Sports Geek’s intro states a curiosity about how objective I can be toward Carolina Panther head coach John Fox, since I show an obvious bias towards the Atlanta Falcons (I might be changing some opinions on that in Friday’s debate). And while I do not particularly care for some of the Panthers’ players – namely Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme – I really do not have a problem with Fox. There are definitely coaches I do not particularly care for, and for objective purposes, I will leave those names out. But Fox is not on that list.
He is, however, definitely taking some heat this season. If you go to Google and type in “john fox” and “hot seat” you will get nearly 10,000 results. We all know the NFL is a “What Have You Done For Me Lately” league. Even in saying that, he should not be on the hot seat and he most definitely should return as head coach of the Panthers in 2010.
Fox, he of the constant gum chewing, enters tomorrow night’s game against the Miami Dolphins with a career record of 67-53. That includes two division titles and a berth in Super Bowl XXXVIII (by the way, that game is one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever… even SI.com writer Peter King agreed at the time.). Last season’s Panthers team went 12-4 and won the NFC South before being upset by the Arizona Cardinals. This is not 4-12. It is 12-4. It is not as if Fox is coming off of a bad 2008 campaign.
It is true that Carolina is a notorious slow starter almost every year, it seems. Maybe it is because the cold weather months are set up for defensive-minded, physical teams like those under Fox (yes, I can hear you Northerners yelling, “It doesn’t get that cold in Charlotte!” But, I am sure you get my point.). The Panthers began 1-7 in 2004 but rallied to win six of the final eight games and just barely missed the playoffs.
This season, the Panthers are currently 4-5. This is after starting 0-3 and looking terrible early on in the season. However, the Panthers are playing better now, and if you look at the schedule, you realize there is a decent shot at being 7-5 with upcoming games at home against the Dolphins, on the road against the 4-5 Jets, and then back home against the 1-8 Buccaneers. A 7-5 record puts the team back in a favorable position to make the postseason. Granted, the last four games of the schedule are absolutely brutal, as the four teams (Patriots, Vikings, Giants, and Saints) currently have a combined record of 28-8. Ouch! But the opportunity is there.
Fox is a gritty, proven winner. His teams are never flashy and they never seem to be offensive juggernauts. But they are hard-nosed and play a tough, physical brand of football. That is probably influenced by Fox’s days as a defensive coordinator earlier in his coaching career. Panthers’ fans should have patience. I know many fans are calling for a new coach, possibly a big coaching name like Bill Cowher. Cowher, after all, played college ball at North Carolina State and currently lives in Raleigh. But this current season is far from over. At 4-5, the season is not lost. The NFC wild card picture is still very murky and the Panthers are right there in the thick of it.