The rumors remain out there that if the Carolina Panthers do not turn around what was a disappointing 8-8 2006 season into a winner in 2007, head coach John Fox will be shown the door and the team may start to look at getting rid of some vets and start getting younger. Owner Jerry Richardson is well aware of the grumbling of the fan base in Carolina that quickly may turn on the team if they have another down season. Sure they were one game away from making the playoffs last year, but after making the NFC Title game two years ago, not even making the playoffs last year was considered a big step backwards. Don’t forget that many picked the Panthers to be the NFC rep in last seasons Super Bowl.
As for Fox, he says that he doesn’t listen to those around him and the rumors that he might not be around if the team does not make the playoffs and go far. “That’s part of the game, I don’t blink at that,” said Fox. “I’ve said to (QB) Jake (Delhomme) that in this profession, we’re under attack. That’s why we get compensated like we do. You can’t shy away from that.” Fox and Delhomme, who became a huge fan favorite when he was a key player the season the Panthers made the Super Bowl in 2003, but last season started to feel the heat when the Panthers started slow, and then he missed three games with a thumb injury. “I feel good about Jake,” Fox said. “I don’t feel like he was a poor performer a year ago. The head coach and the quarterback get more credit and blame in this league than they deserve. This is what we sign up for, and you just have to go through it.”
The Panthers are 49-38 under Fox, and he took over a team that was awful in 2002, going 0-15 after starting the season 1-0. Now with a big coaching name already out there in Bill Cowher that could have his sights set on Carolina in 2008, the pressure of getting back into the playoffs is clearly on the shoulders of Delhomme and more importantly – Fox. If the Panthers can get back to their form of two seasons ago, Fox’s job will be safe. If they once again falter, look for some wholesale changes to the Panthers organization, starting right at the top with the head coach.