An Open Letter To Jerry Richardson

A letter from a fan.

Mr. Richardson, 

First off, I'd like to congratulate you on the Panthers' season so far.  I'll have to admit, you were right this offseason when many of us fans were worried you were wrong.  When you said John Fox was the man to bring the enthusiasm back to our beloved team, you were right.  Some of us (I won't name any names to protect myself) lusted after Steve Spurrier and felt let down when you didn't land him.  We felt like you didn't want to go all out to win and perhaps some of us accused you of being too cheap to hire Spurrier or Tony Dungy.  We admit it, we were wrong.  Some of us didn't want Marty Hurney promoted to general manager.  Once again, some wanted a "name" guy.  Well, Marty's done a fine job of bringing in players from the draft and free agency.  Along the way, he has taken the painful steps necessary to move the Panthers to cap solvency.  Again, you were right, and we were wrong.  (We could bring up the ticket price increase, but that's another story altogether.)  Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let me make my way to the point.

Before the 2001 season, the Panthers decided to shift gears and finally build our roster through the draft.  So far, you've (mostly) held true to that statement, even through the coaching change.  For the first time in a while, it feels like the team has a direction - We're not running around throwing money at anybody who can put on shoulder pads.  Right now, the Panthers are off to a solid 2-0 start.  Even though my prediction for this year's record is 6-10, it is possible we will finish better.  The Panthers could top out at 7-9 or 8-8.  Anything better would be pie in the sky, but in today's NFL, anything is possible.  Finally, I will arrive at my point: Do you recall what happened the last time we finished 8-8?  After the 1999 season, the front office decided to go on a free agent spending spree because the Panthers were so close to the playoffs.  It was believed we only needed one or two players to get over the edge.  Do you recall how that turned out?  Cap overspending and no results.  Fast forward to today.

The Panthers look like they're on the right track.  We've just enjoyed two wins, the first 2-0 start since that miracle season of 1996, and the first time the Panthers have had back-to-back wins since 2000.  Feels great, doesn't it?  Now what if the Panthers finish just short of the playoffs this year?  I recently read the Panthers will be around $7.1 million under the salary cap heading into the 2003 season.  That money would be awful tempting to throw around, wouldn't it?  Do you stick to the plan of draft production and low-dollar free agents, or do you shoot for the moon again?

The only reason I bring this up at all is because you aren't known for being a patient man.  Sometimes, that's a quality we can admire.  After all, none of us wants to lose forever, least of all you.  But in this instance, I beg you to stick to the plan you have laid out and don't overspend for any one or two players in free agency.  I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Don't change horses in mid-stream."  It's a good old saying.  (It's also a great song by funkster's Tower of Power, but I'm wandering here.)  Take that advice, Mr. Richardson.  Let's let the team do what it's doing now.  Stay the course.  Draft wisely.  Spend little in free agency.  You know in your heart we're doing the right thing and surely you'll stick to it.  We may need that cap room to resign guys like Terry Cousin and Terry Fair.  And by the way, if that $7.1 million is burning a hole in your pocket, plenty of us fans have a suggestion: Use it to take the cap hit needed to cut Sean Gilbert.  You remember him, don't you?  Our poster child for bad decision-making?  You threw plenty of dollars his way, not to mention two first round draft picks.  What better way to signify your dedication to the new way of doing business than to cut the worst example of the old way of doing business?  Trust me, we fans will LOVE you for this.  You do it, and I might even lay off your son Mark for a while (By the way, good move making him nearly invisible these last few years.  Keep it up!).

Respectfully yours, 

A Fan

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