Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Last Gasp of a Dying Man

So Panthers actually went and did it… They drafted Cam Newton with the #1 pick overall in the entire draft. I ought to be happy for the kid, but I am not. I think they made this decision for all the wrong reasons. I think the plan going forward is wrong also. I think this is going to be a historic disaster for all concerned.

What were the reasons? Let catalog them for you.

  • The failure to identify and fire the real source of their failures last season: the General Manager Marty Hurney.
  • The spectacular error of fingering former Head Coach John Fox for the disaster of 2010.
  • A very quick surrender on their 2nd round pick last year, Jimmy Clausen… a dude I warned you about.
  • The 48% owner Jerry Richardson got involved in the process deeply this year, insisting they settle their problems at the QB position, regardless of where that might take them.
  • The popularity of SEC football in the North Carolina region almost assures the Panthers a few sell-outs in the beginning of 2011.
  • The further error of hiring defensive coach Ron Rivera, a man with no particular plan offensively speaking.
  • Having just been granted a temporary stay of execution, Hurney did his owner's bidding, and selected Cam Newton. This is the last gasp of a dying man.

First of all, let’s call a spade a spade. The wheels fell off the Panther machine last season because Marty Hurney is a wretched GM. The guy constantly mortgages his picks, converting 1st rounders into 2nd rounders, 2nd rounders into 3rd rounders. This is a magic trick any fool can perform, but why would you want to? Further, he allowed marquee players like Julius Peppers to get away in free agency without obtaining any real compensation for them. Given one bad move after another, the talent pool finally dwindled down. This is why they lost in 2010. They were empty of offensive talent, but the defense also lacked punch.

Surely, Marty Hurney should have been identified by owner Jerry Richardson as the source of the team’s difficulties. Surely, Marty Hurney should have been fired. Surely, John Fox was not the source of the bad moves identified above. Somehow Jerry Richardson identified John Fox as the problem, and fired him. Somehow, he decided Marty Hurney was not the problem, and should be allowed to continue.

I would call that a serious fuck-up. I would consider that evidence of straight-up incompetence. Nothing more, and nothing less.

If I didn’t have plenary evidence of incompetence before the draft, I sure do now. After finishing at the bottom of the league in offensive, the solution was to select a new (defense-oriented) head coach, and select Cam Newton in the draft.

So what is the plan going forward? Logically, I think we have to conclude that they are going to go with the Ryan-Cunningham offense this year. What is that offense? Once upon a time, a great defensive coach named Buddy Ryan slapped his new QB (Randal Cunningham) on the back and said “Go out there and make 2 or 3 big plays, kid, and my defense is going to make it stand up. That was the entire offensive game-plan each week and every week in Philadelphia, once upon a time. We call that sandlot improv style the Ryan-Cunningham offense. The secret is that there is no secret. We’re just going to allow our athletic QB to run around and make some plays ad-hoc.

Will it work? It might work, and it might not. We’re going to see if Cam is a better prospect than Cunningham. I think they are comparable in many ways. Just remember, Cunningham never developed and blossomed as a true passer until he got together with Dennis Green. That was his first stay with an offensive coach who was interested in developing Cunningham’s ability to orchestrate a sophisticated offense. He could have been one of the greatest of all-time, but the Ryan-Cunningham offense was his ruination.

You may see Cam Newton run around a lot this coming season (if there is a season) and he may be able to get the Panthers 6 or 7 wins. Unfortunately, I think the Panthers will take a pass on developing Cam as a true pocket passer. I think the Ryan-Cunningham offense will be his ruination.

Once upon a time, the Titans hired a sophisticated offense coach named Norm Chow from USC. Norm wanted to select Matt Leinart from USC in the 2005 draft. The owner said “No” and insisted the team select Vince Young. Norm was fired after his first year because he couldn’t get Vince to learn and accept the discipline of a sophisticated pro-style offense. The owner chose Vince over Norm. It took a couple more years for the disaster to develop, but in the end owner Bud Adams lost his head coach Jeff Fisher, his quarterback Vince Young, and his former OC Norm Chow. Now all four men have careers in serious question in the year 2011. Leinart is also a casualty of this error.

Life might have been better for Bud Adams if he had not insisted on Vince Young, and if he had allowed Norm Chow to select Leinart. History could have been very different for all concerned. There may be a parallel universe where the Titans are a great team in 2011 with Leinart as their franchise QB.

In 5 years I think the Titans’ history will repeat itself in Carolina.