You must love boring, defensive based football, even when your defense is just average.
You must do things that defy logic.
You must have the wrong personnel on the field in critical times.
You must be willing to take the NFL's best tandem of running backs and in a crucial short yardage situation not use them as referenced by Sunday's three passes in a row while inside the Giants 4 yard line with the last pass ending in an interception.
You must not make any adjustments at halftime. As a matter of fact it shall be your job to pass out popsicles at halftime and play the team's fight song on the team's official Victrola.
You must not voice the evident need to have your team bring in a bona fide number two wide receiver in the offseason and simply rely on a player, like LaFell, who had "dropped pass" issues in college.
You must keep your mouth shut on draft day, even when you see the team mortgaging the future by drafting a player, who may not contribute for a year, by using next year's second round draft pick or by watching your team draft a player who had "dropped balls" issues when a player like the multi-talented Jordan Shipley was still available on the draft board.
You must back an owner who is preparing his team for a lockout and is trying to prove a point to the league about not paying free agents.
You must allow your team to not re-sign your veterans, especially your run blocking guard, Keydrick Vincent (though Vincent is not a very good pass blocker he is a good run blocker and is better than the player who replaced him...and the Panthers get to face him this weekend)
You must stand behind a head coach, no matter how backwards his excuses become, like the answer given when asked about passing three times from the four yard line, "I don't know if everybody understands, but defenses can dictate that some," Fox said. "It's not all just that we want to throw. Sometimes the situation in a game, in a fourth quarter down 15 points, ripping off a 4-yard run is not really conducive to trying to win the game."
You also must panic often and early and abandon the run at all costs at the first sign of a momentum shift in a game no matter what quarter your team is in.
Carolina Panthers Need an Offensive Coordinator, No Experience Necessary
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Now, the story behind the story:
Before everyone rushes to fall on the sword for the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, please know this is not, at all, an attack on Jeff. These were just obvious things that occurred Sunday and nothing seemed to illustrate that better than having a player like Jonathan Stewart, who rushed for over 200 yards against the Giants last December, just stand idle and not being allowed a real chance to play, especially by not letting him touch the ball with a 1st and goal from the four yard line.
In my opinion it is very clear now that the offensive philosophy and the Panthers offensive playbook or what may even be the teams' "play pamphlet" has been rubber stamped and approved by John Fox and it probably was never really Jeff Davidson's playbook to begin with.
Does anyone remember former offensive coordinator, Dan Henning's stint in Carolina? The ever popular "two yards and a cloud of dust" was a common play and the "floating jump ball to Steve Smith" was also a stalwart part of the playbook. Those same plays as well as the speed with which the run game is abandoned when the Panthers get behind has changed very little over the last five years. However, I tend to miss Henning these days.
I feel bad for Davidson. How hard can it be, as a defensive coordinator, to game-plan against the Panthers? I believe the NFL's defensive coordinators have to love when they face Carolina, unless they simply lack decent players. Their game planning has to go something like this: You stack the box to stop the run and you double team Steve Smith and just dare the quarterback to throw to him. There is no need to worry about extra help in the defensive secondary because there is no real receiving option who has shown up yet, other than Smith.
With that said the Panthers did not activate David Gettis for Sunday's game in New York. Gettis, who caught more passes this preseason than other current Panthers player, on the 53 man roster (note: not included is a college quarterback who was forced the ball nine times) seemed to be a natural to be in multi-receiver sets. But Gettis was surprisingly on the sidelines, in street clothes. It seems special teamer Charlie Martin had more value when it came time to determine the Panthers' gameday roster than Gettis did.
Seriously, how can one even keep a straight face when trying to decide whether or not to start a rookie like LaFell, with known "drop" problems or start a rookie like Gettis who has lacks "polish" yet plays hard and catches the ball, but then waves it wildly as he runs after the catch? It seems to me the Panthers owe their fan base more than this. I know, the stadium will be full this Sunday with fans wanting to see their team do well and beat a very beatable Tampa Bay team. The Panthers are supposed to beat the Bucs, that is not the point. The point is, the Panthers should easily be able to blow the hapless Bucs out and sadly, that is unlikely to happen.
Matt Moore took a lot of heat in the "sports talk" world Monday for his "deer in the headlights" performance in the second half Sunday in New York. After a stellar last minute drive in the first, to take the lead before halftime, the Panthers suddenly entered the third quarter with basically the same personnel grouping as they started the game with and they seemed to use very similar plays to ones that were run in the first half. Not surprisingly the Panthers made a mistake, got behind and the dreaded panic overcame them and it was over.
One play that befuddled me was the fact that one of the longer runs DeAngelo Williams had, came only after he hesitated in the backfield before he ran upfield. The Giants defensive line was continually on Williams and were there to met him when he neared the line of scrimmage. It looked as if his hesitation allowed the defensive line enough time to simply over-pursue him and that allowed a seam to run through. But leave it to me to be the only one in the football world who noticed that. Maybe that another adjustment that was not seen or made or possibly it was just an error by the defense? Why not try it twice if you are John Fox as it worked the first time?
I will beat the dead horse again, but the thing I found very strange was the simple fact that Jonathan Stewart, who had over two hundred yards of rushing last season against the New York Giants, was healthy, yet the Panthers hardly used him on Sunday. Another thing that seemed like it should have been tried was for Mike Goodson to be involved in the passing game more often.
Goodson averaged over ten yards a catch during his senior season at Texas Tech and as Panthers fans who watched his kickoff returns now know, Goodson is good, really good, in open space. Has anyone ever thought about putting Goodson on or near the line of scrimmage? How about as a slot receiver? At least see if he could get some quick separation and get open for a dump off pass.
The keyword there was quick, because the Panthers offensive acted as if they had never played a defensive unit with a decent pass rush before. The whole thing was horrible. Does anyone remember hearing about Davidson's "zone blocking" before, and how good zone blocking was going to be? Well, I do remember and I want to know which number "Zone" was and why was he not in the lineup Sunday!
How absurd would the job offer be if it were serious. But is it serious? What do the Carolina Panthers plan on doing in 2010? Is there a chance this could be a "throw-away" season, predicated by the owner's precarious position in the NFL labor hierarchy? Richardson is the NFL ownership's point man in the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations is setting an example by not paying up for higher priced free agents, no matter how much his very own team needed some of the very players he did sign.
The only illustration made by the Panthers power hierarchy, that may have pointed to this season not being an all-out effort to have the right players in place to win or even to have an "up to par" chance at success, was a comment made by Panthers head coach, John Fox, following the team's three day mini camp. Fox was asked by Steve Reed of Carolina Growl, why the team traded strong safety Chris Harris to Chicago for Jamar Williams. The reason Fox gave Reed, "We've got a budget and that had something to do with it."
We've got a budget? So, that means you unload Julius Peppers and replace him with a rookie who makes sixth round draft pick money and save about $17 million dollars, correct? Then you can afford to go out and pickup an Anquan Bouldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and you give your young quarterback some players who can quickly catch a ball over the middle. In case the coaching staff is unaware, Muhsin Muhammad has left the building and he will not be back and Dwayne Jarrett and "Sticky fingers" LaFell are not the two guys you want to place the potential outcome of the entire season on.
The problem was simple or at least it looked that way. The team had cleaned house of every veteran who they felt was replaceable and they just over did things. The Panthers have no quality offensive line depth as they did in 2008. God forbid Ryan Kalil were to go down and the Panthers were forced to use the "shotgun" as it was evident in the preseason that Mackenzie Bernardeau is likely to just one hop balls back to whoever is in the backfield.
I know this cuts some people deeply but it became painfully clear on Sunday that the Carolina Panthers have simply made life much harder on themselves than it needed to be this season. If the Panthers want a carbon copy of last season, they simply need to stay the course they are currently on. If they want to have some chance at a winning season they must play virtually mistake free football, run the ball and do not turn the ball over.
Was it just me or did Richard Marshall look like Chris Gamble, as a rookie, having a bad day? His play was horrendous and the funny thing is, the Panthers pass defense was supposed to be one of the NFL's best units. Maybe Marshall forgot that he is still being paid by the Panthers and his one year deal expires at season's end and that means he will need a new contract going forward then and playing the way he did Sunday is no way to setup his chances to "cash in" that is, if there is football in 2011.
Now, I will save my tirade on the defense for another day but this same Panthers defense dominated offensive lines and sacked opposing quarterbacks in an amazing, league leading fashion in the preseason. It seemed Sunday as if there was no real pass rush or play making at all until Greg Hardy got into the mix late in the game. How quickly can a team's pass rush drop off? Middle linebacker Dan Connor had the team's only sack. Meanwhile, Julius Peppers was playing in Chicago, literally knocking divisional foe quarterbacks out of the game, with his violent sacks. Does anyone still think letting Peppers go without engaging in a trade first, was still the way to go?
There were a few bright spots and one impressive thing was Greg Hardy and the fact he came to play a full game. With less than five minutes to go all seemed lost for Carolina but Greg Hardy did not play that way. Hardy blocked a punt that rolled out of the back of the endzone. Had the Panthers been able to pounce on the ball in the endzone it would have been a touchdown. A touchdown would have made the score 31-23. That is a one score game. Now the way the Panthers were playing it would have been an amazing feat, to score eight points in four minutes and catch the Giants, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Tony Romo and the Cowboys. They know there are a lot of different ways to lose a game quickly.
I know this is only one game, but come on people, it was the New York Giants, not the 2009 New Orleans Saints or the '85 Bears. The Giants team the Panthers saw Sunday was virtually the same team the Panthers played nine months ago.
The big addition to the Giants was their number one draft pick, Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is a very raw defensive end who has tons of untamed talent, he seems barely ready to play NFL football as a starter. It was not as if the Panthers were facing a young Julius Peppers type, as a rookie pass rusher. In other words, the game the Panthers were in Sunday was, at one point, a very winnable game until the second half came and like we have all seen before the Panthers are not the best team for making adjustments at halftime and they are not a team who plays well from behind.
The Panthers offseason payroll slashing moves, like releasing Brad Hoover, Na'il Diggs, Keydrick Vincent and even, to some degree, Julius Peppers, was probably a bit of overkill. Now all of that was quite possibly was a move made to make the team younger and let worthy backups get a chance to start and even save some money in the process or the whole thing just may have been a move made to show some in the league how you can build a team without dropping any real money in the free agent market, even though the team's most evident and vital need, at wide receiver, seemed to clearly dictate otherwise, yet was not addressed in free agency.
Really, did anyone on Moorehead Street in Charlotte ever stop to consider that Steve Smith's arm could possibly be broken again this season? Did Smith's touchdown Sunday remind anyone of a play that happened at the end of last season, where Smith walked off the field holding his arm? How dare this team enter the 2010 season without a starting ready, number two, wide receiver. Nothing was done, even after it was clearly evident following the preseason, that nobody on the Panthers roster was ready to start a productive number two wide receiver.
Then a player like T.J. Houshmandzadeh suddenly appeared within the Panthers possible grasp for $845,000, yet he supposedly never received a call from the Panthers. For a little reference, the cash flow needed to pay Houshmandzadeh for the 2010 season would roughly have been the gross receipts gained if everyone in the stadium bought a beer and a hotdog, just once, this Sunday during the Tampa Bay game.
However, all is not lost. Field goal kicker John Kasay turned out to be a logical fantasy pick, knowing the Panthers could get near the redzone but would struggle getting into the endzone, made him an easy pick for me. The game balls go to Steve Smith on offense and Greg Hardy on defense and the Panthers' special teams, namely the kick and punt returners were also worthy of game balls. I guess there is always a bright spot or two in every dark cloud.