Loads of people here think Richardson made a huge mistake going into this season, and I'll agree that he did, but it's not the one you think.
Letting the older players go (and emptying the books of bad contracts) is a strategem many teams have employed before. In most cases, it's resulted in a year of cap hell. No such issue this season, of course, but knowing that there's a lockout next year it's not wise to blow money on big contracts either. Seriously, what would have been the benefit of clearing away big contracts tied to older players just to turn around and sign other big contracts with other older players? :confused:
The moves to go young will set the team up in a good position for the years to come, regardless of the labor situation. You may say not many other teams did that. True, but in the future some may wish they had.
That's not where the mistake is.
The big offseason mistake was in not finishing the puzzle by firing John Fox :nonod:
Gantt pointed out on his Twitter recently that the team went into the season thinking that somehow everyone would still manage to put their best foot forward. It's a nice idea, but if you believe Pro Football Weekly, that hasn't been what happened at all.
Richardson miscalculated in believing that despite the lame duck coaching situation, the discrepancy between what he and Fox believed was "fair market" for his services, and the pairing of a young roster with a coach who preferred veteran players, the Panthers could still have a good season. Seems obvious now, but then hindsight is 20-20, and the decision to fire Fox would have meant having to still pay him - since the final year of his contract was guaranteed - while also paying a new head coach at the same time.
While I can understand not wanting to do that given the labor situation, it would have been a better move.
Hurney has talked this season about how quarterback-receiver tandems tend to become more prolific when they "grow together". It's a valid point, but the team should have applied that same logic to the coaching situation. A young roster with a new, up-and-coming coach can be a solid beginning that leads to long-term success. By contrast, a young team coached by an older, lame-duck coach on the last year of his contract is a recipe for disaster.
There are other factors, of course. Injuries at key spots have made the team weaker. Struggles on the part of the guys the team was counting on to be their quarterbacks have been a major issue. Throw in a schedule that was expected to be tough, and so far looks to be living up to expectations (even against the teams that weren't expected to be problems).
All those things hurt.
But the biggest mistake of all was not going ahead with a completely new start.
As a result, you have some guys whose careers are taking a dip while others are off to rough starts. Damage has been done. Just how much remains to be seen. Mix in the alienation of a significant portion of the fanbase. That, too, could have been minimized by going with a new face under the coaching headphones. Fans would have understood that a young team with a new head coach was going to take its lumps. It might not have been anymore pleasant to watch, but given the situation, people could have understood.
We're far from that now.
Still, it needs to be understood that the youth movement was not the mistake of the offseason.
The mistake was not extending that movement to the coaching staff
Edited by Mr Scot, 08 November 2010 - 11:35 PM.