Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Big Cat, acting small

(Hey everybody, I know I'm a little late on this... you can see other smart comments on this from Cedar Posts, The Meck Deck, and our Rick Bonnell.)

In 1993, on the day NFL owners voted to bring the Carolina Panthers into the league, Jerry Richardson stood on the stage in Chicago and looked for a camera from back home.

The man who worked so hard to get the team here stared straight into the lens said he had a message for the fans: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Now it sounds like he has a couple other words in mind.

The Panthers’ owner had a news conference Tuesday – his first in nine years – where he simultaneously came off as irritable, cheap, confused, obstinate and a bit of a creep.

Here’s part of his opening statement. Take a deep breath before you dive in.

“I think if we think about a number of things, and we look back over time – and time for me is a long time – I guess I would want to start by saying that, I think it was the Meineke Bowl that we went to… What’s your name? Young lady. Nicole? Who are you with? OK. Welcome, Nicole, I don’t know you. In fact, I don’t know a lot of people. It has been awhile since I’ve been here.”

It didn’t improve after that.

He directed Fox reporter Morgan Fogarty – who happens to be blond and beautiful – to come sit right in front of him. He batted away legitimate questions like blowflies.

But those are misdemeanors. The bigger problem is that what he said about his team made no sense.

Try to square these ideas:

1. Richardson said it was a positive that the Panthers let go several key veterans, because young players need to be on the field.

2. He said he knew John Fox preferred to play veterans.

3. He kept Fox as coach anyway.

The only logical explanation is financial. The Panthers saved money on players this season and might save money on coaches next season, especially if there’s a players’ strike or lockout. (Richardson is one of the key owners in those negotiations.)

Sometimes it does make sense to start over. Nobody expected the Panthers to go 2-14, but it’s clear that the team hit some version of the reset button. Then why not fire a coach who didn’t want to start over? Because he was still under contract, and you’d have to pay the old coach and the new one.

Other owners, in all sports, have been willing to take that hit to get better. Richardson wasn’t.

Look, I admire Jerry Richardson. He made himself a rich man, then willed the Panthers into existence when few others believed. We get our hair cut at the same place. It’s not a fancy place. We’ve crossed paths a couple of times, and he’s always been nice.

But he’s not the only one with a stake in the Panthers.

Part of the reason this team is here is because tens of thousands of fans bought personal seat licenses, giving the Panthers millions in upfront money before they ever sold a ticket. That’s a risky investment. The deal with sports is that you never know what value you’re going to get. You pay the same whether your team wins by three or loses by 30.

As a fan, in the end, you can ask only a couple of things of your team. They ought to do their best. And they need to have some kind of plan.

I don’t think Richardson did his best for the Panthers this year. And after watching him, it’s still not clear if he has much of a plan -- or much concern for what anybody else thinks.

Richardson had a heart transplant not quite two years ago. Nobody should expect him to be the same man he was on that great day back in 1993. But back then, he acted like we were in this together.

On Tuesday, he acted like we all work for him.


Anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiney sniveling reporters the CO has working for it. Talk about small. You guys are pathetic. Maybe Jerry wanted the pretty blonde in front of him because he knew all of you observer slobs would ask him stupid questions. I think he has a plan and has had one all along. It was to rebuild this team for the new look NFL after this new CBA is signed. I think he put us in great position to be successful for a long time. Why would he fire Fox with one year left on his deal? Unless you have that $11.5 Million bucks to pay that bunch of morons then quit whining about that too. This franchise has a lot of young talent that will only get better. If Luck comes out in the draft we will also have the biggest piece of this puzzle in place for a long time. Looks like Jerry might have a lot better plan than anyone here knows afterall.

Anonymous said...

I'm a PSL owner.

When I get my letter from the Panthers later this spring, in which they'll demand that I pony up a ton of money for my season tickets -- for a season which stands a good chance of being locked out due to owners like Jerry Richardson -- I plan to send them a letter back demanding a refund for THIS season's tickets. I feel like Jerry Richardson has abused me and all other PSL owners -- he's treated us like his own personal piggy bank, and that's unacceptable.

Yes, Jerry, we have the right and the obligation to buy tickets, but you have the right and the obligation to actually try to win football games -- that's implicit in your position as team owner. As soon as you gave up your end of the bargain and start just treating the team like a profit-above-all-else business, you relinquished any right to make any further demands on us. We're not giving you tons of our hard-earned money just so that we can sit watching inferior football and consuming overpriced concessions and so that you can look down on us like some sort of aloof Caesar or Marie Antoinette.

I encourage all other PSL owners to make your opinions known to Jerry, by voting with your wallet -- demand a refund for this season's utter waste of a season, or walk away from your PSLs and see whether Jerry can actually resell them in this economic climate.

Or, in the alternative -- Jerry, sell the team. It's obvious to all of us that you no longer care about anything but your financial bottom line. Whether the Panthers stay in Charlotte or move somewhere else under new ownership, either alternative would be better than having a team with an owner who simply no longer cares.

Anonymous said...

PS: Luck would have to be the biggest idiot on the PLANET to let himself be drafted by this team and this owner. If I were him, I'd stay at Stanford for at least one more season just to avoid being drafted by the Panthers.

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon 7:49, you and Anon 7:55 need to get together for a cup of coffee. I think that would be a great conversation.

Look forward to hearing more from all viewpoints...

Anonymous said...

There a few factors here that people seem to brush over.

1. This team is his business. To be successful, a business has to survive tough times. If there is in fact a lockout, the Panthers will be in a much better position than most teams. If there is a long lockout, many teams will fire many people. Hopefully the Panthers won't have to do that. Jerry thinks there will be a lockout. Whether that is a negotiating tactic is debatable, but we can all agree right now it doesn't look good for the league.

2. This season was rough, but as the article said no one expected it to be this bad. There are a lot of good players here, but things turned out poorly. The QB was a big issue. Jake wasn't going to help. A veteran journeyman probably wouldn't have been better than Moore. Had Moore stayed healthy they probably would have won a few more games. There was no QB out there that could have made this a winning team. So, what would you have had him do there? Bright side, this may get us a stud QB in Andrew Luck. Which leads me to the 3rd point.

3 Do you want the team to be consistently around .500 with a good year every few years? Or would you rather have a couple bad years to build a strong team that is consistently in the playoffs and the super bowl hunt. 2003 was a great year, but it was a fluke. This team isn't built as a consistent contender, but it can be with a new coach, and hopefully Andrew Luck.

Bottom line, all teams go through tough times. Would you rather be a fan of the Raiders, Browns, Bills, or Lions? I have no doubt Jerry is committed to winning, but in hard times tough choices have to be made. In the NFL very few teams are good every year. We don't have Peyton Manning, we don't have Bill Belichick. Deal with it. Next year will be better.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:55 PM here:

Just curious how many of you who defend Jerry Richardson's actions this season actually have any skin in the game. Do you own PSLs? If not, then sorry -- your opinion automatically counts less because YOU are not financially bound to this team. It's easy to sit in the peanut gallery and talk about how things should be when you don't have any money on the table. Those of us who own PSLs have found ourselves in the unenviable position of being required, under penalty of losing our investment, to support a team whose owner sees no real penalty to his bottom line when the team fails to win. The Panthers could go 2-14 or 1-15 or 0-16 every single season and we still would be required to buy tickets and keep the team afloat, or lose our investment. In a non-PSL situation, Jerry would be feeling real heat as fans stopped buying tickets and started watching games on TV for free. The PSL system lets owners get away with nonsense that ordinarily would hurt them.

If I could get my initial PSL investment back, I would give up my seats in a heartbeat. I can't -- unless a miracle occurs -- so the only recourse open to me, short of giving up or selling my PSLs, is to complain loudly about how the Panthers are performing because the owner has turned into a cheapskate. And because I realize there is strength in numbers, I'm doing everything I can to help fellow PSL owners realize that they are being used in a situation such as this.

Other owners, such as Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder, know just as well as Jerry Richardson that there might be a lockout next season. But you didn't see any of them cheaping out this season. Practically every other team in the NFL played this season like their lives depended on it, but the Panthers just holed up in a cave and sat shivering in the dark.

I, for one, have had enough of it and I don't intend to let the Panthers get away with this scot free.

Anonymous said...

Did you seriously just compare him to Jones and Snyder? Go be a fan of their teams then, see how that works for you. You could be just a season ticket holder for the skins or cowboys and watch the same results. What's the difference between two wins and six?

I am not a PSL owner, but only because I live in Kansas City and it isn't really possible for me to attend the home games, but if I lived in Charlotte, I certainly would be. I do purchase Sunday Ticket every year so I can watch every game. And I have spent plenty of money over the years on merchandise and games that I can go to. It isn't near the investment you made, but it's still an investment.

If you don't like it, tough. If you don't have it in you to deal with a team having a bad year, maybe you made a bad investment and you should accept that. I don't know what kind of fan you are at the games, but I know the majority of the fans who attend panther games embarrass me. Maybe it's because I live in a city that really supports their team, and always cheers on opponents 3rd downs, and always fills the stadium, and doesn't take half of the 3rd quarter to get back to their seats. Maybe I'm just spoiled here. I don't like the chiefs, but I can at least respect their fans.

I agree that PSLs suck, but that is the world we live in. If you don't like it, find a new team to support.

Anonymous said...

Did you seriously just compare him to Jones and Snyder?

Sorry. I should have said Al Davis.

What's the difference between two wins and six?

Six wins is three times as many wins. Six wins means the playoffs are a possibility until late in the season. Six wins means you still have some hope.

If you don't have it in you to deal with a team having a bad year, maybe you made a bad investment and you should accept that.

I can deal with a team having a bad year because they got outplayed. What I can't deal with is a team having a bad year because their owner sent them to a gunfight armed only with a Wiffle Ball bat.

I don't know what kind of fan you are at the games, but I know the majority of the fans who attend panther games embarrass me.

I'm the sort of fan who makes noise when he's supposed to, is in his seat (or standing in front of it) the entire game except for halftime, and who wants the team to win.

So sorry, I am not some sort of bandwagon fan. Yes, I've invested a ton of money in PSLs, tickets every year, jerseys and caps, concessions, etc. This year, though, I was personally embarrassed to be a Panthers fan.

Anonymous said...

You reporters seem to all be in an uproar over this presser. Watching your fellow beat reporters who have been writing anything they want without any real accountability pi$$ their pants after JR took control of the meeting obviously didn't sit well with any of you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:49, you are as lost and confused as what we heard a couple of days ago. Anon 7:55, you are right on. This organization, staff, team, PSL holders, and community deserve much better than what has been served up this year by "upper management". Thanks, Tommy, for telling it like it really is. The "sports writers" in this area are cowardly and pathetic. I am amazed by all the "sports reporters" have had these clandestine and private meetings and are given "access" as long as they don't take any notes, bring any recorders, and keep all info "off the record" as part of the deal. What are they hired to do???!! It is like buying off witnesses to squelch what is really going on. Wake up people!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Richardson made a point of reminding everyone that the Panthers are a business proposition, bottom line and he has investors to repay. What about the fans who expect the best team that Richardson/Panther money can possibly buy? Don't we deserve anything after all of the billons and millions the franchcise has made off of us all of these years? Mr. Richardson, I learned a long time ago that if you take care of your customers, they will take care of you and your bottom line. That Sir, is what true business is all about...

Anonymous said...

Screw the "Big Cat!" Doesn't he know you have to spend money on the football side of things to win in this league. You can market this team all you want but if you don't have the horses you cant win the race. It starts with the scouting department. You can not continue to screw up draft picks the way this department has done.

Spend your money because you can't take it with you when your "ticker" eventually goes out.

Just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

It's true that Jerry's running a 'business', however the most important thing for the growth and success of any 'business' is to make your 'CUSTOMERS' HAPPY! Speaking of myself, as a 'customer', I am NOT HAPPY!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know all of you people complaining would have done this season? This team was not a playoff contender with jake or moore. Which qb that was available would you have brought in or traded for that would have made them one? Jason campbell? Whitehurst? Mcnabb?

So, it only makes sense to play the young players and build experience for the future.

And why pay 2 coaches in a year which you know you can't win and you don't know if there will be football in a year.

You can be mad about losing, but if you were in charge, what would you have done?

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon 9:13, this is a really good question. I think this year should've been good for SOMETHING... ideally, I guess, a new coach who was willing to develop young talent. Might've had the same record. But they also might've built a little something together. As it is, felt like this year was a waste.

Anonymous said...

Here's a simple fact, most fans are fickle. If this team goes 7-9 or 8-8 next year and 12-4 the next to make the playoffs, most of the fans will be totally happy. Jerry knows that very well.

IF we get Andrew Luck and he is anywhere near as good as people think, none of the fans will be bitching about this season. A few years from now if he is winning games by himself no one will be sitting in the crowd complaining that he is only playing for us because the owner was cheap a few years before. Everyone will love him.

Now, those are big ifs, but the NFL is nothing but ifs.

I, like most of you I'm sure, have been a fan of this team for over 15 years and will continue to be a fan for many many more. The past 15 have had good years and bad, that's life. This year was bad and people are pissed, but it's not the end of the world, it is one year.

We don't know if Andrew Luck will declare, we don't know if he will be good, we don't know if the player we take instead will be good. But, if he/they are, we will get years of joy out of it for one year of pain. I'll gladly accept a year as the worst team in the league if it finally gives us a shot at an elite QB.

For now, we can only wait and hope.

Anonymous said...

Forget the cheap chatter. Maybe Tommy boy needs to not only act small but be small and lose about 4 or 500 lbs to set a good example for the youth and adults for health reasons.

Ever heard of heart failure or diabetes? Its closing in fast on you dude. DIET NOW !!!

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon 10:02, thanks for your concern. I can tell you care deeply.

Jeditigger said...

I like the Richardsons. I'm glad they're our owners.


The last few seasons have been difficult for a lot of reasons and Coach Fox isn't entirely to blame. Neither was Delhomme. Some unfortunate decisions have been made from the top down with regard to personnel, and until we get a solid offensive line, no one is going to succeed as a quarterback. Yes, we have invested in young players for the future, but it sure feels like our best players are let go purely for financial reasons, no matter the cost to team performance and fan morale.

As a life-long fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I can tell you that running a team like that is a bad, bad, bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Yea lets shoot fish in a barrel and trash JR after every other owner has been trashed and left or run off. Jordans time is coming one day too.

Where are all these whiners NFL teams that are doing better?

Ole saying is dont cast your pearls before swine ...

Anonymous said...

ole jer got all you psl owners by the nuggets. nothing you can do about it now............

Anonymous said...

That Jerry speech played a MAJOR role in LUCK staying in school...

take that to the bank