Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beason Shines; More New Coaches

Panthers linebacker Jon Beason made the most of his appearance in the Pro Bowl, intercepting a pass from Matt Cassel and returning it for a touchdown.  Beason was filling in as an alternate for Chicago's Lance Briggs, who withdrew.  The NFC won the game after leading 42-0 at one point.

The Panthers continued to fill out their coaching staff.  Ron Rivera added Fred Graves, Eric Washington, and Pete Hoener to coach the wide receivers, defensive line, and tight ends.  Last week, twenty-year NFL veteran Ray Brown was hired to assist offensive line coach John Matsko.  Running backs coach Jim Skipper, whose return was lobbied for by Jonathan Stewart and other players on Twitter, was informed by Rivera he would not be retained.  Thus far, Ron Meeks is the only member of last year's staff still with the team after having accepted a demotion from defensive coordinator to secondary coach.  Meeks is an NFL veteran and a respected coach but is not considered head coaching material due mostly to weaknesses in communication, so the demotion is not a huge surprise.
Steve Smith's future as a Panther is uncertain.

The Panthers still need a linebacker coach, and the buzz from beat writers and fans is that Tennessee's Dave McGinnis, who worked under Ron Rivera in Chicago, is the desired candidate.  Of the recent hires, receivers coach Graves makes the most splash because he coached Steve Smith at Utah.  Beat writer Darin Gantt believes the Panthers could be in trouble if Smith feels they are trying to "handle" him - yes, Smith is that temperamental - but it's clear that he respects Graves, and this could be a good move given Smith's uncertain future here.  He was obviously unhappy last season - and who can blame him - but he has not expressed a desire to either stay or go.  The bottom line is he still has value, so even if he wants to come back, the team may have other ideas - if the collective bargaining agreement is extended or restructured.

For now, though, the Panthers seem to be in good position to win just by looking at the coaching staff.  They have put together a group of young but experienced, hungry coaches who have done well in previous spots and seem to be very well-respected.  It's safe to say that getting McGinnis would be quite a treat, especially considering that linebacker is one of the team's strengths.

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