The Search is On

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is moving quickly to replace the fired George Seifert, but this intensely private man (who hates media attention) is conducting most of his search in secrecy. Many believe that former Florida coach Steve Spurrier is Richardson's top target, but he was evasive on the subject when he appeared to discuss the firing of Seifert.

There is little doubt that Spurrier would be the fan favorite, and would be the man who could recapture the "energy" that Richardson talked about. There is also little doubt that Richardson and Spurrier are meeting this week.

A check of flights between Jacksonville, Florida and Charlotte show the names Steve Spurrier and Jerry Richardson on just about every one of them between Tuesday night and Thursday morning. But, is Spurrier the first choice?

Spurrier's name was tossed around freely when the franchise was looking for its first coach. At the time, Richardson pretty much let it go as effective smokescreen while he pursued Joe Gibbs (who lives in the Charlotte area and has based his NASCAR teams here) and finally Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers. Richardson could be more than happy to let the Spurrier rumors fly again while he pursues his real top choice.

Popular opinion nationally has the Panthers in competition for Spurrier with Tampa Bay and Washington. But, there is also an Atlanta element there. One report says that Spurrier is very close to a deal in Atlanta, but will have to wait until early February when the sale of the team goes through.

So, who is Richardson's pick if it's not Spurrier? No one really knows, but Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy and LSU's Nick Saban could head the list. Saban, though, is considered to be Bill Polian's first choice for the Indianapolis job. How sweet would it be for Richardson to sweep him out from under his former head of football operations?

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