A key figure in the Carolina Panthers' history died this week.
Minority co-owner Jon Richardson and son of founder Jerry Richardson
died of cancer at 53. Richardson was president of Stadium Operations
until 2009, when he and brother Mark (President of Football Operations)
It's also the stark reality of life, that riches don't always earn you
time, and that modern medicine still has so many gaps (that a guy over
70 can get a replacement heart but that we still can't handle cancer in
people much younger).
Over time since early 2009 - the fracture of the younger Richardsons -
the team has changed by a good bit. Operations of the stadium have
improved, not to blame the younger Richardson for inaction; the team
will finally refresh their stadium in general after a 2011 refresh of
the workout and locker room areas and an earlier upgrade of the
televisions above the end zones.
But the team itself has been somewhat wayward. It's not that Mark
Richardson was doing a good or bad job, or that Jerry Richardson has
pushed things in a dangerous direction himself; but the team has been up
and down in spending, controversial in the CBA negotiations, and below
average on the field since that fracture with the younger Richardsons in
Moreover, the team doesn't have a legitimate succession plan. The
elder Richardson has chosen to go outside his family for operating staff
- which is correct to do, and hopefully Danny Morrison and Dave
Gettleman are the right choices. But he's also stated that the
ownership won't extend in his family past his lifetime. I don't know
that the younger Richardsons, who inevitably did something to help sever
that possibility, were the right choice, but at minimum, you had the
ability to groom them over time.
It's been two full decades now, and in two months the team kicks off
its 19th season. Mark Richardson? I had problems with him. But, he
worked alongside some cornerstones of this team - he worked under Mike
McCormack, he helped employ Sam Mills. He worked alongside
controversial names like Bill Polian. He was a part of the learned
lessons of George Seifert, Kevin Greene, Kerry Collins. He was around
for Fred Lane and Rae Carruth.
Now, that's not to say that a franchise should be gunshy about
unrelated issues from a decade ago. Maybe a fresh perspective will
help. Maybe not worrying about what the last guy did or how he'd do it,
maybe that'll help Carolina down the road. But for the idealistic of
us, there was some comfort in 1999 when you could imagine that the
guy(s) moving forward would know where the team came from. That's
essentially impossible, now.