Carolina Panthers Retrospective
ANALYSIS: What I think about Peppers, poor tackling and Jake's job E-mail
Written by Steve Reed   
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 22:54

   CHARLOTTE -- If you're a diehard Carolina Panthers fan, congratulations, you made it through the "day after."
   I can't imagine it was easy for some of you, especially given the natural hatred for the Dallas Cowboys and the way the Panthers messed themselves on Monday night at Cowboys Stadium. After looking forward to the season for months, it's a strange feeling when you realize this thing could be over -- and it's not even October. Sad.
   That said, here are a few observations after Monday night's loss:

   1. Sorry, but with each passing game it gets harder to swallow GM Marty Hurney's philosophy on keeping Julius Peppers. He maintains that you don't let difference-makers leave. Well, guess what? Peppers is no longer a difference-maker, or at least not one worthy of a $1 million per game paycheck. My thought from the beginning was they should use the franchise tag on Peppers and then trade him to the highest bidder. (Even if that meant only getting a second-round pick in return). They didn't. And now they're stuck with a guy who doesn't want to be here. And hey, let's stop kidding ourselves that he does, because he clearly doesn't or he would have said so by now. For the second straight game, Peppers had just two tackles and no sacks. That's highway robbery.
   But remember, they made this bed they're sleeping in.
   They wouldn't trade him when they had the chance, refusing to consider any offers that didn't involve two first-round draft picks (and yes, other teams have traded franchise players in the past for less than two first-rounders). So now they're stuck with him. I don't really have any sympathy for them. Like I've said time and time again in the past, it's like a marriage -- you can't twist someone's arm and make them stay if their heart isn't in it. And if you do, you're only asking for trouble. And given Peppers has 10 tackles and one sack in three games, that's exactly what they have -- an overpriced defensive end who's heart isn't in it, who's no longer a difference-maker and yet still takes up one-eighth of the team's salary cap.
   If you're not irritated enough with Peppers' play, then try this quote on for size.
   After the game he was asked what Dallas did to contain him and replied, "What were they doing to me? Nothing special. I can't sit here and go over every play and how they blocked me. But I didn't see anything special they were doing." Nor was there anything special about Peppers' play the last two weeks.

   2. I think it's Dwayne Jarrett time. At some point you have to figure out what this guy can do so you can make a decision for the future. Muhsin Muhammad really seems to be struggling getting open more than 10 yards down the field, so why not really find out what you have in Jarrett and let him start? Unless, of course, you're scared to find out. Or perhaps the Panthers already realize what they have -- a young play whose desire and confidence isn't where it needs to be.

   3. I think his teammates still think he's a great guy, but I wonder if privately the players' confidence in Jake Delhomme isn't waning after the 0-3 start. Yes, the interception in the fourth quarter wasn't his fault (it was Steve Smith's), but the Panthers simply aren't clicking on offense. I still think Delhomme is the most talented quarterback on the roster and still gives the Panthers the best chance to win. So I think coach John Fox sticks with Delhomme for at least the next three games hoping to beat three struggling opponents -- Washington, Tampa Bay and Buffalo -- in a last-ditch effort to gain some momentum heading into the rest of the season. However, if they lose two of the next three games then I wouldn't be surprised to see Fox make a move to Matt Moore. 

   4. I saw some TV replays of rookie returner Captain Munnerlyn walking past coach John Fox without acknowledging him as Fox was talking to him.  Munnerlyn is an intense guy and wound pretty tight, a lot like Steve Smith, but that type of disrespect can't be tolerated. Especially from a rookie. I'd be surprised if he doesn't end up in Fox's office this week for a little chit chat.

   5. Don't you just know the San Francisco 49ers are loving this. The worse the Panthers do, the happier they are since they own Carolina's first-round draft pick in 2010. On the flip side, the Panthers haven't gotten much yet out of rookie defensive end Everette Brown, the guy for whom they traded that pick. He sat out Monday night with an ankle injury. When the Panthers made the trade they were thinking they'd be giving up a low first-round pick. But if the Panthers continue on this road it could be a nightmare scenario and the 49ers may wind up with a top-10, or perhaps top-5 pick. Wow.

   6. I think this is collectively Carolina's worst group of special teams players in the history of the team, John Kasay notwithstanding.

   7. People are asking me if I think Fox will be fired. I think if the Panthers don't give fans something to be excited about over the final 13 weeks of the season then yes, it's very possible. Jerry Richardson has his pulse on the fanbase more than you might think and he doesn't hesitate to make tough choices. Think about it. Just a few weeks ago he basically made his sons resign as team presidents because they couldn't get along.

   8. I've covered every game in Panthers history -- preseason, regular season and postseason, home and away -- and there's one thing I'm pretty sure of -- this is the worst tackling Panthers team I've ever seen. Period. It's become a rarity when an opposing player is knocked down on the first hit and these guys don't wrap up. Pop Warner coaches have to be going crazy when they watch this team try to tackle.

   9. Finally, thankfully, the bye week is upon us. It will give the Panthers a chance to recharge their batteries as they have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. Personally, I don't think they deserve a bye week but hey, what do I know? I think they ought to be out there practicing as much as the collective bargaining agreement allows. You want a day off? Then win.
   As for the bye, cornerback Richard Marshall said, "You want to get out there as quick as you can. You know, we're 0-3 now and we needed a victory (at Dallas). We'll have to fight hard to get a victory, which we haven't been doing... It is real frustrating. I don't like losing. The other guys on our team don't like losing. It is frustrating to be out there and we can't come up with a W. I'm just real frustrated."
   And so are Panthers fans.

   10. Here are some guys I think really want to win and whose primary focus isn't collecting a paycheck: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, Brad Hoover, DeAngelo Williams, Jeff King, Damione Lewis, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, Tyler Brayton, Richard Marshall, Captain Munnerlyn and Chris Harris (when he's out there). That's not to say those I failed to mention don't want to win. It's just that winning seems to mean more to the aforementioned players.

   11. I think the rest of the defense has almost no confidence in Nick Hayden or any of the players the team has brought in to play defensive tackle in the wake of the injury to Maake Kemoeatu, and I think it shows. However, I think some guys were surprised at how well Louis Leonard did in his first start, but since he never finished they never had a chance to rally around him. Too bad.

   12. I think the Panthers need to do something to change up their halftime routine. How many times in the past few years have you seen this team come out flat in the second half? Either they're not good at making adjustments or they're listening to Sade in the locker room at halftime. Either way, things need to change because it doesn't look like the NFL is going to shorten the game to 30 minutes anytime soon.