Quietly, a coaching icon walks away

I just sent a story to our news side that made me kind of sad. Richard Williamson, the longtime wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers, is retiring, the team announced Monday.

This is what Williamson wanted, and he had been pondering retirement for quite a few years. But it still is sad to see one of the classiest people who ever has been part of the NFL walk away.

Williamson was very good at what he did. He joined the Panthers in 1994, a year before they started play, and he was widely considered one of the best receivers coaches around. He deserves a lot of credit for helping Steve Smith develop from a guy who was supposed to be nothing more than a kick returner into one of the league’s top receivers.

Williamson also guided Muhsin Muhammad, Patrick Jeffers, Raghib Ismail and Mark Carrier to at least one 1,000-yard receiving season each. More than that, Richardson was a rock on the coaching staffs of Dom Capers, George Seifert and John Fox.

He stepped in as offensive coordinator when Bill Musgrave abruptly walked away during the Seifert years and didn’t complain a bit when he went back to coaching receivers.

That’s mainly because coaching receivers was what Williamson did best. He had a stint as a head coach in Tampa Bay, but had no chance to succeed there at the time. Williamson truly found his niche as a receivers coach after that.

I know the general rule is that assistant coaches don’t make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I’m not suggesting Williamson should be an exception. But he should forever be remembered as an excellent receivers coach and a very nice man.