2009 is over. Sure, there's one more game still to play, but at this point we have to recognize that players are coming to work to repair pride and inflate next year's paycheck. That's fine by me if it means another W against New Orleans (in our home closer, no less), but I feel like it's time to address some of the issues that will become news (or frivolous hype) during the long offseason. Some of these were foreseen, others, not-so-much....
We all knew these questions were coming.
John Fox (oh, how we love to hate you) has made a point of showing us that he has another year left on his contract, and that he wants to play it. Do we let him? I say yes. It's the offseason decisions and the continuity of his style that have kept the panthers competitive for the past eight years, and the players rally around him because of it. Richardson would be crazy to end his coach's contract on an upswing.
Let Fox Coach.
As much as it pains me to say this, Matt Moore has not only proved that he is capable of leading the team as a starter, but that his play could help elevate and inspire the otherwise flat offense.
I supported Jake Delhomme for as long as Fox did, but his day has come. Uncapped year ahead, pay the $10 million it will cost to cut him (I didn't bother to fact check that; someone correct me), and move forward with Moore while keeping the bases covered in case he has some Vince Young-like breakdown.
Let Moore Play.
2010 Defensive Ends
Maybe Peppers leaves, maybe he doesn't. For more than $16.7 million, I can't think of any team who would want him. His rise has corresponded with that of his team as a whole and will forever be labeled as too-little-too-late.
Only 11 teams in the NFL make more than the Panthers per year, and only five of those play Peppers' coveted 3-4 Defense. Don't expect Fox to franchise him again (I think we've finally given up hope of getting our first round picks back), but Peppers won't have many options, especially in a season that saw the less productive J.P.
If he wants (has) to stay, let him. He's still a voice in the locker room and has contributed greatly to Meek's defensive scheme.
And now the unexpected:
2010 Running Backs
I was shocked this morning when I woke up and read that the Panthers had too many productive running backs for their own good. Never have I read that about productive back-up linemen (which the Panthers desperately missed this year), or about a team that is as run happy (on good days) as John Fox's Panthers.
Sure, Stewart could supplant Williams (he did in the franchise record books), and sure, Sutton was a diamond in the rough, and sure, Goodsen shows speed and promise, but it should remain running back by committee in Carolina.
Stewart and Williams feed off each other; they're competitive to no end and, while constantly one-upping each other, they celebrate each others successes as their own. Who better to mentor and teach Sutton and Goodsen to one day take their spots?
Sure, one of them will eventually be too valuable in trade to stay, but for now, they're happy in Carolina, and I want all four of them here next year.
Only somewhat unexpected, but it worries me that when Steve Smith broke his arm, Fox's best option was to replace him with another tight end and run the ball 21 times out of the remaining 23 plays they would complete from scrimmage. Granted, the lead was 31-0 when Smith scored, and clock management became a factor, but some diversity could have made things easier, and even tried out a couple of our younger receivers (D. Jarrett wasn't active specifically for this reason).
The point here is that Moose and Smith are getting old, and both play very specific receiving roles. Delhomme went seven weeks before throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver because ours are predictable and no one has stepped up to challenge them in their roles. Plus, find a third receiver and golden-boy Moore's job becomes that much easier in his first full year.
Will some of these issues be forgotten as the season closes? Sure. But it only makes sense that one or more of them will have fans shouting at the top of their lungs until they're proven right or wrong come September.
Maybe the critics of players today, in the wake of Moore's third win in four games, and a crushing win at that, will be silenced by the moves of the front office, or maybe the critics will quiet on their own accord when a new playoff run is at hand and a new season at stake...
And maybe I'm just a rambling nut. Go Cats!