Report: Panthers coach Fox can return in 2010
Injury-riddled and out of the playoff race before December, the
Carolina Panthers seemed certain to have their first season of at
least 10 losses under coach John Fox.
Instead, they’re playing their best football of the season,
just in time for the embattled Fox to have a shot at returning in
A day after the Panthers (7-8) routed the New York Giants for
their third win in four games, The Charlotte Observer reported Fox
and general manager Marty Hurney will be “offered the opportunity
to return next season” by owner Jerry Richardson.
However, the report Monday said Fox will not be given a
contract extension. He’s due to make more than $6 million in 2010,
the final season of his deal.
The team declined to confirm or deny the report. Team
spokesman Charlie Dayton said Fox and Hurney are under contract for
next season, and he’s heard nothing to indicate they won’t return.
Fox’s Monday news conference came before the report, and
Hurney didn’t immediately return a phone message left by The
Associated Press. Recovering from a heart transplant on Feb. 1,
Richardson hasn’t spoken to reporters in months.
Fox has been heavily scrutinized since starting the season
0-3, a year after Carolina went 12-4 and captured the NFC South
before an ugly 33-13 home playoff loss to Arizona.
It follows a familiar trend. While Fox led Carolina to the
Super Bowl after the 2003 season two years after inheriting a 1-15
team from George Seifert, he’s never had consecutive winning
seasons in his eight years on the job. The Panthers have also never
finished worse than 7-9.
They were 5-8 this year before stunning wins over Minnesota
and the Giants the last two weeks. Backup Matt Moore has thrown six
touchdown passes and no interceptions in those games.
“He played well. I think he’s gotten better each week,” Fox
said. “He’s got more comfortable managing the game. I think there
are certain things he’s a little more comfortable doing that we’ve
had to tweak a little bit. But I think he’s gotten better each week
and I think he’ll continue that.”
Fox stubbornly stuck with Jake Delhomme as his quarterback
despite a horrendous 18-interception season until he broke the
middle finger on his throwing hand against the New York Jets on
Nov. 29. The Panthers are 3-1 with Moore, who could challenge
Delhomme for the starting job next season despite Delhomme’s big
“I knew this would come up, but I’m just worried about next
week,” Fox said when asked about the quarterback situation.
“Tomorrow first and then we get ready to play the New Orleans
Saints. What the week after that brings and all that, we’ll cross
that bridge when we get to it.”
Fox is 75-60 in Carolina, including his three playoff
appearances. He’s widely respected around the league and it’s
believed he could quickly find another head coaching job if he
That could make things interesting if Fox balks at not
getting a contract extension and wants to seek another job. Fox’s
agent, Bob LaMonte, did not immediately return messages seeking
Fox was upbeat earlier Monday, a day after the Panthers’ 41-9
win ended the Giants’ playoff hopes. Jonathan Stewart rushed for a
franchise-record 206 yards filling in for the injured DeAngelo
Williams, and Steve Smith held onto a 27-yard touchdown catch
despite breaking is left forearm on the play.
Smith underwent surgery Monday and will be the 12th player to
go on injured reserve. But despite being without their starting QB,
running back, both offensive tackles, defensive tackle and weakside
linebacker, the Panthers have outscored the Vikings and Giants
67-16 in the last two weeks.
Moore has outplayed Super Bowl-winning QBs Brett Favre and
Eli Manning the last two games and will face Drew Brees and New
Orleans (13-2) in the season finale Sunday.
Several players have come to Fox’s defense, including center
Ryan Kalil, who last week said “it would be a mistake to make any
kind of changes.”
The late-season success is nothing new to Fox, whose Carolina
teams are 24-13 in December and January regular-season games.
“You get dealt the cards you have,” Fox said of the numerous
injuries. “To see young guys get that opportunity and have success
is definitely rewarding.”