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Mr. Scot

Looking at 2020 through the eyes of 2010

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The latest from Joe Person in the Athletic, including extensive discussion with our old buddy Geoff Schwatz (who was on the 2010 roster) as well as Jake Delhomme and Jordan Gross.

Ten years after a tank job for the ages, the Panthers are rebuilding again

Even without the predictions of what's to come in 2020, there's some pretty fascinating stuff here regarding the behind the scenes action in 2010. I highly recommend reading the full article if you can (subscription required, of course).

Excerpts:

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A roster in transition, questions surrounding the future of the franchise quarterback and the looming threat of a possible work stoppage — on the surface 2020 is starting to resemble 2010 for the Carolina Panthers.

There are some major differences, of course, beginning with the fact the 2020 Panthers will be led by a new head coach in Matt Rhule, while the lame-duck John Fox and his staff were kept on to endure the 2010 train wreck.

Also, worth noting: While Panthers founder Jerry Richardson gutted the roster to save money and make a statement ahead of the lockout, current owner David Tepper is spending big on coaches, facilities and anything else not restricted by the NFL’s salary cap.

But as the Panthers prepare to hit the reset button under Rhule, it’s worth revisiting the upheaval that occurred 10 years ago during the mercifully brief Jimmy Clausen era, and examining what lessons can be learned from it.

 

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For starters, former Panthers offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz said the language has changed over the past decade.

“Back then when that happened, it wasn’t referred to as tanking. It just was, OK, we’ll have to try to win with worse players,” Schwartz said. “Now, it feels like the term, tanking, is universal. Rebuild, tank, whatever you want to say. … This year feels like a rebuild. It felt like we were tanking in 2010.”

Several of Schwartz’s teammates from that 2-14 team said the same thing, including one who pointed out that if 2010 was a roster reboot, this year feels like more of an organization wide rebuild for the Panthers.

 

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After making the playoffs in 2008, the Panthers signed quarterback Jake Delhomme and left tackle Jordan Gross to lucrative contract extensions with an eye on ending the franchise’s dubious distinction of never posting back-to-back winning seasons.

But Delhomme struggled through an injury-plagued 2009 before breaking the middle finger on his throwing hand in late November, creating an opening for backup Matt Moore, who won four of his five starts as the Panthers finished 8-8.

Despite still owing Delhomme more than $12.5 million in guaranteed money, the Panthers cut him during the 2010 offseason on the same day they released veteran defensive tackle Damione Lewis. The team also opted not to use the franchise tag on Julius Peppers after the edge rusher turned down a deal that would have made him the highest-paid defensive player in the league, according to general manager Marty Hurney.

 

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Schwartz, who started 16 games in 2010, agreed that Richardson’s mindset that year was vastly different from what he’s observed from Tepper.

“It felt like the goal in 2010 was to just strip all the salary for the uncapped year, so during the lockout it worked out in the favor of the ownership,” said Schwartz, who hosts a weekly podcast for The Athletic.

“Now it feels like there’s a plan in place to rebuild the roster on the fly, and get rid of the older guys that aren’t really Matt Rhule’s guys and bring in younger players that fit the system he wants to run,” Schwartz added. “It feels like 2010 was really to lose, and 2020 is, ‘Yeah, we may lose a little bit. But we’re looking forward to something else.’”

 

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“I remember that year vividly because Foxy was on the way out, and he let us know he was on the way out,” Schwartz said. “We knew kind of what the goal of the season was as soon as they were pushing Jimmy Clausen on us.”

Fox, who had guided the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003, took a not-to-subtle swipe at the “personnel department” after a 31-point home loss to New Orleans in November. But Schwartz commended Fox and his staff for their resolve in ’10.

“It was like Week 7 and we were like 1-6. I think we won off our bye. In the team meeting room, (Fox) was just like: ‘Guys, I won’t be here next year. I’ll be fine. You make sure you play hard. You put out good film. We’re gonna coach you hard, still,’” Schwartz said. “I give them credit. They coached hard. They didn’t coach any less hard. But it was very much understood that the coaching staff was gone after the season.”

 

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Delhomme was battling a high ankle sprain when he faced his former team, and recalls getting shot up with a painkiller once before warmups and again prior to the game. As bad as the Browns were that year — they finished 5-11 under Eric Mangini — the Panthers were worse.

“I’m like, I’ve gotta start this week against my old team. And they’re terrible. They’re really not a good football team,” Delhomme said. “I’ve gotta make sure I can at least hobble around there and do my part to try to help us win.”

Delhomme was intercepted twice that day, including a third-quarter pick that Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown. But the Browns won 24-23 behind three rushing touchdowns by Peyton Hillis.

The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-10. They would win only once more — beating Arizona at home in Week 15 — and managed just 16 offensive touchdowns all season.

“I looked it up, man. We averaged 12 points a game on offense,” Schwartz said. “That’s pathetic.”

 

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Despite Rhule’s inexperience in the pros, Tepper was enamored of his history of rebuilding programs at Temple and Baylor. With the Giants waiting to interview Rhule the next day, the Panthers offered him a seven-year, $62 million contract that the Giants declined to match or top.

The deal got the attention of everyone in the NFL.

Gross said he recently ran into Chuck Pagano in Boise, Idaho, and the Bears defensive coordinator brought up Rhule’s contract. When the Panthers next hired Joe Brady, the hottest up-and-coming young coach in the country, away from LSU as Rhule’s offensive coordinator, it was further proof that Tepper (net worth: $12 billion) will not be outspent when he’s after something or someone he wants (see, also: the Rolling Stones).

But Tepper also has been clear that he’s willing to be patient to build the Panthers into an organization that enjoys sustained success.

 

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“I think all the wholesale changes that are happening are due to a complete rebuilding of what the Panthers’ organization is all about. It’s gone from kind of a family business to a cutting-edge NFL franchise,” said Gross, a Panthers Hall of Honor member who splits analyst duties with Delhomme on the team’s radio broadcasts.

“I don’t know if (long-term success) will happen or not, but that’s what Mr. Tepper wants,” Gross added. “I think they’re carefully keeping young players that can be around for the next five years-plus. And the ones that aren’t, the writing’s on the wall.”

That was the same phrase veteran tight end Greg Olsen used to refer to his sense toward the end of the season that the Panthers were ready to move on from him. So Olsen, who turns 35 next month, said he wasn’t too surprised when Hurney flew to Miami before the Super Bowl to tell Olsen he was being released.

All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Wes Horton already have announced their retirements.

And with seven of the Panthers’ 13 unrestricted free agents 30 or older — including defensive linemen Gerald McCoy, Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin — expect more changes.

 

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“The roster’s going to be very different. I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Delhomme said. “But I truly believe a lot of that comes when you have a coaching change. … When a new coach comes in, you’re gonna have big roster turnover — very big roster turnover. That’s just kind of the way of life in the NFL.”

As was the case in 2010, Gross believes the Panthers will get younger as a result of the turnover.

“Young guys kind of don’t know any different. If you’re a 10-year player, or an eight-year player even, you’ve only got so many ways to learn how to be a pro football player. And a lot of guys might have trouble with everything changing,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it’s easier to do that with younger guys or free agents that don’t know the Panthers any differently.”

 

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Schwartz believes the biggest change is yet to come — when the Panthers part ways with Newton, who’s coming off December foot surgery and is due to make $19.1 million in 2020.

“Kuechly retiring was a surprise to everyone, so that was not planned. But Greg Olsen, obviously, I didn’t think he’d be back. I don’t think Cam will be back,” said Schwartz, who played for the Panthers from 2009-2011 and still lives in Charlotte.

“It feels like, ‘OK, we have Christian McCaffrey. We have some pieces that we’ll build around. But there’s a bright future ahead,’” he added. “2010 was like, ‘All right, let’s cut our roster. We’re going through a lockout, and this will benefit the owner only and no one else.’”

 

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Delhomme said he didn’t see his release coming in 2010 because of what the Panthers still owed him (though he concedes his play warranted it). Ten years later, Newton’s future remains “the elephant in the room,” as Delhomme called it.

Though Newton told CBS Sports Network that he “absolutely” expects to be back with the Panthers, team sources The Athletic spoke with were less certain. As was Delhomme.

“Does coach Rhule say: ‘I have this guy. Let’s see what he can do. He has one year left on his deal.’ And then, what is Cam’s camp saying on the other side?” Delhomme said. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, we want some protection. We’re going into the last year of the deal.’ So it’s gonna be interesting. I don’t know how it’ll all shake out, and I don’t think anybody knows.”

 

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The changes have not been limited to the roster. Rivera took a small platoon of ex-Panthers staffers with him to Washington — everyone from assistant coaches to head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion to capologist Rob Rogers.

“None of this has surprised me, honestly,” Gross said. “It doesn’t mean any of those guys aren’t good NFL-caliber people. It’s just, ‘Let’s do it our way.’ Sometimes retention of people can get in the way of the new way.

“When you want it to be just a new brand and the owner wants everything to have his stamp on it, and he has a head coach that he’s obviously financially behind for a long time, I just think anything that isn’t part of the five-year plan has gotta go.”

Edited by Mr. Scot
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Ayup. Can't argue with their appraisals of the situation.

We will see a few more folks leave that hurts the fanbase, but may be better for the future of the team. That's how these things go.

There's a part of me expecting Cam to be traded, Kyle to start for the season and see a top QB picked in 2021 after the CBA, barring a crazy trade for the first spot (and I don't think that's a totally crazy idea).

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One part that makes me go "Really?"

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After making the playoffs in 2008, the Panthers signed quarterback Jake Delhomme and left tackle Jordan Gross to lucrative contract extensions with an eye on ending the franchise’s dubious distinction of never posting back-to-back winning seasons.

Even after his surgery and that playoff disaster, they still thought they could build a winning team around Delhomme? :thinking:

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Cam will be wearing a different jersey this next season. Don’t be surprised if he goes to Washington.

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10 minutes ago, Mr. Scot said:

One part that makes me go "Really?"

Even after his surgery and that playoff disaster, they still thought they could build a winning team around Delhomme? :thinking:

They = Marty?

As we have often said here, Marty always thinks we are a couple pieces away from a deep playoff run...hell, he probably thinks that about the Panthers this year.

 

To the article, they are speculating exactly what I have been expecting.  If you are over 27, keep your Realtor on speed dial.

Glad we are finally ripping the Band-Aid off.

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2 minutes ago, thefuzz said:

They = Marty?

As we have often said here, Marty always thinks we are a couple pieces away from a deep playoff run...hell, he probably thinks that about the Panthers this year.

To the article, they are speculating exactly what I have been expecting.  If you are over 27, keep your Realtor on speed dial.

Glad we are finally ripping the Band-Aid off.

Fair point.

Gross's "if you're not part of the five year plan, you're gone" notion does sound very plausible.

Mind you, that should apply to Marty as well.

Edited by Mr. Scot
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2 minutes ago, Mr. Scot said:

Fair point.

Gross's "if you're not part of the five year plan, you're gone" notion does sound very plausible.

Mind you, that should apply to Marty as well.

I'm 100% down, I just don't think that we will execute the tank/rebuild correctly.  Hell, this team is known for head scratching moves.

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3 minutes ago, thefuzz said:

I'm 100% down, I just don't think that we will execute the tank/rebuild correctly.  Hell, this team is known for head scratching moves.

Oh, I think Marty is uniquely qualified to help the team tank.

The rebuild part, though...

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Just now, Mr. Scot said:

Oh, I think Marty is uniquely qualified to help the team tank.

The rebuild part, though...

That's the scary part.  I don't trust first year head coaches, I simply don't trust Marty with anything, and I don't trust Tepper yet.

I'm really hoping we get this right, but I'm just not sold that we will.

Fingers Crossed.

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6 minutes ago, Mr. Scot said:

Oh, I think Marty is uniquely qualified to help the team tank.

The rebuild part, though...

MAYBE that’s why Marty is still here? Who else is more qualified to put together a losing roster?

Tepper = 3D chess

Kidding of course....kinda.

 

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I so hope Delhomme continues to be a part of the Carolina story under the new regime. He made me a Panthers fan when I was in high school. It was awful watching him get let go, even thought we all knew it was the right call.

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JR's big mistake, besides showing pie charts, was to stay with Hurney and let Beane go. Buffalo went into rebuild mode and traded a lot of quality players for draft picks his and McDermott's 1st year (Sammy Watkins comes to mind) but kept the team's veteran leaders. Had a hell of a draft. Made the playoffs that year after a 17 year playoff drought. Had another couple hell of a drafts. And made the playoffs again in their 3rd year of rebuild, Josh Allen's 2nd year. They smartly went young with quality draft picks and without cutting veteran leadership. 

Rebuilds can be done without tanking or losing records. But I don't think Hurney can get it done.

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On 2/10/2020 at 5:47 PM, mc52beast said:

As long as we have Hurney making any talent evaluations we will go nowhere

So true. All my tank for Lawrence talk where we’d have the 7th slot this year (actually improves to 6th and 5th in some rounds) , hopefully 1st slot next year, 2nd rounder for Cam and 5+ comp picks in 2021 and a ton of cap space doesn’t mean squadoosh if we can’t pick our way out of a paper bag. The extra comp picks would allow Hurney to pick his projects that don’t work out and pick the guys the scouts actually like as well. Hoping for the best but worried about blowing a possibly great opportunity to rebuild well. 
 

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