The recent firing of the Carolina Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney surprised a few people. I was only surprised by the timing of it. I expected team owner Jerry Richardson to let him go at the end of the season. I’m not a fan of coaches and GM’s being canned in the middle of the season, but I don’t think the move hurts the team any more than the team is already suffering.
I also don’t feel like Marty Hurney is/was the only problem with the organization. Sure he made a few bone-headed moves and he gave out large contracts to Panther players that didn’t deserve such large deals. Example a five year extension for Jake Delhomme worth $42.5 million, $20 million guaranteed. He also had several bad draft moves like trading the following years 1st or 2nd round picks for the current years 2nd or 3rd round picks. I’m not against draft trades but you lose too much value in moves like that.
One of the biggest problems with the Panthers is coaching. The season before Ron Rivera took over there was a lot of talk in Charlotte of who would eventually replace John Fox. I acknowledged that Ron Rivera would eventually make a good head coach however I think this job was too soon for him and not the right fit. Bringing him here as the defensive coordinator under a proven winner like Bill Cowher or Marty Schottenheimer would’ve helped groom Rivera for the head coach position. In my opinion the biggest drawback to Rivera is that he is not a good game day coach. You can see it in his poor time management and how the team doesn’t make any in-game adjustments. Another criticism of Ron Rivera is his lack of emotion during the games. I don’t need Mike Singletary type of emotion, but give us something to show your desire for this team to win.
The on field performance is a huge issue. On the offensive side of the ball the team has completely struggled. With players like Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart, this offense was dubbed “explosive” and “high scoring” by many in the NFL and a lot in the press. The 2012 Carolina Panthers offense has been anything but explosive. In 4 of their losses they have only averaged 10.75 points per game (and 14 of those points came on interceptions returned for a touchdowns and then a safety given to us at the end of the Seattle game). The offensive line is not creating running lanes for D-Will and J-Stew and they are not protecting the pocket long enough for Cam to find open receivers. Our two running backs are averaging a combined 65 yards per game. COMBINED 65 yards per game. That’s not good enough. This not only forces more passing plays but also puts Cam in a bad spot when he’s got to make quick decisions. No offense to the Panthers but we have all seen what happens when a quarterback tries to force quick throws (ahem, Jake Delhomme). A lot of the blame needs to be put on Cam and the plays the coaches are calling. Last year a big part of the teams offense was the utilization of tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. This year with Shockey gone we would all expect Olsen, who is a solid tight end, to become more of a focal point for the offense. That hasn’t happened at all. Thru six games Olsen is only getting 4 receptions per game for 54 yards. He only has 1 touchdown on the whole season. Speaking of not having enough touchdowns, how about Steve Smith? The teams leading receiver hasn’t scored all season. There is something wrong with a team when their top receiver and top tight end have 1 combined touchdown in the first six games!
Every facet of this offense has struggled. Do we really only have 2 field goals for the season? Our opponents have 20. We have 32 punts, our opponents have had 22. We are averaging 6.3 yards per punt return. You can lunge forward and get at least half of that.
I’m not one of these guys that thinks the team should bench, replace, trade, or do anything to Cam Newton. I don’t put all of the blame on him, but his passes are off this year. The pass attempt to Ben Hartsock on 4th and 1 from the Seattle 1 yard line to take the lead near the end of the game was absolutely pathetic. My 13-year-old son would’ve made that throw and he doesn’t even play quarterback for his middle school team. (*Side note: he plays tight end and defensive end for them*) A lot of Cams throws this year have been too high, too short, behind receivers, or nowhere near anyone due to miscommunication between him and the receivers. That needs to change. Cam currently has more interceptions (6) than passing touchdowns (5). The media has been down on Cam focusing on his antics on the bench and in his post game press conferences. I personally don’t care what he does on the bench, I don’t care what he says in his press conference, I don’t care what Warren Moon thinks, and I don’t care if he doesn’t smile enough. Yes the Superman pose and celebration during the Giants game when the Panthers were down by 100 points was a bit selfish, but so was Mike Tolbert dancing Gangnam Style after his touchdown against Dallas. A team that has won only one game and can’t get into the end zone shouldn’t celebrate until they start putting some W’s in the win column.
Now let’s look at the defense. Linebacker Jon Beason, who seems to be the defensive team leader, sat in the WFNZ 610 AM The Fan studio during the preseason and preached about how much the team would be blitzing this year. If I recall correctly he said they would be blitzing a huge percentage of the plays. I’m not sure if they have blitz 5 or 6 times all season! There are games that we don’t touch the opposing quarterback. And why do the Panthers linebackers rush the line of scrimmage before the snap? They don’t blitz, they drop back in coverage as soon as the ball is snap which gives the running back a chance to gain several yards before first contact or allows the opposing QB to hit those medium range 8-15 yard passes before the linebackers can recover. The defense is currently 19th in passing yards allowed and 19th in rushing yards allowed. A team doesn’t sniff the playoffs with stats like that.
I don’t have the answer for the teams numerous problems. I do know that I am tired of hearing people blame just one part of the team or just one player. This team isn’t producing because the whole team is playing like crap, the coaches are making bad calls, and some of the personnel on the field shouldn’t even be there thanks to the ex-GM. The most important thing this team can do is execute better.
–Bruce Wilson is the owner of Superior Car Service a transportation and chauffeur service and blogs for 610 AM The Fan Sports Radio on WFNZ.com. He is currently working on his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @BruceRWilson
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Radio 610 AM WFNZ The Fan