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Carolinas a good example for Cincy.


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Just two short years ago we had company in the cellar with Carolina. Now they're in the Super Bowl. What factors define the incredible change of fortunes for the Panthers? I can't imagine it was just one thing. Did they have the most incredible draft in the history of the NFL draft, or did they hit the mother lode of all mother lodes in the free agent market? I really don't see the entire picture, but I have to admit it's a Cinderella story. Just as Josh said in his "Fox on the prowl" front page article.

What are all the facts? :blink:

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It isn't just one thing between the 2001 and 2003 Panthers, but I think it really does come down to one thing between 2003 Panthers and the 2003 Bengals: defense. Specifically, the defensive line. In 2002, Carolina selected Julius Peppers, a defensive end from North Carolina, No. 2 overall. That said one thing: defense matters here. The rest of the pieces followed, but that selection was key.

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I like New England (still!) but I'm not going to bet. I've only bet three times on sports ever, all this year, and all three losses. Besides, I think this one might be a nail-biter. NE has it in them to blow people out (ask Buffalo), but they are usually looking to just get a lead and then hold it. Carolina shouldn't mind that - they like to stay close and wear down a defense until the end - so that's what I expect to see... and a game like that could go either way.

As for Cincy's top picks, here's my theory: Paul Brown used to be able to find little-known players and get great performances out of them, because he had a gift for recognizing football talent. Mike Brown wants to do the same thing, but because he doesn't have the gift, when he tries he selects mediocre talent that crumbles under the burden of trying to be great.

Now, I don't know if Palmer is going to be any different, but his whole situation "smells" different to me. Picking Palmer wasn't "clever", it was the obvious thing to do; and he has no reason to complain about pressure, since he sat for the whole year. It seems to me as though Mike Brown had nothing to do with it - if so, maybe that pick will work out.

Of course, I could be wrong about any and all of that...

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Palmer was by far the easiest choice to make last year. Even if we hadn't drafted him,and still gone 8-8. Kitna's best year would only be self evident that it's the best that he's ever going to do,and a quarterback of the future would still be a need.

Only this year, we'd be picking from the middle of the pack,and would have to give up too much to get a Manning or a Roethlesberger.

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Palmer was by far the easiest choice to make last year. Even if we hadn't drafted him,and still gone 8-8. Kitna's best year would only be self evident that it's the best that he's ever going to do,and a quarterback of the future would still be a need.

Only this year, we'd be picking from the middle of the pack,and would have to give up too much to get a Manning or a Roethlesberger.

The quarterback situation and free agent vs draft pick can be seen in the results that were achieved in Buffalo this year. Buffalo gave their 1st round draft choice to New England for Drew Bledsoe. After some of the media questioned the wisdom of that, Tom Donahoe said that its the same as saying this year our #1 pick was Drew Bledsoe.

Fast forward a year, and you see that Buffalo has a nicked up, not so young, starting quarterback and an older back up as well. No talented young quarterback on the team to develop, and not a high enough draft pick to get one this year.

We can and have debated the Palmer vs Kitna quandry on and on ad nauseum. Both points of view have their upside and their drawbacks. Given all that, I'd still rather have our problem than theirs.

One last thing ......... Carolinas coach is another along with Marvin Lewis that Buffalo passed on.

One of the biggest contributors to the turn around that Carolina has enjoyed has come as a result of coaching. Another good indication that it can be done here as well.

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From NFL.com's article "Building Carolina". Quote:

"The first thing that is obvious is the excellent coaching job Fox has done: from 1-15 when he took over to 7-9 in 2002 and now 14-5. That only becomes more impressive when you note that 12 starters that were there for the 1-15 season are still on the team. Now that's coaching!

Last year, Fox put his competitive personality on the team. When they were a 3-8 bad football team on Dec. 1, 2002, they finally started to act like their tenacious coach and finished up the season 4-1 to go 7-9. Fox created some momentum and he and his team hasn't looked back since." Unquote.

Can you guys see some similiarities between where the Bengals were this year, to where Carolina was last year? I think it bodes well for football in Cincy!!


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And to follow up that little piece with this today from the Cincinnati Bengals official website:

Panthers: Watch out for Bengals

1-26-04, 9:15 p.m.


HOUSTON _ Two years ago, Muhsin Muhammad couldn’t believe his ears. Sure, the Carolina Panthers were bad. 1-15 bad. 15 losses in a row bad.

But. . .

“I don’t believe in any kind of superstition,” Muhammad said Monday as he and his Panthers rode the wheel of fortune here into Super Bowl Week. “Somebody said we needed to change our mascot because, ‘You got a black cat. That’s the reason all this bad stuff is happening.’ Our mascot is the same. What Coach (John) Fox did is change the mentality of the team.”

So the Bengals, in what is expected to be their new uniforms but same mascot, should be here next year, right?

After all, like the Panthers, the Bengals have a defensive-minded, high-energy, positive-thinking coach in Marvin Lewis who changed water into wine in his first season. Fox took the Panthers from that 1-15, to 7-9, to now, an overnight, improbable Super Bowl berth opposite the Patriots Sunday.

“They remind you,” Lewis said, “just how short the gap is.”

Lewis took the Bengals from 2-14 in 2002 to 8-8 in 2003, to who knows what in 2004? He even asked out loud last week, “Why not us?” Panthers safety Mike Minter thinks they can.

“People better watch out for Cincinnati next year,” Minter said. “Marvin Lewis is doing the same thing that John Fox did. He gave them direction. He gave them confidence. He gave them belief. He gave them toughness and that what it’s all about.”

Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons, the one man who has been with the 7-9 Panthers and the 8-8 Bengals, calls what Lewis is doing in Cincinnati “strikingly the same,” to what Fox has done in Charlotte.

“It’s almost a carbon copy,” said Simmons, the Panthers’ assistant special teams coach before coming to Cincinnati with Lewis. “There are three things they emphasized to their players when they came in. No. 1, they wanted smart football players. No. 2, they wanted them to be tough. No. 3, they wanted their players well conditioned. How many times have you heard Marvin say that we’re going to outwork every team in the league? Very similar.”

The 30-year-old Simmons provides an interesting link to this game. Not only is he fresh from the Panthers where he served as a disciple to NFL special teams guru Scott O’Brien, but uncle Jerry Simmons is Carolina’s strength and conditioning coach. When Darrin Simmons was still in college, he was able to mingle with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when he was the head coach of the Browns, and O’Brien and Jerry Simmons were on his staff helping Cleveland put together one of the NFL’s best special teams ever in 1994.

On Monday, Belichick called O’Brien one of the best coaches with whom he’s ever worked. Fox had similar ideas because one of the first things he did is make O’Brien his assistant head coach. When Darrin Simmons went to Cincinnati, Minter noticed. “The same formula,” Minter said. “Darrin understands how important (special teams) is to them, too.”

Similar, but almost complete opposites. The 7-9 Panthers put their hat on a defense ranked second in the NFL and won four of their last five games. The 8-8 Bengals rode their offense into the heart of the playoff race, and lost a chance to win the AFC North by losing three of their last four. Defenses win championships, but Darrin Simmons can see the Bengals on the same track.

“Coach Fox used that last part of the season as a springboard to this season,” Simmons said. “He really emphasized that in the last game (a 10-6 win at New Orleans to prevent the Saints from going to the playoffs). We went in there and had nothing to lose.

“(The Bengals) played a much tougher schedule than they did down the stretch and we were playing more games under pressure because we still had a chance to go to the playoffs. Last year (the Panthers) lost eight in a row, and that took us out of it a little.”

Listening to Fox this week is like listening to an echo of Lewis. “The facilities are second to none. We have a fantastic stadium. The city of Charlotte is a very easy place to recruit players,” Fox said. “So, the only thing that was missing was winning.

“Whether it was the decision making, I really can’t speak to that,” Fox said. “I felt that if we put good people together who could make good decisions, both in personnel and coaching, that we could get it turned. I found a very willing group of players who had experienced 15 straight losses. They were willing to try anything. . .You can go from the outhouse to the penthouse in a hurry. You don’t see many repeat champions. There is opportunity in this league every year.”

There are those who may say it makes more sense for the Panthers to get here now than the Bengals making it next year in Jacksonville because Carolina has such a solid defense while the Bengals are re-tooling coming off a season they finished 25th in the NFL.

“All that matters is how you play. You can’t talk about adding players, because all that matters is how you play,” Lewis said. “They’ve done a nice job and they’ve been able to have some continuity on special team and some spots on offense.” What they have in common may be the Bengals’ biggest asset heading into ’04. Losing.

“There isn’t anything we haven’t seen on a field or been through,” Minter said. “You had to work and you had to come through some troubled times. I believe that is when you build character. We went through it, and the core guys that went through that are strong guys today.”

But the biggest thing the Panthers talk about what Fox changed isn’t offense or defense or Xs and Os. Listen closely, and linebacker Dan Morgan could be a Bengal talking about Lewis.

“He’s not quiet. He’s in the locker room every morning and we hear him every morning, talk to him every morning, you know he’s there,” Morgan said. “He’s the type of coach you love to play for. He’s real involved with all of the guys, knows everyone’s name in the locker room. A lot of the coaches don’t know a lot of the players’ names. We love playing for him. He’s been an inspirational coach and a coach you can count on week in and week out.”

Minter, a second-round draft pick in 1997, has lived to tell about the bad times. Like Willie Anderson, Rich Braham, Brian Simmons. . .

“(Fox) came in and set a standard,” Minter said. “Before he came here, we did not have a standard that we wanted to play by and live by for the Carolina Panthers. When he came here, he set that standard. He said that he wanted smart, tough, more better conditioned football players than anybody in the league.”

Sound familiar?

Okay guys...after this next draft/free agent market aquisitions happen, combined with all the factors Marvin brings, as this article stated, who too cannot wait until the first snap of 2004!?!


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