An Open Letter to John Fox: It's OK to Pass On First Down

David YeazellSenior Analyst IMay 19, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach John Fox and quarterback Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers watch a field goal kick against the New Orleans Saints on December 28, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Panthers defated the Saints 33-31.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Another Panthers season is right around the corner.

Another season of the same ol', same ol'.

Run the ball up the middle on first down. Try another run on second down. Realize once again it's third-and-seven, try a pass play, and punt.

Dig a hole, get behind early, and use the passing game to try and catch up late in the game.

It’s the same script from the same head coach, just a different year.

This year, let’s do something different, something daring and outside the box; let’s try a pass play on first down and maybe even second down. 

Let DeAngelo Williams punch out some short yardage gains for a first down, instead of pushing him for big gains and trying to carry the team on his shoulders.  

What could it hurt to be second-and-two or even third-and-short? Is it inconceivable that we could actually start a set of downs and only use two or three of them to achieve the next first down?

Would it seem so improbable to move the ball through the air early? Dig a hole for the opposing team by building a lead quickly?  

Jake Delhomme has two lethal weapons at his disposal.

Steve Smith catches balls in more traffic than a freeway. Muhsin Muhammad can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Why not abuse these combinations?

During the offseason, Delhomme’s contract was extended and you acquired five free agent wide receivers. The next logical step would be to extend Delhomme’s arm, and get the ball to these guys early and often.

Make things simple this year. Utilize John Kasay for short chip shots and PAT's, which he was perfect at last year, instead of 40- and 50-yard field goal attempts.  

John, can I call you John? Did you learn anything from last year?

An aerial attack late in the San Diego game started the season off with a win. Lack of an aerial attack against Arizona ended any hopes of another Super Bowl appearance.

This year we are not digging holes early, leave the shovel at home John, utilize the tools you have on the field.

Remember, it's OK to pass early, often, and especially on first down.


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