Carolina Panthers mailbag

Matt in Asheville, N.C., writes: Is it fair to say that John Fox has lost a lot of the decision making rights in Carolina? I think it is obvious looking back at Fox's history, that he did not bench a "veteran" Matt Moore for the rookie Clausen. Correct me if I am wrong but I feel like most of that was taken away by Jerry Richardson when he started this youth movement. I mean do you believe that Fox really wanted to show Julius Peppers the door or send his veterans to Free Agency? I have been following Carolina since the Fox days and it is a shame to see this go down. The best coach in Panther history is being forced out of the door.

Pat Yasinskas: I think it’s fair to say Fox doesn’t have the power he once did. I also think it’s fair to say that no veteran coach in the last year of his contract wants to be stuck in the middle of a youth movement. As far as Peppers’ departure goes, that was a different type of situation. The Panthers made numerous attempts to keep Peppers and offered him plenty of money. Peppers just wanted to leave the Panthers no matter what.

Ryan in Charlotte writes: You were hanging around the Panther's training camp for a few days. There was talk about creative 4 receiver sets and new wildcat formations. What happened to the creativity so far? A lot of fans are calling for the head of Jeff Davidson. A lot of others say that Fox is the one to blame for the "questionable" play calling. Who's really in charge of the offense in Carolina?

Pat Yasinskas: There was an awful lot of talk about how the Panthers were going to revitalize their whole passing game. Sadly, I think it was nothing more than talk. There’s been no evidence of it in the regular season, but it is kind of tough to run a four-receiver set when you don't have four legitimate NFL receivers. As far as the play calling, Davidson makes the calls. But, like any offensive coordinator, he largely is doing what the head coach tells him to do. Look, I remember a few years back when fans were trying to run Dan Henning out of town. Henning eventually took the fall and Davidson was brought in to spice up the offense. In hindsight, the offense isn’t much different than it was under Henning. In fact, I think you could make a case that it generally was better under Henning.

Zach in Charlotte writes: I saw your post on the possibility of the Panthers trading Steve Smith. I love the Panthers, but i would really like to see this happen if he was traded to a contender. He deserves a ring and a good quarterback, and it would be a shame if he didn’t make the Hall of Fame. So which teams do you think would be interested in trading for Smith and what might we get return?

Pat Yasinskas: Let’s clarify a bit before the rumors get out of control. I was merely linking to a column in which another writer suggest the Panthers should trade Smith and his logic was they might as well get some draft picks for him to help them continue with their youth movement. I see the logic in that. However, and let me be clear, there is no evidence that Smith is on the trading block. And, say what you want about Smith, who usually is not the type to keep quiet about what he’s thinking. But, at least to my knowledge, Smith never has said he wants to be traded away from the Panthers.

Taihair in Costa Mesa, Calif., writes: Do you think the owner, Jerry Richardson, holds some blame for the position the Panthers are in? Because of the possibly lockout, he will not open the check book and the team has gone with a youth movement despite only barely missing the playoffs thanks to poor QB play last season. Steve Smith has asked for help and got none. I would not be surprised if he asked for a trade after the season.

Pat Yasinskas: There is no doubt Jerry Richardson deserves some blame for this situation. He likes to say that Fox and general manager Marty Hurney are in charge of the football side. But it’s obvious Richardson stepped in and told them to head in the direction of a youth movement. I respect Richardson more than any other owner in the league. I asked him to sit down at the owners meeting in Orlando back in the spring and talk on the record about exactly what is going on with his team. He agreed at first, but he got busy with other things and it didn’t happen. The invitation for Richardson to talk still stands and he knows it and his public relations people know it. I respect his desire to stay out of the spotlight. But I think things have come to a point where Richardson needs to address his fans (through the media) and explain what he’s really thinking.