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The View from the Lot

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lets us be heard this Sunday

Well here it is Wednesday and I am still harboring a lot of anger about that debacle on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

However there was one takeaway from that game I intend to fully utilize in the stands of Bank of America stadium this Sunday. I was watching the game from the acoustically perfect living room of Dan the Wingman. During the early part of the game when the Panthers were winning and the Eagles looked lost, I could not help from being engulfed in the Dolby Digital world of the booing Philly fan. They were loud and brutal to that Eagles team. When Jeff Garcia went down, you could hear the calls for AJ Feely. It was actually quite a beautiful thing to hear them turn on their team. In the Carolinas, our media generally criticize the fan base when the boo birds come out.

But in what I deem a bizarre twist of events, I actually am finding a moniker of respect for those battery throwing, finger pointing, asshole chanting, Rocky loving degenerates of the northeast. They made it quite clear to the Eagles players, coaches and ownership that the product on the field that night was not up to par. As the game progressed, Jeff Garcia got better. Their Defense stepped it up. The Eagles became a better them in the fourth quarter which is precisely the thing you do not want to see as a Panther fan because our team consistently becomes a lousy team during the final 15 minutes of play.

We as the fans of the Carolina Panthers need to show up in force and we need to be extremely critical of all mistakes. We have playoff ticket bills due on December 11th. We need to demand this team perform at a level that actually gives us a shot at actually using those tickets. My box of unused playoff tickets is becoming full. If 70,000 fans lay into this team in unison this Sunday when the Panthers face the New York Giants, I honestly believe it can make a difference. The 12th man is not always about cheering the team to victory. Sometimes it can also be about waking the team up from their defeatist nap.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The International Tailgate


Hard to fathom that it has been five years since two lost Canadian golfers showed up at our tailgate lot with tickets in hand looking for some beer and conversation. Peter and Rob have consummated the rather preeminent feat of establishing the first bona fide Panther fan society across the far ends of Canada. From the maritime bays and estuaries of Nova Scotia to the towering peaks and frontier lands of British Columbia. From the great lakes of Ontario to the Mississippi delta of America's deep south. They have united a brotherhood of friends who always make the rather daunting commitment of coming down to the Carolina's and enjoying our mild climate for some golf and our humble parties in the parking lot on game day. I am honored to call them my friends and look forward every season to their arrival from the Great White North.

Next year we are talking about taking the next step of conducting an allied invasion of some exotic locale with the combined forces of the International Band of Pantherfanz. Arizona seems to be ripe for conquest should the NFL schedulers be kind enough to place it on the calendar at a convenient time next season. And now that the NFL has followed the lead of the Pantherfanz and is going to be branching out the regular season games around the world we can all begin that letter writing campaign to the Richardson's and the NFL to have the Panthers international game played in Toronto or Vancouver or perhaps even Montreal.

I raise my virtual Molson to another 5 years of international goodwill. Perhaps we can now find some Iraqi Panther fans and use our powers of diplomacy to solve that little middle eastern crisis once and for all. Anything is possible in the parking lot.



Friday, September 29, 2006

Old memories

Videos by vMix Member:Fox Sports

I found this video and it reminded me of how things used to be in the old NFC West. The Rams and 49ers ruled the roost, the Panthers were the upstart contenders and the Falcons and Saints traded for turns down in the cellar.

Now here we are in 2006. The New Orleans Saints, one year removed from the near destruction of their hometown are the current leaders of the NFC South. The Atlanta Falcons are considered by many to be one of the best teams in the NFC. The Carolina Panthers are a team full of expectations and hype just trying to survive a rash of injuries and poor performance. And the former NFC rulers from Tampa Bay are heading downward towards the same abyss as their pirate brethren in Oakland.

It just does not seem right, well except for the Tampa Bay part. The Panthers can get right back into this thing with a win and help all of us in Panther Nation form some new good memories.

Wouldn't Drew Bree's look good with the backward helmet?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Forgiven

I have to come clean about something. For quite some time, or to be more precise since Sunday February 1st, 2004, I have held on to some rather acerbic feelings about Carolina Panther placekicker John Kasay. For the entire 2003 season John had picked himself up from a player who nearly lost his job in training camp to Shayne Graham to a man who kicked a perfect 50 yard FG to bring the Panthers within four points of the New England Patriots to end the first half of Superbowl XXXVIII. But all of that came to an end with 1:08 to go in that game in Houston. After Jake Delhomme throws a go ahead touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl late in the fourth quarter, John sends a weak kickoff to the right side of the field out of bounds resulting in a penalty that starts the Patriots off at their own 40 yard line. History shows what happened after  that. Tom Brady and crew made 5 plays for 37 yards to setup an Adam Vinatieri 41 yard field goal and Pats win the Superbowl 32 to 29.

My own exaggerated enmity of Kasay is not entirely based on that night in Texas. It has nothing at all to do with the man himself. It has been about the future of John and this organization. Kasay is the last original Panther. Kasay is the all time points leader in franchise history. He has been a key component to many of the victories this team has had. He is a former pro-bowl kicker. He is a member of the Panthers 10 year team. He is the starting kicker in my money fantasy football league. On a daily basis, I have been cool with John. However John is also the prototype NFL player to the Richardson family. He is a devout Christian. He is heavily involved with the community and his family. Based on both his longevity with the team, countless clutch victories, return from major injuries and overall respect and adoration from the Carolina fans it goes without saying that in some storage room at Bank of America stadium there are a bunch of big black letters that spell out J-O-H-N  K-A-S-A-Y just waiting to be hung up on the stadium's ring of honor. I would also wager that there is some mold being fabricated to place his likeness forever on the Stonewall street sidewalk after John puts his cleats in the attic. This has been the root cause of my Kasay anxiety since that terrible kickoff in the winter of 04.

I always believed that John needed to have some momentous game to erase that memory. In my mind it was the game winning kick in an  upcoming Superbowl. However in retrospect that is setting the bar a little too high. It takes a lot more than a kicker to make it to the Superbowl. It probably starts with a quarterback who does not fumble the ball everytime he is touched and works it way from there, but I digress. Turns out that John's big event came yesterday in the sweltering central Florida sun. While most of the team was hot and cold for much of the day and let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers erase a solid 17-0 lead, John Kasay was spot on from long distance all day long. Kicks of 51, 50, 49 and 46 yards. All under intense pressure with the game on the line and John delivered them all like the Sunday paper. Tampa coach Jon Gruden had the days best quotes about John's performance

"Let's talk about Kasay, lets not send him any Christmas cards this year."

'What a performance!"

"It was a precision effort by Kasay"

"I don't like that guy. I do not like John Kasay. He has killed me before and he got me today"

His effort in Tampa Bay was not the single Superbowl winning kick heard around the world that I dreamed up. John's contribution was actually a little more heroic. It was a full day of focus and hard work that saved the Panthers season for another week. For this John has earned my forgiveness of the thing in Houston. And if anyone over in the Panthers organization needs a hand in hanging up those letters on the ring after John's calls it quits, just give me a call and I will be right over...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pewter Politics

I have always resisted mentioning anything along the lines of politics with my rants as I want to always focus on the game of football and being a fan. But sometimes the material just comes to you. Like yesterday, our own sitting President of the United States George W. Bush visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility, gave some advice to the team and also played a little catch with the Tampa quarterback Chris Simms. According to coach Jon Gruden the experience was quite captivating

"It's great, though, to get some advice from the president of the United States. It's a little different when the coach is telling you to do this or do that. You have the president come and give you some advice, that's something you gotta listen to," Gruden said.


"Hopefully it works. If it doesn't work out this week, he can call the president to see what happened."

To listen to Jon's spin on things, it would appear President Bush must have delivered some Knute Rockne like advice to the team as they prepare to do battle with the Carolina Panthers. Here is one nugget of wisdom from our Commander in Chief to the Pewter Pirates

"Never give up," Bush said Thursday when asked what he told the Bucs during a half-hour visit to the team's training facility near Raymond James Stadium, where the president delivered a fundraising speech to about 400 people in a VIP club area.

 Coach Gruden would not go into specifics on what else the President said. However with just 40 minutes to talk, sign autographs, go a little too crazy over Michael Pittman's bi-ceps and get back on the campaign money trails for Florida republicans Charlie Crist and Gus Bilirakis, it probably was not any more enlightening then never give up.

I wish I could have found out more on what the President had to say to the Buc's team. But then I started thinking that if he is having trouble getting a handle on the Iraq situation, how in the hell is he going to get his hands around the Tampa Bay Buc's offense? (I know, casting stones yada yada yada). However for the first time in his second term, Bush has accomplished something I am totally in favor of. He helped squander an entire day of practice for the Buc's the week they have to play the Panthers. Way to go Mr. President!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Losing battles in the War of 2006

It has been quite some time since Panther Nation has been able to experience the sensation of congruent loathing over a single member of the Carolina squad. In the course of one play Chris Gamble single-handedly brought back memories of Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Sean Gilbert and  George Seifert as the most despised people in town. However in post game reports John Fox has decided to take the heat for the play

"Nothing happens without me OKing it, and I OK'd it," Fox said. "In hindsight, it's a trick play I wish I had back, but that's not the way it works."

So personally I really think the coach is just covering for one of his players like a true leader does. I really do not believe for one second that John Fox would make such an outlandish decision and feel that Gamble made a  selfish call to be a hero on ESPN Sportscenter and cost his teammates the game. A friend of mine has a good breakdown of the play here  if you want to check it out. But I try to be a journalist here and I therefore must take the coach at his word that he made the call and comment accordingly.

There are always correlations between American football and great epic battles. Just watch an NFL Films production of any given game and you will see slow motion cinematic artistry combined with operatic scores to give you the sensation that an immense battle occurred on the field of play.  However individual campaigns during the course of a war are rarely about the actually combat on the battlefield. It is all about the strategic significance towards the ultimate goal of any war, victory. Yesterday in the Metrodome, John Fox made a significant strategic error that could cost him the War of 2006.

The decision to call in a trick play for his special teams return unit with lots of time on the clock and a 7 point lead on the road against a very tough opponent parallels the disastrous strategic results of the Japanese attack on the island atoll of Midway in June of 1942. Just six months after the successful raid on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy appeared to be an unstoppable force in the Pacific theater. Each day the Empire extended its borders in victory after victory, island after island. However a few months into the Pacific war the famous Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto decided that the entire war effort should concentrate on eliminating the rest of the American aircraft carriers. And to achieve that goal, he devised a complex plan to lure them to Midway Island. His plan was extremely optimistic and based on 'ambitious' intelligence reports that stated the US Navy had only two serviceable carriers in their fleet. He also incorrectly assumed that the American forces were demoralized by their frequents defeats over the previous six months. This caused Yamamoto to utilize deception (trick play if you will) in organizing his fleet by spreading them out so as to not alert the Americans to their massing. The result of this plan meant that none of his forces were mutually supporting of one another when the battle had begun. In essence, Yamamoto was so enthralled with the single desire to eliminate the American aircraft carrier threat that he sacrificed the goal of winning the war in order secure a single victory.

Well we can fast forward to September 17th, 2006 and see a reciprocal strategic faux pas on the part of Coach Fox. Victory is not quite in the bag, but it is in the buggy at the checkout counter. The defense is playing lights out football with Julius Peppers having a breakout day. The Vikings are forced to punt from deep in their territory. The Panther punt returner fields the ball at the 40 yard line. The book of strategy on this play would be for the return man to either sit down on the ground, or just try and get a few more yards upfield to make things easier for the offense. Instead, Fox is seemingly blinded by the notion of going in for the kill. He either directly or indirectly instructs his special teams unit to call in a lateral play for Gamble in the event he does not have a clear line of site to the endzone. One can only speculate what Fox is thinking. He has his opponent on the ropes already. Instead of continuing to run the ball and stop the run, the hallmarks of John Fox football. He decides to break with convention and call in one of the most risky plays in football, the special teams lateral pass. I have not checked the ESPN Classics schedule lately, but perhaps they recently had a replay of the 1982 Stanford vs. Cal game where the U.C. of Berkeley Bears upon fielding the kickoff in the closing seconds of the game executed 5 lateral passes that resulted in a controversial touchdown and subsequent win. Fox perhaps was so inspired The Play that he wanted to relive the moment in the Metrodome. What other reason would there be to make this call? The fourth quarter was not even half over. The Vikings defense was on their heels. The Carolina offense was not exactly perfect, but was playing well when put into decent field position scenarios due in no small part to the dual headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster with a little Keyshawn Johnson throw in for good measure. In this case Fox made the same mistake as Yamamoto. He made the tactical decision to put the game out of reach of the Vikings and ended up causing enough of a momentum shift to lose the game and perhaps the war itself.

Going back to 1942, the other thing that Admiral Yamamoto had no clue about was the fact that the Americans were starting to get pretty good as deciphering his JN-25 military communication code. They could not read each communication word for word, but they were able to determine that Midway Island was the primary target of his fleet and dispatching their FOUR active carriers in response. Admiral Chester Nimitz the overall US fleet commander was outnumbered and out gunned, but he had a solid defensive strategy and his troops did not give up in the face of adversity. There is a quote from the movie Midway which sort of dramatizes the battle at the point where the US took out the Japanese carriers Soryu, Akagi and Kaga but still had the single carrier Hiryu to contend with

Lt. Comm. Rochefort[Hal Holbrook]: Three Jap carriers sunk, Admiral. Isn't that worth a "hot diggity damn"?
Admiral Nimitz[Henry Fonda]: I'll take it under advisement. There's still one enemy carrier out there somewhere.
Lt. Comm. Rochefort: Admiral, we've already achieved a great victory. Shouldn't you call the carriers back to Pearl and out of harm's way?
Admiral Nimitz: That would be the safe course. The only problem is, I want that last carrier.

 One last trip in our virtual time machine back to 2006 and it is apparent Minnesota Viking head coach Brad Childress could lay some claim to being a descendant, or at least disciple of American naval legend Chester Nimitz.  After recovery of the ball from the Gamble mistake, the Vikings offense was held to a fourth down. With plenty of time on the clock, the Vikings could have made the chipshot field goal and trailed the Panthers 13-9. The safe and well practiced philosophy of living to fight another day. Instead the Vikings special teams unit reached into it's own handbook of deception and called for a fake kick play where PK Ryan Longwell hits another Viking for a game tying touchdown. Unlike the trick play decision of the Carolina field general, this was the correct time and place for such a call and was followed up with brilliant execution. Momentum in the game was changed and the Panthers simply could not draw up enough emotion and strength to win in overtime.

The Battle of Midway has long been credited for being the turning point of the pacific portion of World War II. It was not what caused the Japanese to lose the war as they still posed an awesome military force even after the battle. But by losing 4 of it's mainline carriers it did put the Empire in a position of weakness it did not need to be in. This is a correlation as to where the Panthers are exiting week 2. The War of 2006 has not been lost. But Carolina is 0-2 in the NFC and 0-1 in a division that has 2 undefeated teams. To say the team is in crisis would be overstating the facts. But there is a state of emergency with this team and it must respond with a victory in Tampa Bay next week before things get out of control.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Looking closely at the Morgan situation

So football talk in Charlotte has gone from Superbowl to toilet bowl after the loss to the Dirty Birds this past Sunday. As a fan it is such a body blow to have all this hype and optimism coursing through your system only to have those passionate fires doused by an icy cold bucket of mediocrity. It is however not a new sensation and actually this past Sunday got me thinking about another day back in 2003 that had very much the same feeling.

It was October 19th, 2003. The Panthers were back home to host the Tennessee Titans after an amazing 23-20 road victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The cats were a perfect 5-0 and playing in Charlotte on a beautiful October day against the 3-3 Titans. Superbowl talk began in earnest. However the game got off to a disastrous start. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Brad Hoover fumbled the kickoff return and the Titans recovered deep in Panther territory. They scored on the drive and pretty much never looked back en route to a 37-17 shellacking of the Panthers.

 Moreover than the defeat, my most lucid memory about that game was the fact that Dan Morgan was knocked unconscious after the second play. He was diagnosed with a concussion later in the week but was cleared to play the following game against the New Orleans Saints on October 24th. In that game he was taken out again with what some called another concussion or what Dan himself called Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) from the previous week. Dan also said he decided to play in the victory against the Saints because he had never had a concussion before and did not know what the symptoms were.

So ok, lets just take Dan at his word and agree that prior to October of 2003 he never had any sort of significant head trauma. And I will even take him at his word that he did not actually suffer another concussion in the New Orleans game on that collision with Joe Horn. But I cannot escape the fact that if the trauma in the Titans came was severe enough to actually cause PCS, it should at the very least count as 2 concussions. We then move to the 2004 season where Dan was again knocked out of the October 31st loss to the Seattle Seahawks and diagnosed with concussion number three. And now we come to the home opener last Sunday and he is faced with concussion number four that we know about.

There are many who are looking over at Will Witherspoon now with the St Louis Rams saying that the Panthers messed up by giving Morgan the big contract and not him. But according to Pat Yasinskas blog it was more of a case of Dan coming to the table first to make a deal

Since second guessing seems to be the most popular sport in Charlotte this week, let’s do some more. The other popular bit of revisionist history that’s getting lots of play is the fact the Panthers kept linebacker Dan Morgan and let Will Witherspoon go. You can make a very strong argument that was a mistake. But just so you understand how it happened: The Panthers were talking contract extension with both linebackers during training camp last year. Offers were on the table to both and Morgan happened to be the first to accept, and that pretty much ended any chance of Witherspoon re-signing. The Panthers were going to pay big money to only one linebacker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they paid the right one.

I do not think anyone can honestly look at the decision to sign Morgan as one based in ineptitude. It was a risk based assessment by Marty Hurney and the front office. On the one hand you have player, who in college was injury free, get a few concussions and ham string issues in his history with the Panthers. On the other you have this guy who defensively makes tons of plays and it always around the ball. In hindsight we can all see as clear as day that the concussions and extended absence during to the PCS were probably an early indication that things are only going to get worse for him. If you are hell bent on trying to assess blame for his continued tenure with the team, it would better be directed towards the medical staff who keep clearing him to play.

But as a certain NFL head coach is fond of saying, it is what it is. To me the reality of the Morgan situation is that he is a liability to himself and the team if he continues to play this game. Consistency is the key to championships and it is hard to get there when the status of your middle linebacker is in question each week. The team needs to begin looking forward to who the next full time starter is going to be at the position. For Dan, he has a life of family and prosperity that could vanish into the painful realm of disability with one more violent shake of the noggin. His love of the game and toughness can not be questioned by anyone. However to truly show himself to be a man of honor and commitment to his family, his fans and his team he needs to make the toughest call of all. The call of retirement from football as a player.