An Unlikely Scapegoat: Panthers Give Justin Medlock the Boot, Sign Groza Winner Graham Gano

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By Ted Fleming

If this is evaluating, then those making the decisions need to be evaluated themselves.

The wheels have come off the Panthers’ season. They are 2-8, a record that might have been unthinkable when the season opened, and somehow the only changes that have taken place are relieving their longtime general manager of his duties, jettisoning special teams coordinator Brian Murphy and kicking placekicker Justin Medlock to the curb after it was determined he was solely responsible for the late game collapse against the Buccaneers.

Justin Medlock

(Credit, Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Medlock will be replaced by Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano.

As the number of fans disguised as empty seats continue to grow at Bank of America Stadium (did you see how many there were when the fourth quarter started last Sunday?), there might have been a collective “Huh?” heard around Charlotte and surrounding areas when the word came down of Medlock’s demise. These are really trying times if you root for the Panthers, but somehow serving the kicker’s head on a platter isn’t very reassuring to the masses if your has season crashed and burned like the Hindenburg.

What we have found out so far is that head coach Ron Rivera is safe, for now, and will probably remain through the end of the season. Perhaps owner Jerry Richardson came to the conclusion that the failures of 2012 go deeper than just his head coach, but there is nothing to indicate what is being done that will have any impact on the rest of the season – and beyond.

All things being equal, if you are truly evaluating, a lot of heads should have already rolled out of the building.

Medlock was unique in that he was a black kicker at a white man’s position after he beat out veteran Olindo Mare in training camp. He missed his last three attempts (one each in the last three games), which in itself are grounds for termination in a league that goes by the “What have you done for me lately” mantra. It was a great story that had a premature end.

It is hard to understand how you can say he was good enough to make the team based on a snapshot of his ability (he was 4-6 in preseason), and then say he isn’t good enough based on 10 total attempts in 10 games. Four times this season, Medlock never stepped on the field except for kickoffs and extra points, where he was a perfect 23-of-23, so it is presumed that if he made his lone attempt against Tampa Bay, Carolina would not have collapsed. That might be the most bizarre rationale anyone could dream up.

Defensive end Charles Johnson took to Twitter and blasted his teammates for the way things ended against the Bucs and nowhere in his tweet did the subject of the kicker come up. “Embarrassed to be apart of that last drive! Some people study and work harder than others and they get exposé in the game #saynomore,” was how Johnson put it and even Rivera backed his player for saying it because Johnson is a captain. The head coach would have liked him to do it at a meeting, but he understood nonetheless, so it boggles the mind how Medlock became the scapegoat.

This latest episode would make even the most casual Panthers’ fan think that the team’s priorities are not being focused in the right places. Maybe that is why Carolina is in the midst of yet another losing season.

For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Panthers news, see CBS Sports Charlotte.

Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on

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