Going into his ninth season as head coach of the Carolina Panthers John Fox still has a lot of work to do if he wants to surpass last season's 8-8 mark. Unfortunately looking at the voids the Panthers have at quarterback and wide receiver it appears unlikely that last season's mark will be improved on.
Fox did little during the off season to bolster either position for the upcoming season. Instead he drafted, acquired and released players who could potentially get the Panthers back on track for 2011 and 2012. While he attempted to make great strides towards steering the Panthers offense into a more balanced attack, he may have made those efforts a season to late.
Ultimately Fox has gone into a rebuilding mode at a time when Carolina needs to be in a win now mode for 2010. While his efforts have not gone unnoticed, they could lead to his release after this season concludes.
After the 2009 season speculation was rampant that Fox may be replaced. Talks of former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher replacing Fox were circulating and since the rumor mill has gone full steam ahead. Fox answered by using the 2010 draft as a foundation for the future, drafting two quarterbacks, three wide receivers, two defensive ends and three defensive backs. These were the four biggest voids hindering the Panthers in 2009.
Though talented, the recent draftees probably won't develop into a championship outfit this year. Fox looks to have built a team he will not be around to see prosper.
After evaluating the schedule for the upcoming season while looking at the experience and depth the Panthers have coming in, it is my belief that they will be looking at a 7-9 finish. That being said, it is also my belief the Panthers will be without Fox for the first time in nine years at the start of the 2011 campaign.
The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league with a very short memory. Fox is lucky in that he is well liked by the brass in Carolina and has been able to retain his position for as long as he has. Had Fox been with a more fickle organization such as the New York Jets or Oakland Raiders, he probably would have been replaced in 2007 after the Panthers finished at or below .500 for the second straight year.
There will be those who say he is a great coach that led the Panthers to the 2003 Super Bowl and the 2005 NFC Championship game. To those people I offer this,In his eight years with the Panthers Fox has only finished above .500 three times.
Have faith Fox fans, he will coach again, just somewhere else.
While the perfect fit for Carolina still looks to be Bill Cowher we will have to wait to see who takes over the team that Fox built in 2011.