The saying goes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks could find himself attempting to do just that. Offensive and defensive coordinators have come and gone under Head Coach John Fox (See: Dan Henning, Mike Trgovac and Jack Del Rio).
With the exception of Jack Del Rio all coordinators were held accountable for unsuccessful seasons. Fox passed the blame to Henning after a disappointing 2006 season by firing him.
Many were often critical of Henning’s ultra conservative play calling which led the Panthers to becoming the worst third down offense in the NFL. Now that Henning was finally gone, the play book would finally be opened up. You would see all pro wide receiver Steve Smith lining up in the slot and moving around.
You wouldn’t see the draw play on third-and-long anymore, wrong. Henning is now with the Dolphins and has received great praise for implementing an aggressive wildcat formation into the Dolphins offense.
Where was such creativity from Henning when he was with the Panthers you ask? Simple answer, somewhere in Fox’s back pocket. Regardless of whom the coordinators are on either side of the ball, Fox has the final say in what kind of scheme they run and how they run it.
Trgovac, like Henning was criticized for passive play calling and while Fox often came to his defense, Trgovac chose to resign after last season. Meeks has a huge challenge ahead of him. He’s going to have to find a way to implement his finger print on the defense while satisfying a more conservative Fox at the same time.
The one thing Meeks has on his side is a super bowl ring. This kind of credibility should allow him to be more instrumental in what kind of defense the Panthers employ.
The Panther defense isn’t difficult to figure out; their corner backs are almost always playing seven yards off the line of scrimmage regardless of down and distance. While this keeps them from getting beat deep, it allows opposing offenses to dink and dunk their way down the field.
This is a strategy that simply didn’t work down the stretch last season and Fox refused to change it. Meeks could find himself in a tug of war with Fox concerning changing schemes such as this one.
For the Panthers' sake they’d better hope Meeks is able to convince Fox to play some press coverage with their 50 million dollar corner back Chris Gamble.
It’s no secret the Indianapolis Colts weren’t known for their defense under Meeks, but they were able to play top notch defense in the postseason when it counted. Fox is going to have to find a way to put together his first consecutive winning season, and allowing his assistants to do what they were hired to do is the first step.
Fox has hitched his wagon to an aging turnover prone quarterback in Jake Delhomme. Note to Fox, if all pro future hall of fame quarterback Donovan McNabb isn’t beyond being benched due to poor play then neither is Delhomme.
Fox has played the blame card with injuries and assistant coaches when his team has fell short of practical expectations. If the Panthers are unable to make the playoffs this year he will be out of blame cards and possibly out of a job.