In news that will shock no one who has been paying attention to the situation over the past couple of years, the Panthers officially announced on Friday that Sunday will be John Fox’s last game as head coach with the team.
Fox was first denied a contract extension after the 2008 season. He entered the last year of his deal this fall after the Panthers began a youth movement that’s left them an NFL-worst 2-13 and the league’s worst offense, but they will have the No. 1 overall draft pick in April.
“It’s not new,” Fox said of his impending departure. “It’s something I’ve been preparing for actually for a couple of years.”
League sources told ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas that Fox was allowed to explore other options before this season. Sources said he was a candidate for the Buffalo Bills’ opening that eventually went to Chan Gailey, but Fox elected to finish out his contract with the Panthers.
A rift had developed between Richardson and Fox since Carolina’s 33-13 loss to Arizona in the team’s last playoff game in January 2009. Fox was more vocal this season in showing displeasure for several personnel moves that left the Panthers short on experience and talent.
I would say that it’s weird for a team to allow its head coach to pursue other job openings only to retain him knowing they wouldn’t renew his contract at the end of the year. But then again this is the Carolina Panthers were talking about. This was a team that handed Jake Delhomme millions of dollars even though everyone and their brother could see his confidence had deteriorated to nothing. (Somehow Delhomme still tricked the Browns into giving him a two-year contract, but that’s a matter for a different time.)
Fox is 78-73 in Carolina so no matter what happens this Sunday in Atlanta, he’ll leave the Panthers will a winning record. He also took the team to its first and only Super Bowl in 2003 and usually got the most out of his players.
That said, I’ve long thought that Fox received too much credit for his accomplishments. The Panthers were the model of inconsistency under Fox, often making the playoffs one year only to miss it the next. He’s never been a great X’s and O’s guy, although I suspect there will be plenty of Giants fans that hope he makes his way back to New York if Tom Coughlin is fired. (I warn you Giant fans, it’s not always a good thing to get what you ask for.) His handling of players like Delhomme (are you telling me Fox and his coaching staff thought Delhomme was still the answer after that six-interception performance against Arizona?) and Steve Smith (who could have set fire to Fox’s office and still played on Sunday) never sat right with me either.
But regardless of my personal thoughts about him, he will receive another head coaching opportunity. There will be plenty of openings once “Black Monday” arrives next week and he’ll land on his feet again. As for the Panthers, they’ll hire somebody young and cheap and I imagine ownership will find new ways to muck things up.
By the letter of the law, what Kansas State receiver Adrian Hilburn did in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday evening warranted a flag.
Technically, by saluting to the crowd after he scored a 30-yard touchdown reception to get the Wildcats within a two-point conversation of tying the game with 1:24 remaining on the clock, he did draw attention to himself.
But come on, did this…
…really warrant a flag? It’s not like he did back flips across the end zone or pull something out of the goal post a la Joe Horn. It’s not like he held up a sign that read, “HEY, LOOK AT ME!” or wheel a Bowflex machine onto the field and start doing a workout.
He saluted the crowd, which was less harmless than what most players do to celebrate a touchdown.
The problem with the NCAA’s rule on end zone celebrations is that it’s way too subjective. After watching Hilburn get flagged for saluting the crowd in the Pinstripe Bowl, I watched Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray do an assortment of things after every touchdown pass he threw in the Music City Bowl (which directly followed the Pinstripe Bowl on ESPN) and nothing happened to him. I could have sworn the kid was in interpret theater with the way he waved his hands and arms after every touchdown.
For the record, I have no problem what Bray did, although I must admit I started laughing when he threw the game-sealing interception in overtime after he had basically mocked the North Carolina sidelines following a touchdown pass on the previous possession. But tell me why he wasn’t flagged for throwing up hand gestures after touchdowns but Hilburn was? Bray was technically drawing attention to himself, just as Hilburn did.
If the NCAA wants to enforce a rule, it should do so across the board for every game. Refs shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose what they deem as a player drawing attention to himself. Either that, or they should really ask themselves what constitutes “excessive” before throwing a flag.
The success the Chiefs have enjoyed this season under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may be short lived.
ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen reports that Weis will likely part ways with the Chiefs in order to become the University of Florida’s next offensive coordinator. He has ties with new Gator coach Will Muschamp, who was hired at Florida to replace Urban Meyer.
The thought is that Weis eventually wants to become a head coach again at the college level. If he has success at Florida and in the SEC, he would be on the fast track to land another coaching gig soon. What’s interesting is that he’ll implement his pro-style attack after the Gators ran the spread for six years under Meyer. The question is, does Florida have the personnel to make a switch like that?
For now, Weis will coach the Chiefs during the playoffs. They’ll host the Jets next weekend in the Wildcard Round and he’ll stay with them throughout the postseason. Matt Cassel has really come on as a passer under Weis, so it’s unfortunate that Kansas City will lose its offensive coordinator after only one season. But the Chiefs had to figure that Weis wouldn’t be around long if he found success.
It’s an especially tough week to rank players since one has to play the guessing game of which teams will be resting players and which teams won’t. You’ll notice that the top of each set of rankings are dominated by players on teams that still have something to play for. I won’t be doing a Q&A post this week, so feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments section below.