Sure, it makes sense that the Panthers would go for a young, up and coming coach. After all, they went to the Super Bowl with John Fox.
But Fox also never had back to back winning seasons. He also only made the playoffs three times.
Around some circles, Fox is regarded as a great coach. I’d argue that he’s a marginal coach that had a lot of underutilized talent.
When Richardson fired Capers, he went with a big name in George Seifert. When Seifert proved to be not as advertised, he fired him and went through an exhaustive search.
Tony Dungy was the first choice, but he declined. Steve Spurrier was another consideration, but rumor has it that he also declined. Enter John Fox — a guy that was recommended by the Mara family in New York — folks that Richardson trusted.
Dungy and Spurrier were two of the biggest names available. It wasn’t until they didn’t accept that they settled with Fox.
So saying Richardson “wants” a cheap, young coach isn’t exactly accurate.
Now, consider the Panthers’ history of paying free agents. They’ve proven they would spend the money when it was necessary.
This year was a year to get dead money off the payroll. The Panthers will stand to have around $60-70 million in cap space next year and more than likely the #1 overall pick.
Look at who they cut or let go — Peppers, who they would have had to pay $24 million this season; Delhomme, a guy whose cap hit would have been tremendous had there been a cap; Muhammad and Hoover, who were on their last legs; Vincent, who was cut by the Bucs a few weeks ago because he wasn’t cutting it; Lewis and Kemoeatu, who weren’t worth what they were being paid; Na’il Diggs, who was serviceable but on the downside of his career, and was replaced by James Anderson.
What makes fans mad is that they didn’t spend money for future years on free agents. I understand. They didn’t make future commitments because the landscape will be changing. It didn’t make fiscal sense to sign guys to deals when things were going to be changing so drastically.
So instead, the Panthers — Knowing full well that Fox would NOT be back in 2011 — did not spend money to bring in guys that fit Fox’s system. Case in point, look at the draft picks. Those players didn’t fix Fox’s system, either.
Back to Bill Cowher.
I think he was poised to take the job this season, but had to change plans when his wife passed away. The Panthers kept with the plan, though — drafting players that would better fit his system. Guys like Eric Norwood and Greg Hardy are more outside pass rushers in a 3-4 than defensive ends. There were no defensive tackles drafted, despite a glaring need. No defensive ends either, except Hardy … late.
With all the cap space and the #1 overall pick, Cowher would be poised to come in here and bring in his type of players, as well as players that would fit his 3-4 defense.
Why would Jerry Richardson pay Cowher? Because the fans are teetering on not supporting this team. The easiest and fastest way to fix this problem is to hire a known commodity — Bill Cowher — A guy that fans are clamoring for.
For a little more than he’s paying Fox currently, Richardson would get a known commodity; a proven coach that fits his (Richardson’s) philosophy — Running the ball and playing defense.
And then imagine for a second that Clay Matthews’ position coach, former Steeler, and former Panthers great Kevin Greene comes to Charlotte as the new defensive coordinator for the Panthers. Would the fans be fired up? You bet they would.
Crazy? Maybe. But you have to admit, it’s plausible.