http://www.heraldonline.com/2010/12/30/2720215/impending-free-agents-say-they.html

This is exceptionally encouraging news, given the year Carolina has had - going all the way back to the offseason purge. And with the labor uncertainty, Carolina has two things - money to spend, and tons of pending free agents.

Players' loyalty is a great thing, especially for a team that has shied away from expensive players outside the team's own roster in the last three years. The largest outside contracts given out since the start of 07? David Carr, Muhsin Muhammad (a return player), and Tyler Brayton. None made over $3 million a year.

So will that translate to outside players wanting to sign?

Carolina inevitably will want to turn to a player or two - the first overall pick will undoubtedly fill a need, but lacking a second round pick they'll lack a few options for need. Inevitably, on a team with tons of youth already, the third round pick(s) will become depth. The team will have to turn to an outside free agent or two, for the first time realistically since 2006. There's just too much youth to compete.



Nonetheless, it's great to hear that players want to stay. Plenty of lucrative contracts, you'd hope, waiting around for the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be signed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Carolina Officially On The Clock

With Bengals and Broncos wins, Carolina can do anything from here and still have the #1 overall pick.

So, with that said, here's what they need to do:

1. Root for Atlanta on MNF: Atlanta would go to 13-2. They're two games ahead of the Eagles, the other team that hasn't played - a win by both means Atlanta has the #1 seed. Chicago is 11-4, and can't catch Atlanta unless Atlanta loses both games. A #1 seed means sitting as many players as you can if you're Atlanta, though it looks like they're guaranteed a #3 seed as of now anyway. That may be enough to sit players.

2. Beat Atlanta - a win won't matter to anyone realistically, but it's a good sendoff for John Fox, and all the youth that fought hard this year. It puts a positive start to the upcoming year, and who doesn't want to win?
Plus, fuck Atlanta.

3. Let John Fox Walk.

Thanks for the memories, John. You're free to go - there's no reason to hold this out. You wanted to go, we want to move on. I hope you get what you want, and I hope you go to the AFC. Thankfully, there are no NFC South openings.

4. Watch the January 3rd Orange Bowl.

The Orange Bowl is neat. Growing up, my father got to play in that stadium.
More importantly, it's where our potential head coach and quarterback are playing. Those of you that haven't paid any attention? May as well start. The hottest prospect at QB and head coach are there.

5. Pursue Harbaugh mightily - he recently said that Stanford's athletic director "mis-spoke" when suggesting Harbaugh was going to sign a $3 mil a year extension. There are obstacles - staying, especially if Luck decides to stay first, or the Michigan job - so beat both to the punch. Stanford has even been nice enough to set a starting point for negotiation.

6. Hope that getting Harbaugh pushes Luck over the edge, getting him to declare.

That's all we need, for him to declare. We'll take care of the rest.


So all that will happen between tomorrow and January 15. It'll be a massively intense 18 days, and one that could line up right for many championships.

Or we could ride Brian Schottenheimer and Cam Newton to years of mediocrity and scandal. Who knows.

Future Coach Power Rankings

Power Rankings: The Race For John Fox's Job

With a month remaining in the John Fox era, speculation has become more relevant as reality

1. Jim Harbaugh - buoyed by the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes, Harbaugh's it's actually improbable that that combo comes together, either or both could stay. Harbaugh fits the profile, regardless of Luck: young, former player, offensive profile, coaching experience

2. Russ Grimm - He's had modest success, but hype is up with sources linking him to Panthers. His Washington days and Carolina's run-based potential offset his lack of flash. Those things don't offset losing to Carolina, which would otherwise drop him to rock bottom.

3. Ron Rivera - Dismantling of Peyton Manning helped (though others have as well lately), as does being a former player, young, and having the #1 defense in the league can't hurt either. Does his ethnicity allow for being Rooney Rule interview?

4. Tony Dungy - A Richardson favorite in 2002, Dungy's another former NFL player who has leaguewide respect and has turned around bad situations before. Impossible to say if he's ready to come back, but stock is high with Jim Caldwell faltering with the same team. Would be at the top of the list if willing to coach again.

5. Sean McDermott - McDermott continues to field a high ranked defense, has fought through injuries, and comes from a heavily successful staff. Concern about replacing him from a few weeks ago, that Reid may let him go, was apparently unfounded and has faded from memory.


Down

1. Brian Schottenheimer - 45-3 loss against New England exposed some weaknesses, and without the help of Bill Callahan's powerful run offense, Schottenheimer's parts didn't work well. Since then, the Pitt win was nice, but scoring 6 points at home against Miami wasn't.

2. Ron Meeks - Had an outside chance at the job, and would be almost guaranteed an interview, but defense slid from 4th to 17th in five weeks. He's gone from must-keep coordinator and possible head coach hire to concerns about his communication, and whether Fox was meddling before the defensive slide.

3. Josh McDaniels - doesn't have a chance at being in Carolina in any capacity, hopefully. He's available now, whih is why it's a terrible idea that no one should ever consider again.

Go Denver

If the Broncos win, it doesn't matter what Carolina does against what may be the Falcons' JV team in week 17. Carolina would have the #1 pick.

Carolina had 'battled' Cincinnat and Buffalo all year for the top pick, with each team reaching bouts of futility, but Denver had become a late contender with its implosion and Josh McDaniels' firing. Carolina's 2nd win, against the Cardinals, came with a Cincinnati win, and now based on strength of schedule, Cincinnati can't catch Carolina.

Denver can, but it would take a Carolina win to match records. Denver would have the tie on strength of schedule.


Would it matter?

Some might say that Denver, who has their first round quarterback, wouldn't be a threat at the first pick to take most analysts' (and fans') choice, Andrew Luck, universally seen as one of the best QB prospects in years and definitely better than other potential prospects in the 2011 draft.

Of course, Luck would still have to declare for the draft, which would most likely require Jim Harbaugh to leave Stanford as well. The duo could come to Carolina, but neither is certain to leave. Marty Hurney would also need to be willing to give up on his handpicked QB, Jimmy Clausen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

v/s Pittsburgh, slaughter and a squeegee

That was brutal to listen to, so I hate it for anyone who might have put forth effort to watch that game and/or has a dish. 27-3 didn't start to explain this.

Granted, Jimmy Clausen directed two strong drives - one that included a rare punt inside the opponents' 40 - but got no points early, and then the wheels came off as the Steelers continued to roll with over 400 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Clausen generated almost nothing, with 72 yards passing to go with Jonathan Stewart's 71 rushing and Mike Goodson's 3 additional yards.

A bright spot was Charles Johnson, who came in with a sack in 5 games in a row, and pitched in 2 more against the Steelers. With little help, Johnson now has 11.5 sacks and 61 tackles. Of course, Johnson's a free agent in two games - yikes - so keeping him may become a necessity unless money becomes exceptionally high. last year's 290 lb Johnson as a reserve wasn't good for his game. Johnson never should've been that big, but with Julius Peppers and Tyler Brayton starting and Everette Brown being a guy they wanted on the field, Johnson did what he felt necessary.

Brian Baker has done a fantastic job of coaching Johnson the last two years, and if we can't keep Johnson, maybe the new staff next year will be smart enough to keep Baker. He's seen as a guy the front office likes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Archie Manning: Eli Almost A Panther?

Fox Charlotte, in a story no one else has picked up on, claims that Carolina almost traded for Peyton Manning.

Speculation on Poole makes sense, since he was traded to the Colts that year. Chances are, along with Collins and Poole (both picks of former GM Bill Polian), the Colts and Polian would've expected at least two first round picks and possibly that year's second rounder.

According to the draft value chart, with Carolina at 14, on picks alone it would've taken the second round pick value to get to the value of the 7th pick, which is worth half of what the #1 is. Poole's value is set at a 3rd because of the draft, so Indianapolis would have to think of Collins as worth a top 15 pick that year or Carolina would've had to give up future picks.

Chances are, it never got that far, and Archie Manning never really suggests how far it did go.



Of course, by staying the course, Carolina was able to do the following things instead:

*cut Kerry Collins four games into the season
*Spent 3 firsts, 2 3rds to get four players for a 3-man defensive line that would include Sean Gilbert, Jason Peter, Chuck Wiley, and immediate bust Mitch Marrow
*traded that year's 2nd to get a 2000 1st that would become Rashard Anderson, and used the 5th rounder to pick a longsnapper, Jerry Jensen (not to be confused with current snapper JJ Jansen), that didn't make the team a year later.

We also saved Steve Beuerlein's fragile sensibilities for two more years. Beuerlein, already having had to go through the grooming of Troy Aikman, Mark Brunell, Collins, and eventually failed to give way to Jeff Lewis in 2000 late in the season when Carolina was out of playoff contention. The move was quiet, but caused problems with the staff, which eventually released him so he could groom yet another quarterback.



Peyton wouldn't have saved the 1998 Panthers, or their terrible Gil Haskell offense. He wouldn't have been a good fit for that WCO, either. Certainly, in the end, just not having Gilbert would've been nice, and George Seifert would've loved having the table set for him with a future superstar.

No one Carolina ended up with, has made it within the neighborhood of Manning's greatness, and most players in 1998 and its aftermath were almost immediately busts. Excepting Tom Brady, who Seifert liked but would pass on drafting in 2000 because QBs coach/coordinator Bill Musgrave stated his footspeed wasn't good enough, no one has been more successful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jim Harbaugh's Coaching Staff?

I've pushed Jim Harbaugh before, and remain a fan. I've curtailed thoughts of the next coach here, but have unfortunately had to consider it since October.

Harbaugh's name kicked into high gear once Andrew Luck's hype hit critical mass, but he's been a solid candidate for years. As with any coach transitioning from college, the support staff is critical, and finding coaches with pro backgrounds to go with the two years Harbaugh coached in the league becomes critical. It being a buddy system for all real purposes, who he knows becomes a matter of candidacy.

So, here are some coaches who have background with Harbaugh in the past:

Geep Chryst, TEs coach, Panthers - was OC with Chargers while Harbaugh played there. Was the league's first quality control coach, 1991-95 with the Bears while Harbaugh was there.

Ron Rivera - Chargers DC, was LB on 7 Bears teams with Harbaugh.

Jim Schwartz, Lions head coach - quality control with the Ravens, 1998.

Mike Singletary, 49ers head coach - obviously, played some ball for the Bears. Hall of Famer and former assistant head coach of the 49ers, but has never been a coordinator. Comes from a 3-4 background, which may work for Harbaugh (a recent convert thanks to Vic Fangio).

Dave McGinnis - LBs coach with the Titans, and former Cardinals head coach - was LBs coach with the Bears (and coached Ron Rivera). Was on staff with Chryst with the Bears as well, and unrelated to Harbaugh, the two coached together with the Cardinals.

Of those coaches, only Chryst would have some guarantee. He's already here, has a history with Harbaugh, and can fit in various positions.

Most of the others require release from their contracts, and in the situation of guys like McGinnis or Rivera, would have the option of continuing on with their current staff wherever their current head coach goes, or getting a head coaching job themselves (Rivera being the hottest hand currently).

Schwartz probably has another year in Detroit, but if not, would make a fine coordinator (and was one with Tennessee, another link to McGinnis).


Here are coaches Harbaugh's employed that stand a good chance of being in the pros:

Greg Roman, assistant head coach/running game coordinator - was a Carolina Panther third tier (quality control) coach for both Dom Capers and George Seifert (95-01).

David Shaw, offensive coordinator/RBs coach - has pro experience with the Raiders and Ravens as a QBs coach, and was with Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.

Vic Fangio - former Panthers DC now holds the job for Harbaugh.

Fangio has a rocky history having been fired by Carolina once, and is a 3-4 coach (which would cause a long transition). Harbaugh himself didn't have a 3-4 past as a coach, but watched Fangio turn a terrible defense into a good one.

Roman's vital to Harbaugh's operation. Whether or not he'd continue to call his own plays in the pros, Roman holds a lot of weight on offense and directs a vital running game. Naturally, the other half of the offensive coin for Stanford, with pro experience, would be a logical hire as well. Ideally, neither would be a coordinator, but if Harbaugh is calling plays himself, it may not matter.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Falcons Post-game

What's to say? I was expecting disappointment against these guys and still came away feeling terrible. I'm tired of trying to see good in Jimmy Clausen, and the defense is regressing.

It sucks to be where we are.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sehorn

Jason Sehorn feels like John Fox isn't the guy to blame for Carolina's terrible season, and made those words clear while blasting Carolina management this week.

Sehorn's words aren't out of line, as he's defending a guy he believes in (Mike Trgovac, who some consider to have left Carolina because of Fox's meddling in the defense, did the same thing last month regarding the media's concoction over whether the Brian St. Pierre game was "mutiny"). John Fox isn't the villain, he's a guy who makes a significant amount of money who apparently wants more - and the owner doesn't feel like that's something that can be done. It may have helped cause the current situation, and it's somewhat unprecedented to have a lame duck coach in the NFL, but Richardson views the upcoming CBA issue as unprecedented on its own.

But where Sehorn fails is the idea that Fox should've been fired after 2009. 2009 was a solid year that would've been built upon, not something you fire a coach for. Richardson's philosophy was likely that Fox had another shot to earn that extra money, while earning a significant amount already ($6.5 million this year). In other words, you don't fire a head coach who's doing a good job because of future contract concerns.

Either way, there's the feeling that all parties involved can't wait to simply move on. Players are working hard, coaches are throwing their full effort in, and the front office is putting full force into damage control.

It was interesting that Sehorn sought work here, but that the fit wasn't there because of his want to play safety. There was definitely a feeling that a post-injury Sehorn was marketing himself, but there was never a feeling of whether there was mutual interest or as what. Sehorn would've brought an interesting dynamic to the early John Fox teams, but the team changed its philosophy on the corner v/s safety effort by 2004, and he was famously burned at safety in 2003 in the second overtime by Steve Smith in that year's playoffs, sending Carolina a step toward the playoffs and sending Sehorn toward retirement.

Richardson's Words Shouldn't Be Expected

Jerry Richardson's letter to fans came out this week, explaining his


was a long time coming, and maybe it was time. Maybe it was needed - as a business decision to curb what may be declining sales, and as a common courtesy from a man that

Richardson, who has never aspired to make himself the media spectacle that Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban have spent years becoming, doesn't have a taste for the spotlight. His work is personal - often visiting fans at tailgates, or more recently calling fans indivudually.

But, that leaves the media tapping their feet, waiting for someone else to write a story for them, waiting for something to happen. They often echo fans' sentiments more this time of year, touting the favorite high pick every few days or tearing down a guy or two that won't be around next year.

And, there are a group of fans who can't be satisfied. Doesn't matter if the moved were made competitively, to get youth on the field after it worked well last year. Doesn't matter about anything really - either you tell that fan exactly what they want to hear, which is almost impossible, or it's not enough.

Jerry Richardson owes us very little. He's given a lot. The idea that a couple paragraphs makes up for a terrible year? No. The expectation that it could, might be half the problem.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Seattle

Fighting Seattle at Seattle this week. Healthier in some ways, but still inconsistent.

It's tough to say what to do here. Carolina was gashed against the run last week, but the Seahawks aren't the Browns and there's no Peyton Hillis here. Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch are former Cal teammates, curious given the Pete Carroll connection to USC; Lynch was sent from Buffao four games into the year and watched his YPC drop from 4.4 to 3.1. Forsett, a 5'8 change of pace back, has a respectable 4.2; both backs, along with QB Matt Hasselbeck, have 2 TDs rushing apiece. The trade for Lynch isn't paying off so far, and Leon Washington has barely played (2 games of the 7 since the bye).

Despite putting a 6th overall pick into LT Russell Okung, having experienced right side players Chris Spencer, Stacy Andrews, and Sean Locklear (C to RT, in order), they sit at 32nd rushing the football. They get stuffed 28% of the time, again last in the league. They're 21st in the league for sacks given up, with 26. Carolina statistically ranks worst against the run on the outside, but the Seahawks hardly run outside at all, and only average 1.9 yards per carry on left outside runs.

Hasselbeck had made a name for himself as a deep ball QB with the efficiency of a WCO guy, but has been tasked mostly with dumpoffs. Here, he'll find solace in a Panthers zone defense that allows dumps all day, and occasionally overload blitzes right into short passes that become long gains. Hasselbeck completes 59% of his passes, and has a 10/9 TD/INT ratio.

Former USC star and Lions bust Mike Williams (52/654/1 TD) has finally emerged, but didn't play last week and may not this week. His size creates a mismatch, and he is relying on old tricks to become useful again, having normally found it unable to get past press coverage without speed. Deon Butler is the next receiver, at a more paltry 27/274/3 TD. Slot Brandon Stokely has 22/261, and Golden Tate would assume his role if Williams doesn't play - the Notre Dame rookie has 12 receptions for 172. He and Ben Obomanu (leads the team with 4 TDs and has 19.5 yards/catch as a deep ball guy) get used situationally only.

TE John Carlson has 26/257/1, Forsett as a dumpoff guy has 25/209. Either are more apt threats than the 3rd/4th WRs, as the ball comes out fast and short to secondary targets. Seattle is efficient enough - 17th in pass yards - but it scores them only rarely, finishing at 27th in PPG with 19.0. It's a very deliberate offense, and it won't shock you, beat you down, or surprise you.

Carolina matches well, with a strong pass defense, and their suspect run defense may entice Seattle to run but it won't be a significant game changer for them to do so. Carolina is among the tops in the league in covering primary WR (5th against the #1, 1st against the #2) but last against the TE, so watch Carlson.



Seattle's defense is high on stars in the second level, with Lofa Tatupu in the middle and Wake Forest alum/former top 10 pick Aaron Curry playing strongside; FS Earl Thomas and WLB David Hawthorne are the leaing tacklers. DE Chris Clemins has 7.5 sacks. Brandon Mebane and journeyman Junior Siavii are adequate DTs but can be moved.

Lawyer Milloy is still somehow in the league, and from SS, is second on the team in sacks with 4. Carolina was flustered twice last week against the Browns with weakside blitzing of a safety, each causing sacks. Jimmy Clausen simply hasn't read through that one well enough, and the OL doesn't pick it up well. So, clearly, Seattle will want to bring Milloy in weakside B gap on a slight delay, and Clausen must notice the single high safety, that he needs to get the ball out fast, and if that's successful, it's still caused the QB to not look deep on a potentially lucrative deep play. Teams tend not to do that with 3+ WR, so that's a fix - but then you're losing a contain blocker.

Seattle's awful defense, led by DC Casey Bradley, is 30th in yards with 300/game, gives up 25 ppg for 23rd, is 30th against the pass and 22nd agaisnt the run. It's a base 4-3, with typical cover 3 disguise looks, not unlike what Carolina ran from 2003-2008 under Mike Trgovac and what John Fox himself ran with the Giants. It's the same defense that George Seifert built in San Francisco, and couldn't build in Carolina.

Seattle's solid at covering the #1 receiver with Marcus Trufant (17th) but terrible against the others (2nd WR, 27th; 3rd WR 29th). They're good (4th) covering the TE, but 31st against the RB; typical 3rd down targets Dante Rosario and Mike Goodson will be heading in divergent paths this week. Goodson was targeted 10 times last week anyway, catching 8 for 81, so it's not hard to see that they'll continue to check to Goodson plenty. Rosario leads the team in 3rd down catches and targets, but has trailed lately, and that should continue.

Leading tackler, Thomas, also leads with 5 INT from FS; four others have 1 apiece. Thomas sits in his single high safety look often, though occasionally they pull Jon Babineaux up to move Milloy into the box but keep two high safeties. Oregon rookie Walter Thurmond is most often the nickel.


The pursuit, with most of the players of note being non-DL, is solid. There's no reason Carolina can't stretch or sweep with the run, because their overall product on O is much better than the Seahawks' rush D, but the push should be quick hitters between the tackles, where the light second level defenders will be more easily overpowered than outrun. Jonathan Stewart was successful at this last week, Mike Goodson brilliant at it at times in the two weeks before that. The OL is hitting stride in run blocking, and that may be key to controlling what Milloy can do, what the blitzing can do, and what Clausen must put on his own back.