Hurney and FoxGood football teams typically have a great front office and coaching staff to back them up. These guys toil, sweat, and work very hard behind the scenes, be it outside in practice with the players, or in the office, scouting draft picks and creating contracts. While the Panthers have had their share of highs and lows in these departments, John Fox and Marty Hurney are arguably the best heads of staff that Jerry Richardson has ever hired.
When John Fox was hired by the Carolina Panthers, the announcement lacked the buzz and excitement that many were expecting with the George Seifert signing. Maybe that was the best way to start. While many were thrilled initially to see Seifert join the ranks of the black and blue after his stint with the 49ers, the honeymoon was shortly over after a lackluster first year, and ending with the atrocious and infamous 1-15 season in 2001. Something had to be done to put the spark back in the team, and an ambiguous-talking John Fox was the answer.
Fox immediately started to work, and let the players know where he stood. He took a 1-15 team, ranked 31st in total defense, and took them to 7-9, ranked 2nd in total defense. In fact, the 2002 Carolina Panthers were just two or three plays from the playoffs, losing several close games. Coach of the Year honors eluded him, as they would in his second year, when he took the underdog Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII. However, his vague press conferences and player relations made this coach something special. The fans knew they had a winner on their hands, and John Fox is definitely the man to bring this team to the prosperity it strives for.
Marty Hurney is quite possibly the best GM that this team as ever seen. While he lacks the shrewdness of Polian, who netted such starts as Sam Mills, Wesley Walls, and Kevin Greene, Hurney definitely showed that he knew how to build a team for the long haul. While Polian was in a "win now" mentality, signing established veterans in the prime of their career, Hurney decided to build the team through the draft.
In the early years of the Carolina Panthers, one could look at the draft picks and say, "Who was that?" Players such as Kerry Collins, Blake Brockermeyer, and "Tim" Biakabutuka highlighted Polian's draft boards. While they all had amazing potential, and the team was built around stars such as these guys, none of them panned out. Collins essentially quit the team, Biakabutuka was plagued by injuries, and Brockermeyer faded into relative obscurity.
However, three years later, several Carolina draft picks from Hurney's board are mainstays and superstars for the team, and most of them were very well scouted, and relative steals at the positions they were taken. Steve Smith, Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers, Dan Morgan, DeShaun Foster, Keary Colbert, and Jordan Gross were all selected within the past three years, and have all started at their position at some point. Steve Smith, now considered an elite wide receiver, was snagged in the third round. Keary Colbert, who many consider starting material, went in the second round. Most noticeably, however, is Jordan Gross, who was picked up at #8 in the first round in 2003. While many wanted the more glamorous pick of QB Byron Leftwich at that spot, or maybe even CB Marcus Trufant, Jordan Gross has excelled at his position and is now one of the strongest points in the offensive line. So what of the other two picks? Jake Delhomme led his team to a Super Bowl, while Leftwich was still learning a system, and Ricky Manning (taken late in the same draft) tied the record for most interceptions in the NFC Championship game at three, while Trufant watched the playoffs at home.
The bottom line? Although we don't know why Hurney drafts who he drafts, and we don't always know what the "it" is in "it is what it is," we can take faith in knowing that these two individuals have a game plan, and its one built for long term success.