Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:00 pm

Jets 17, Panthers 6

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 10:00 pm

I suppose the Panthers’ game against the Jets today could have been uglier, but it was a double-bagger just as it was.

Jake Delhomme couldn’t keep his roster spot for next year now if he threw 4 TDs and no picks every game for the rest of the season, except for one thing (besides his contract): The Panthers have no one with whom to replace him and no first-round draft pick in 2010. He could still be gone, but getting rid of him and getting a replacement in will both be expensive.

Is Coach John Fox gone? I’m guessing probably so. He had a near-death experience after 2007 and responded by taking essentially the same team, plus Jonathan Stewart, to the playoffs in ’08. The problem is that owner Jerry Richardson expects the team to be a perennial contender — owners are funny like that — and this franchise, which has been to the playoffs three times under Fox, has yet to make the playoffs in consecutive years. It is mathematically possible that the Panthers could make the playoffs this year if they won out and got help, but a far likelier scenario is that they don’t win another game and finish 4-12. Realistically? I think they can beat Tampa Bay and maybe the Giants, but they could easily lose by 20+ to New England, Minnesota and New Orleans. Barring a miracle, I think they finish 5-11.

For sure, key injuries have played a huge role, and the team’s decision to give Julius Peppers the franchise tag, and the accompanying $16.67 million salary, meant there was no room under the salary cap to address the obvious depth problems at a number of positions. I’m sure Fox had input into that decision, but it was the responsibility of team management. It would be unfair of them to hold Fox responsible for the consequences, but the NFL ain’t always about fair.

Besides, this Panther team has the best running-back tandem in the league, one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league, a cohesive offensive line (until Jordan Gross’s season-ending injury) two former Pro Bowl wideouts and, in Dante Rosario, an up-and-coming pass-catching tight end. Even without Delhomme, it should have been able to score more than it has. And the blame for that does, in fact, belong at Fox’s feet. If Richardson hasn’t already called Bill Cowher, I’d be stunned.

Next year figures to suck as well: The team is even less likely to find a taker for Peppers if it puts the franchise tag on him again, and doing so would suck up money that’s badly needed to fill gaps elsewhere, including elsewhere on the D-line. And that’s to say nothing of what a quality QB would cost, whether obtained through the draft or via free agency.

So we’ll likely be looking at a team next year with a caretaker QB (Delhomme or otherwise), no first-round draft pick and a new coach with a new system. This team does have experience with consecutive losing seasons, and my guess is it’s going to get some more.

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