As time goes on it does get tougher to defend Marty Hurney, and to be honest I don’t find myself well equipped to do so. I’m largely ambivalent to Hurney – who’s served this team well at times, and whose decisions have cost the team at points.
Barnwell was on record the day after the Giants debacle, which is the worst time to get your franchise evaluated. Fair enough, that’s what you get for laying an egg, Carolina. But, there’s a massive chasm between the idea that Hurney keeps this team from ever being successful – remember that while far too long ago now, 2003-2005 wasn’t anything to sleep on, and most would consider 2008 successful as well. His/his team’s decisions aren’t always top notch, and success since 2008 has obviously been elusive. But to suggest it’s impossible for the team to succeed under Marty Hurney is to suggest they haven’t had success – they have. They haven’t had sustained success, but before this past week, most would suggest Carolina is nonetheless on the rise.
Here are a couple quick points to consider:
*the team is 100% in accord on what to do on team matters. I do believe that Hurney and Jerry Richardson had a plan for 2011 – Richardson himself laid out much of this plan based on both his words and Jordan Gross’ statements. I don’t take it lightly, nor do I excuse Hurney, Richardson, or anyone else for overspending in 2011. But Richardson definitely hated being called cheap, and he sent out some contracts as statements. Regardless of whether you prefer to ‘blame’ JR, or Hurney, the end result is they both wanted to retain Charles Johnson, Deangelo Williams, and they wanted to do right by their other players.
*They paid a premium on a free-for-all free agency that hurt them – a problem of circumstance because of the FA period, and a matter of pride that they weren’t going to let players get away. They continue to make prideful statements of not allowing players to leave- that they wanted to stay. The lockout, and preparations for the lockout, kept them from making players like Jon Beason, Williams, Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil paid at a high level earlier – 2009, 2010, when contracts would obviously have been cheaper. In retrospect, 2011 for most teams was cautious, not extravagant. 2012’s contracts have massively escalated from 2011’s, so at the very least, either the cap will have to go up or the entire league has it all wrong longterm.
*I will wholeheartedly agree that some of the contracts, like Davis’, were negotiated against no one. To keep Davis was 100% correct, if sentimental. Did he need that much guaranteed, or in total salary? No. They overpaid. Many of the other high contracts were based on franchise level amounts, even when not negotiated against. Could they have just tried to match or slightly beat the other best offer? Maybe. For that, you have to be willing to let the guy go, and Carolina was a lot more highly invested in keeping their own than other teams were.
*It was vital to keep Charles Johnson. This might be sentimental on my part, too – the team wanted to keep Julius Peppers and couldn’t, and while Johnson isn’t Peppers, he was still a top rusher. If it were me, in a vacuum where no one worries about perception, I’d have had a hard time keeping Williams at that money. I’d have been more bullish, waited for the market to set the price a bit more, since Williams could be lost. It’s nice to keep him, but having Jonathan Stewart, acquiring a midlevel backup is just fine and certainly more fiscally smart. To work with that, a new player on defense at that same price range – or two at $5 million per season each – would be a wiser use of that money. I won’t argue that with Johnson, who when healthy has been very valuable – and five mediocre ends isn’t the same as one very good one.
*The ideal of a teamwork decision is critical to their process – which is why Richardson has a legitimate say, why Rivera has a say. Why Don Gregory has a say and before him, Tony Softli and Jack Bushofsky had their say. It’s why 2009 and 2010 were so disjointed – John Fox started to have less say as it was clear he was being moved out. Again, in part because of the lockout and the issues that were coming up. If the argument is that Hurney needs a strong head coach? Possibly. Of course, every team wants a good, able head coach, and the team philosophy is to work together, not for Hurney to lord over a coach or his scouts.
Where I lay a lot more blame is Hurney’s track record on “need” positions – CB and DT have both been more or less neglected over the last four years, and the more invested of the two – DT – has so far seen no better out of the 3rd rounders put into it than the waiver wire and undrafted counterparts.
The bottom line? The entities running this team do get sentimental. It’s to their detriment. That, plus the lockout that Richardson more or less led, hurt his own team coming into it, and going out of it because of the contract situations they had to deal with. I don’t ‘fault’ Hurney or Richardson exclusively, or Rivera – who entered into the job knowing the blueprint. They have an approach as a team, and as a team, they’re average. It will take a more catastrophic event than failure to shake up this team – and I think this fanbase owes its team more than to wait for the inevitable with Jerry Richardson. As owners go, he’s not bad. And not unlike with Hurney, Rivera, or the departed John Fox, there’s room for improvement, but it could be worse. I think in the end there’s just an overstatement of how good this franchise is, or should be.