Panthers Owner Speaks Up
A rarity occurred at Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson had his first press conference in nine years. He discussed the dismissal of coach John Fox, the team's future regarding a new coach and its No. 1 overall draft pick. The following is a transcript of a conversation between WFAE's Greg Collard and Mark Rumsey about what Richardson said: Mark: Greg, even before training camp started the worst-kept secret in town was that this would be John Fox's final season as coach of the Panthers. Still, Jerry Richardson had been silent on the subject throughout the season. What did he say today? Greg: He said that John Fox did a lot of good things, but that the facts are he only had 3 winning seasons in 9 years. He also pointed out that Fox never had a back-to-back winning seasons. He said it's important for the franchise to have consecutive winning seasons. As you just pointed out Mark, it's been well known for a long time that this would be Fox's last season. So, I asked Mr. Richardson why he let him linger as as a lame duck coach. He didn't it care for the characterization. Richardson: "Now what is your name to start out asking a question like that to start out - 'linger.' Is there a better word you can use?" Greg: Fair enough, so I asked why he let Fox remain as a lame-duck coach. He still didn't care for the characterization. Richardson: "First, I don't view it as a lame-duck coach. But I would ask you the question, if you were writing the check would you extend someone's contact if you were not sure were going to produce the result you were looking for? I'm asking you." Greg: It's common in the NFL for coaches to be fired with a year or two - sometimes more - remaining on their contract. Teams still must honor those contracts, and Richardson said he wasn't interesting in paying two coaching staffs. He repeatedly pointed out that he spent $11,441,000 this year on the current coaching staff. Paying two staffs would have cut into the team's bottom line. Richardson: "You know, we are running a business here, and people don't like to see their ticket prices go up and you've got to give some fair return to your partners, and I have 14 partners here in town." Mark: What about the next coach? Did he give any indication who it will be? Greg: Not really, other than he made it pretty clear the next coach will probably be someone who is a currently an assistant coach. He noted that current playoff teams all hired from their coaches from the assistant ranks, although Bill Belicheck of the Patriots had been a head coach. Also, general manager Marty Hurney said the team has history of success in hiring assistant coaches for the top job. But, Jerry Richardson did say the organization will be different in one respect in filling the position. Richardson: "The first three times we hired a head coach, we talked about what the head coach wanted. We were not specific enough about what we wanted. This time I think we'll be more specific." Greg: For example, he said he wants a coach to recognize the difficulties a long losing streak has on the entire organization, such as the marketing department that has to entertain people at games, attract sponsors and, of course, fans. Mark: The Panthers have the No. 1 overall pick. They've traded away their first-round draft choice before. Any chance that will happen again? Greg: Doesn't sound like it. Richardson said it would be quote, "quite unusual" for the team to trade down for more picks or players, given the current state of the team, which is the youngest in the NFL. That's good news for fans who are hoping the team drafts Andrew Luck, the much-hyped Stanford quarterback. Mark: There's a question of whether the NFL will even have a season next year. The players union and the NFL are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. Yesterday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was optimistic a deal will be reached. Mr. Richardson wasn't so optimistic. That's noteworthy because he's one of the lead negotiators for NFL owners. Richardson: "One of the first things that is said to me when I meet with the union lawyers, they say, 'Mr. Richardson, we want more money, more benefits and we want to work less.' And then they say 'Let's begin negotiations.'" Greg: The union disagrees with that assessment, of course. Some of the main sticking points are the length of the season. The owners want to expand from 16 to 18 games. The players union is opposed to that. The owners also want a greater share of league revenue. Players currently get about 60 percent. Owners get about 40 percent.