For many months, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has not communicated to the team’s fans at all, except apparently through the occasional random phone call placed to a fan who wrote a letter of complaint and e-mailed it to the Panthers’ website.
That has now changed. Richardson has written a letter that has been sent to all permanent-seat license owners. (UPDATE: And, on Wednesday, coach John Fox said he had no idea what a reporter was talking about when asked about the letter. Fox never saw it before it went out -- another sign of the disconnect between owner and coach).
Although this certainly isn’t a substitute for actually answering questions about the team, it’s a good first step for Richardson. I thought the letter was too vague in parts but quite well done in others.
Here, I have put the contents of Richardson’s letter in my blog and have offered my comments on it in parentheses. Again, Richardson’s letter is restated in full here, but everything in parentheses and italics is what I’m thinking as I’m reading it. I’m not trying to be snarky here, just truthful.
So below you'll find a copy of Richardson's letter to PSL holders. If you’d prefer to read it without my commentary -- and I certainly understand some folks would rather do that -- click on the “Inside the Panthers” blog.
From Jerry Richardson to PSL holders:
"I know how difficult the season has been for you. As the person ultimately responsible for putting a team on the field, I take full responsibility for our shortfalls (Nicely done – no excuses, just taking the blame). It is agonizing that we have not performed at the level we had planned for and expected (agonizing is a strong word, but Richardson hates losing enough I believe that it’s true).
"When the season began, we believed there was every opportunity for success. (Really? Every opportunity? Oh, c’mon now). Many of the players were returning from a team that had finished last year very strong (and many more weren’t, including Jake Delhomme, Julius Peppers, Chris Harris, Brad Hoover and so on). The motivation for this approach was both performance-based and a commitment to the future. Obviously we have fallen short (by only a couple of thousand miles), but our faith and commitment are still the same.
"Going forward, our plan of attack is to build through the draft while retaining our core players (good to restate this). We have one of the youngest teams in the League, and a number of those younger players have shown genuine promise in this otherwise disappointing season (true). We won't give up on them. We also have a solid nucleus of veterans that we will seek to keep intact.
"I want all of you to know that we plan to look at every aspect of our organization (this is the only place where Richardson hints that he’ll have a new coach in 2011). What we do in the future will entirely be geared toward putting the best possible team on the field. I am committed to fielding a winning team, and I'm willing to invest the resources necessary to make it happen (this needed to be said, as many fans believe Richardson is doing this year on the cheap).
"Allow me to raise another personal issue. Much has been made of my reluctance to address the play of the team in the media. Throughout the history of the franchise, I have rarely done in-season interviews (this is true, but it’s also true that Richardson used to do offseason interviews with some regularity, and that hasn’t happened for a long time, to the detriment of many, including, of course, those of us like me who are in the media business).
"It's just not my style. In my opinion, comments from ownership during the season are a distraction, and I do not want my comments to interfere in any way with the performance on the field (but at 1-11, how could it get worse? And you answer questions from individual fans frequently. But, I digress).
"This year is further complicated with the uncertainty regarding Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Richardson plays a huge role for the owners in this CBA and is considered a "hard-line" owner). Let me be clear: A successful CBA is critical in sustaining the competitive balance of the NFL. We're all in this together, and what is good for football is good for the continued success of each and every team. It's important for us to reach an agreement that benefits the fans, players, and teams (and, of course, its owners). I want the players paid fairly, and I want us to play winning and exciting football (My contention is still that there will be a lockout but ultimately won’t be any regular-season games missed in 2011, but I’ve been wrong before).
"I understand that in a season like this, words can sound hollow (a nice admission here), but, as PSL Owners, you have my commitment to provide you a team that will make you proud (well-done here as well – and it sure better be true). With three NFC championship game appearances, we have come close. I can assure you we will be aggressive in getting there again (no Super-Bowl-in-10-year prediction this time from Richardson -- smart).
"Thank you for your patience and support in a very challenging time."