For those who want a shorter version, here's an excerpt from my chat today from noon to 1 p.m. with readers at CharlotteObserver.com. (You can read the full transcript by clicking here).
Kevin: What is your gut feeling on (Julius) Peppers leaving (the Panthers)? Is it really because of (coach John) Fox?
Scott Fowler: I don’t think it’s because of Fox. I don’t think if Fox got fired tomorrow – and he won’t – that Peppers would somehow say “Oh, OK, thanks! I’m good now. Sign me up.” I think Peppers thinks he’s somewhat misused, and yes, that’s partly Fox’s fault, but I honestly think there’s some wanderlust in this, too. I think the guy has lived his whole life in NC and wants to go somewhere else. He’s always been socially awkward, and that’s part of the reason this split seems awkward, too. And it’s a split, for sure -- no way this marriage can be saved.
Rachel: Scott, what are your thoughts on the (Michael) Phelps controversy? SF: I saw a lot of Phelps in Beijing and, like everyone, was awfully impressed with him in and out of the pool. So this was a shocker to me. I just didn’t think Phelps would do something that dumb. I think he disappointed thousands of people with that photo of him holding the pot pipe, and given his previous DUI, I didn’t think he would make such an obvious mistake again. As for ultimate fallout: I don’t think it’s going to ruin his swim career or anything. He’ll be back in London in 2012, winning another bushel of gold medals.
Dave: Do you think the Panthers will address the quarterback position this off season via the draft or free agency or wait another year when there will be a deeper pool?
SF: My guess is they will address it. (Jake) Delhomme is 34 and in the last year of his contract (although I think they will eventually re-sign him). Moore and McCown – that’s kinda scary should No.17 get hurt. I think they’ll pick someone up in April in the draft rather than via free agency – a mid-round pick would be my guess (after D-line gaping hole is addressed).
Jaybird: Give us an early-call on Duke-Carolina next week….
SF: Given that it’s in Durham, I think Duke wins by 4.
Roger: (Will Bobby) Lutz at UNCC next year or fired?
SF: I think he’ll be back. UNCC would have to write a big check to get rid of him and the school needs to concentrate financially on football right now.
Jeff: Do you think Fox’s conservative playcalling and his play not to lose philsophy is part of the reason some players feel they can’t reach their potential and do you think we really have a chance at a Super Bowl with his coaching style?
SF: I think Fox is a Top 10 NFL coach. But I don’t think he’s a top 5 NFL coach due to this paralyzing conservatism that sometimes sets in with him. The Panthers went for it on fourth down fewer times (8) than any other team in NFL this season. That’s not a category you want to lead.
Ryan: ESPN has been going a series on Mt. Rushmores, the four greatest sports figures from each state. They did North Carolina the other day. Which four faces would you put on North Carolina’s Mt. Rushmore?
SF: Without thinking about it much, I’d go Michael Jordan, Coach K, Dean Smith and Dale Earnhardt, which may well be what ESPN did, according to someone else here who saw it. Hard to leave off Richard Petty, David Thompson and a bunch of others.
Cliff: Do you think Charlotte gets an MLB team in the near future?
SF: I not only don’t think Charlotte will get a team in the near future, I don’t think Charlotte will get an MLB team in my lifetime.