Opening comments: I am sorry to say that George Seifert is no longer going to be our head coach. It was a very difficult decision. George has been an outstanding person to work with. He has been with us through some difficult times, but we must go forward. I am very optimistic about where we are going. When we go through a situation like we went through this past season, it sucks the energy out of coaches, players, fans. It just sucks the energy out. What we've got to do, beginning today, we've got to start pumping the energy back in, and that's what we intend to do. We will begin the search for a coach. We don't have a specific timetable.
On second-guessing his decisions as an owner: I own the team. I have a responsibility to hire people that I think give us the best chance to win. When I hired George, that's what I thought we were doing. At the time, he had the best winning percentage in the NFL. He was an established coach. I felt like it was the best thing to do for our team and our fans to hire George. There were a number of people that were interested in George. He came in. We gave him the responsibility that he felt he needed. That's what we did. Now, it didn't work out, so here we are today. I've made the decision. We are going to go forward. We are going to re-evaluate the entire organization, which you would expect any businessperson to do and we are going to begin a search for a new head coach. I own the team. I am responsible.
On other staff changes: The only people that have been affected so far have been the coaching staff. As I mentioned, we are going to re-evaluate the entire organization. I don't expect that we will have any wholesale type changes, but we will re-evaluate the entire organization. Some of the assistant coaches, their contracts are up. I don't know how many there are, but there are a few that are up. The coaches that are under contract, Marty Hurney will meet with them, and we will discuss the next step. Obviously, the next head coach will have more to say about what coaches stay or don't stay.
On the possibility of hiring Steve Spurrier: We can't get into that. It just leads us down a path. We can't go there.
On the possibility of hiring someone with no NFL coaching experience: What our plans are is there are a number of ways to go. There is the obvious concept of hiring a head coach that maybe has been in the NFL. There's the concept of hiring coordinators. There's the concept of hiring assistant coaches that become head coaches. Bill Cowher is an example. He was an assistant and went to a head coach for the Steelers. There are college coaches. There are a number of different ways, and we aren't closing the door on anything.
On a timetable for hiring a new coach: We don't have any specific timetable but we have started.
On fan support: I want to speak to our fans in general. Our fans make an enormous investment in us. It's an investment beyond the economics. It's an investment of their time, what they think about on Thursday, who they plan to meet to tailgate, what time are they meeting, what is the menu going to be, going to the game, enjoying the game, getting emotional in the game, which our fans do. I'm proud of our fans. If we let them down by losing games, week after week after week, you suck the energy out of them. It's our responsibility to pump the energy back in. That is what we intend to do. Of course, it's disappointing, but I do understand it. It would be naïve of me to feel any other way. I am disappointed but I understand that it was a bad situation. It's behind us. I have every expectation that the first game we have this season will be sold out and we will have enthusiastic fans in the stands.
On when the decision was made to not retain George Seifert: George and I began discussing the subject on Friday.
On the possibility of hiring a general manager: We've had a number of different combinations since we've owned the team. First, we had Mike (McCormack). Mike brought in Bill (Polian). Mike left and we had Bill. We went from Bill to Dom (Capers) for two years. Dom was doing personnel and coaching. Then, of course, you are familiar with George's (Seifert) situation. We've had a number of different combinations. Each year, the NFL has changes. As an example, since we came into the league, the salary cap has doubled. A 21-year old player that is drafted out of college, whatever his cash used to be seven years ago, is twice that much. The economics and the impact have changed. The salary cap is getting tighter and tighter and tighter by design. The players and the owners have agreed on a concept that works for us, fortunately. It has been proven statistically, and we keep a lot of statistics in the NFL, that generally high-priced free agents do not work out the way the economic compensation would indicate they should. We have established what we are going to do. We've already begun that. We want to have good drafts. We want to develop our players, therefore playing them early. We want to develop our players and make a decision in the third year time frame whether we want to extend and go forward with that player. That is what we intend to do. That is where we are and that is where we are headed.
On if hiring a general manager would make the Panthers successful: If you are suggesting do I think a general manager has a magic wand, the answer is no. I think that it is more complicated than that. The salary cap is so important in the NFL as we go forward. I view it in three categories. There is coaching, personnel and the salary cap. Someone needs to manage the personnel and the salary cap in concert with the coach. I suspect that is where we're headed, but time will tell that.
On Carolina Panthers Director of Football Operations Marty Hurney: Marty has done an outstanding job, and I see Marty playing an important role as we go forward. I'm not in the general manager mode.
On why the Panthers have not been successful: Obviously, we have made some decisions that have not worked out. In my opinion, coaching had a lot to do with that. At the end of the day, coaching is responsible. Players definitely have to make plays. If we have a player who can make an interception at the end of a game to seal a game, that is a player deal. Or if we have a player to make a penalty while we are trying to run the clock out to win a game, that is a player deal. I don't think you can put your finger on any one thing and I don't intend to do that. My situation is just what I have said. The energy has been sucked out of the organization and our fan base, so we had no alternative. We lost 15 games. We were 0-4 against Atlanta. We were 0-4 against New Orleans in the last two years. We were 31st in the League in offense. We were 31st in the League in defense and I could not continue.
On if he gave the team's plan to rebuild with young players enough time to develop before making a coaching change: I do. There is a thin line, in my opinion, between patience and progress, and that is a difficult line to walk. The young players that played, I think, made progress. There were other things beside the young players. We had a reoccurring way that we lost games. But as far as a time frame, that did not drive the decision from my point of view.
On communication between the head coach and the players: As you may or may not know, I have not been that involved with the coaching and the players and I don't have a point of view of if there was too much or too little. I do know that at any organization or any business, the most important component is communication. That is a key ingredient in being successful.
Was it a mistake to fire Dom Capers? I don't think so. We had gone through our first four years with Dom and we agreed upon what he thought he needed. I gave him everything he asked for, and he told me what we were supposed to expect and it did not work out.
On hiring George Seifert as head coach three years ago: I hired the person at the time I thought made the most sense for the franchise at that point and time.
On regretting becoming an NFL owner: I have never second-guessed getting into this business. I've had some pretty low moments but I've faced a lot more difficult things in my life than our football record. Fortunately, because of my maturity and my age, I understand that. It's been disappointing, but I can't think of anything that a person that lives in the Carolina's would rather do than own their own NFL team and their own stadium.
On positive aspects of the team despite the 1-15 record: I do see encouraging things. I think we have a core offensive line that's going to be very good. We have young players who are going to be very good. I think that our first pick (Dan Morgan), in my mind, is going to be a very good player. I think Kris Jenkins is going to be a very solid player. Our third-round pick (Steve Smith) is going to the Pro Bowl. Our fourth-round pick (Chris Weinke) played almost a full season at quarterback, and I think he's going to be an outstanding quarterback. Our fifth-round pick (Jarrod Cooper) is a Pro Bowl alternate. That is very encouraging to me. Todd Sauerbrun had an outstanding year. John Kasay is an outstanding kicker. We have outstanding receivers. We have young defensive backs that I think are going to get better. I'm very encouraged by this.
On the release of Steve Beuerlein: It was very difficult for me personally because of the kind of player and kind of person that Steve is. He's an extraordinary person who did a lot for this franchise. The facts are Steve is getting older and we had invested draft picks in a young quarterback. If Steve would have been here and if Steve would have been healthy, those are two big ifs. It turned out Steve wasn't healthy, so either way, we would have taken a risk. If we had stayed with Steve, he wouldn't have played because health wouldn't have allowed him to play. It was one of the tough decisions that had to be made. We're trying to balance the salary cap, the make-up of the team, the development of young players. The reality is today in the NFL that the current salary cap, the way the NFL is structured based on the history of free-agency, you have to play young players. If you don't play and develop young players, it's not going to work. So it was a very difficult decision but it was a decision that turned out one half right because Steve couldn't play. The second half didn't turn out right.
On how quickly he expects to attain success: We have the benefit of seeing what's going on in the NFL. It's an extraordinary business in my judgment. I have never been in a business like the NFL. The complaints I used to get were when a person would go through a drive thru window and order a hamburger, fries and coke and when they got home, they didn't have their fries so they were mad! But they didn't have Tom (Sorenson) writing about it. It's a different business entirely. I don't have a timetable and I'm looking around at how many of you folks were here when I did my ten year timetable, so I want to go ahead and get that out. I'm going to stay away from timetables but I do have reason to think that we are going to be very competitive quickly in my judgment.
On pumping energy into the franchise: I don't know how much you know about what I do. I come in contact with our fans. I tailgate every Sunday unless there is some bad weather situation like there was yesterday. I talk to them. If I get letters, I answer letters. If I get phone calls, I answer phone calls if I can. I had a letter from a man a couple of weeks back. He sent me a book about Harry Truman. The theme of his letter and book was making the right decision. I received that on a Thursday, and I called him on a Saturday. I got him on the phone and I said, "Hi. This is Jerry Richardson." He said, "Oh yeah." I said, "This is Jerry Richardson, and I'm calling about your letter." He said, "Oh yeah. Who is this, Bryant?" I said, "No, this is Jerry Richardson, and I'm calling about your letter." He said, "Is this really Jerry Richardson?" I said, "Yes I am. I was calling to see if you would have lunch with me on Monday." He said, "You're kidding me." I said, "No, I'd like to have lunch with you on Monday. I'll call you again tomorrow." Sunday morning I called him, and he went through the same spill again saying that it wasn't me calling. I said, "I'm going to be at Manzetti's Monday at one o'clock and I hope you don't stand me up." This guy has 12 PSL's. He's in his early 60's. He's a CPA and moved here from New York with the furniture industry. I listened to him. He said that he had the benefit between our conversations Saturday and Sunday to poll his friends and he had some questions for me. I answered his questions. What he has followed up and has since told me is that those people have told others and passed on the answers. I think that we can pump the fans up, and we will do that. I have no doubt that we will.
On talking to the media more: I think that I have been consistent on that. Before we got the franchise, I visited and talked and tried to represent what we were trying to do. As I said after we got the franchise, we were going to have a top-flight media department. We were going to encourage our coaches and players and create a good environment for you to do what you have to do, and I wasn't going to be doing it that often. That is what I do.
On why he decided to dismiss Seifert: I will not get into all of the details, but the concept is just what we talked about here. We lost 15 consecutive games. Energy had been sucked out of the fans, players and the organization. I felt like I had no choice.