I have two things to say about all of this. And I'm in the mood to type, so the TL/DR message is that Hurney didn't totally suck, he wasn't ever great on his own, and we have the playmakers to be successful.
For a couple of years I worked out with some guys who had the good fortune to be professional athletes. Ok, I didn't work out with them, I happened to be in the box at the same time as they were, and did my best to keep up. But in that time, we had a lot of really good conversations. And one thing I took away from their wisdom is how professional sports work. And it's simple.
You have your stars. And you have your guys who take the field so the stars can show what they can do.
This is especially evident in baseball, where a typical team has two or three guys (pitchers excluded) who dominate, and five or six who take the field and their turns at bat so the stars can shine. It's not so evident in basketball, where again you have two or three guys, but with five playing per side it's not nearly as noticeable.
In football, the same principle applies. And there are 11 players on offense and defense.
Take Newton (assuming he's a star), and put him on the Jaguars. Their offense is instantly transformed. Put Smitty in New York and Sanchez no longer looks like the bust he is. Insert Keuchly anywhere, and watch the defense transform. You get it?
So, where do you get your stars? Almost always, you get them in the first round. And bitch about Hurney all you want, he tended to nail his first round picks. And that's why the Panthers were always in the hunt in the Fox years. Despite not having a true franchise QB (I love Jake, his is the only jersey I own, but I get it...), the Panthers of the Fox years were always relevant. No one took us for granted, like they do now. I believe at the bottom of my heart that had the Patriots not stolen our signals, we would have won it all in 2003.
Hurney and Fox were a great team. They took over a franchise that had never had great direction and gave it an identity. A lot of people who post here do so because of what they accomplished. You can bitch about who got what contract, and how much money went to specific positions, but Hurney was always a cap guy and was always able to work a new deal (just like Gettleman was able to get out from under Hurney's "mess"--give me a break) to make salary cap room. Those complaints don't even register to me.
So anyway, when Fox was in his last year, we had Smitty, Stewart, Williams, Beason, Gross, Gamble, and Kalil. Forget everyone else, they're irrelevant. And quit bitching about a youth movement--we lost Tyler-freaking-Brayton. Are you really crying about that? Na'il Diggs? Really? Smitty and company were our stars, and the rest is all -meh- as far as big-time talent is concerned.
Our biggest loss? Julius Peppers. And he was the biggest mindfug that Hurney had ever had to deal with. Imagine, a player who just didn't want to be in Hurney's beloved Carolina... And the biggest issue? Coaching. I have a position that people here may hate to acknowledge, but Trgovac was better than Meeks. Sorry, it's true. So why did we have Meeks? And why were we stuck with Davidson? It was because Fox couldn't hire anyone for longer than a year. Sound familiar?
So anyway, Peppers wants out, Hurney panics, and deals a first rounder for Everette-freaking-Brown. Yeah, some Huddlers thought it was good at the time, but you don't ever replace a freak like Peppers with someone who unexpectedly slips out of the first round. I give him a pass for the Otah trade because we were in win-now mode and actually did, but for the first time, Hurney started drafting for need instead of going for BPA.
2-14 and the first overall pick later, Hurney takes Cam Newton. Yay.
Now we have Newton, Smitty, Stewart, Williams, Beason, Gross, Gamble, and Kalil. And Ron Rivera is the coach. And the Hurney/Rivera collaboration gets us in a position to draft Keuchly, so now we have Newton, Keuchly, Smitty, Stewart, Williams, Beason, Gross, Gamble, and Kalil. But Beason and Kalil go down, and Hurney doesn't know why we're losing, so now we have Gettleman/Rivera instead of Hurney/Rivera calling the shots.
Want to know what I want to believe? I want to believe that Rivera offered to help Gettleman just like he helped Hurney. And just like Fox helped Hurney. And I want to believe that Gettleman said, "Hey, thanks Ron. Can you go get me a snow cone? I have a draft to run here and can't leave the phone." Because I think that the putrid drafting that we've had in the past few years started because Hurney began going for need, and then he was influenced by Rivera instead of Fox (who's introduction in Denver coincided with early round draft success, fwiw).
So now we have Newton, Keuchly, Star, Smitty, Stewart, Williams, Beason, Gross, and Kalil. And over the past couple of years, Johnson and Hardy have emerged. If we can;t do something with that, then it's all on Rivera, and not on Hurney or Gettleman or Fox or Richardson. We have our studs, and we have our JAGs to play along side them.
It's time to win.