Thursday, March 6, 2014

Firing Smith would be a mistake



Look, I am glad that Panther general manager Dave Gettleman is evaluating everyone on the roster closely. That is what he was hired to do and that is what he should do.

But Steve Smith getting outright released -- an option that is obviously on the table?! That doesn't make sense to me. It sounds like over-thinking it, aand gambling more than you should. (Smith, for his part, said very little of substance in an ESPN interview Thursday about the situation).

Gettleman's results have been solid -- and occasionally spectacular -- since he joined the Panthers before the 2013 season with the charge to remake the team. He has done so much well: Finding Mike Mitchell and Ted Ginn Jr. for bargain-basement prices in 2013. Extending coach Ron Rivera's contract. Drafting Star Lotulelei. Turning a terrible salary-cap situation into a manageable one. Gettleman has Carolina in position to have its first back-to-back winning seasons ever. His first Carolina team went 12-5 and made the playoffs.

But the receiving corps was a Panther weakness last season. In the San Francisco playoff game, the 49ers employed both of the best receivers playing in the game.

Smith, 34, is no longer a No.1 receiver in the NFL, and the Panthers should not ask him to be that. They need to find a new No.1 and let Smith be their No.2 -- in fact, they should have found the new No.1 guy already, but have misfired numerous times over the years trying to do so.

But firing Smith just doesn't make sense to me. He scored Carolina's only touchdown in the playoff loss. He had 64 catches for 745 yards and four TDs last year. His teammates voted his fourth-and-10 catch against Miami as the most important play of the 2013 season in a locker room poll I took. Absolutely he has lost a step and doesn't get the separation he used to -- Smith wouldn't argue with that -- but he still has the hands and he still has the craftiness. He can still play.

It makes sense, certainly, to ask him if he will restructure his contract to lessen the salary-cap hit. The Panthers and Smith should work out some sort of understanding.

But if Gettleman releases him, that will be a mistake. The GM doesn't have anyone waiting in the wings. He can't necessarily draft a WR at No.28 in the first round, either, because offensive tackle is just as pressing of a need. It is too much of a gamble to try and replace at least your top two and possibly your top three receivers in a single offseason (if Ted Ginn Jr. doesn't stay).

I am not saying this because Smith and I are close friends. We are longtime acquaintances and I respect him greatly for all he has done on the field and in the community, but we don't go to movies together. I am well aware of his faults.

I am basing this blog purely on the performance we saw from Smith in 2013. Quarterback Cam Newton looked either to Smith or tight end Greg Olsen first every time it was crunch time last season. No.89 still has some time left in the NFL, and it would be better spent in a Panther uniform.

33 comments:

Kevin M said...

Not letting Smitty go out on his own terms would be a disservice to Steve, his family, and the fans. I understand that it's a business and everyone should be evaluated- that is just how a good business is run.... But anything short of allowing Smitty to run out of the tunnel, spin the ball on the BoA field, and high five the fans the last time, would be nothing short of an embarassment for this franchise.

And after he does that on his own terms, the Panthers can start designing his statue.

Ritchie said...

Finally a sensible commentary on Smitty. Thank u!

Anonymous said...

I hope you send a copy of your blog/story to the Panthers Management. I would think they know this already but then again maybe they don't. I completely agree and also think there should be some sort of loyalty.

Anonymous said...

And by sensible he means you've got something brown on your nose. Athletes should not be put up on a pedestal ans statues should be extremely rare. For example, the player did something beyond the football field that improved the world just a little bit. It's fashionable for every millionaire sports star to have his charity that gives back to the community. I'm not going to argue the virtue of any man. I'll just say this. Some of you act as if Smith is the second coming of Jesus Christ. He's not.

Anonymous said...

He is still the best WR that the panthers have. How can they even consider getting rid of him?

bob patterson said...

Well maybe Smitty doesn't believe he's a number 2 ...that he is still a number 1. If so there is your problem

Anonymous said...

Scott:
Thank you for this post, You are the only reporter with any sense on the staff. Steve Smith can still play, if Gettleman releases him I hope Steve goes to the Saints. Comes back to Carlina and has 4 passing td's from Drew Brees. Panters are lucky to gl 9-7 next year, without Smith, Cam will look like a confused dog out ther and we could be 6-10 at best

Anonymous said...

I agree with the article. Smitty has earned the right to go out on his own terms. Gettleman would lose a ton of the good will he has built up if he unceremoniously runs Smitty out of town.

Anonymous said...

Bob...
Smitty has consistently said that he would like to move to the slot and have another WR be the No.1 WR. He's even been the proponent of trying to get multiple WRs to the panthers

Anonymous said...

Bob - what's wrong with Smitty thinking he's No. 1? Even thoug he knows he most likely isnt, I wouldn't want any WR that didn't feel that way and in turn, not playing that way.....

Anonymous said...

Steve still has something left in the tank but you don't pay a #2 WR $7 mil. That's his cap hit this season. I think Gman will restructure because even if you cut him, he'll count $4 mil in 'dead money' and the savings will only be $3 mil. However, Smitty has to realize that he must restructure at this point. If he doesn't, he's gone. Guys this is simply business. Hurney got us into this mess because of allegiances to players that under-performed. You simply don't pay a #2 receiver $7 mil. Period. If he's restructured or cut, they'll spend that money on LT Collins, resign Ginn and draft receivers with both 1st and 2nd round picks. You guys have to listen to what Gman is telling you when he says we are in cap prison. Look it up on Spotrac!

Neal said...

Steve Smith is the heart of the Panther Nation and the team, just like Sam Mills was when he was when he played. Letting him go would sends the wrong kind of message. Playing for the Panther's is more than just about playing for a team, you're play for family and when you dedicate yourself like Smitty has, we will take care of you.

Anonymous said...

Someone please explain to me one simple thing... How are the Panther's better off without Steve Smith. Who are you going to replace him with for the amount saved by cutting him? Name a receiver who will have a greater impact for Carolina next year at that price point. You can't because there isn't one. I know it's a business, but how can you discount his years and impact. He simply deserves better. I hope he stays, the guy would be a great mentor for whoever we get in the draft.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this is actually even a discussion right now. It would be an absolute disgrace to let Smitty go out like this. He is hands down the best player in our franchise history and is still a valuable part of our team, on and off the field. I hope Gettleman understands the uproar this would cause among our fans and that it's in his best interest to keep the most loyal member and leader of our team. Scott this is a great article and we appreciate you voicing your opinion on keeping Smitty here. I only hope that the powers that be see all of these comments, articles and fan support behind #89.

Anonymous said...

"Kevin M said...Not letting Smitty go out on his own terms would be a disservice to Steve, his family, and the fans."

Kevin M are you serious? Are you freaking serious? Let a player "go out on his own terms?" Do you think all employers should let their employees leave "on their own terms?"

As a business owner, I find your comment the height of stupidity. I love Steve Smith. And I hope they keep him, but come on! "let him leave on his own terms?" Insane.

Keith said...

Not only was he the only scorer (other than kicker) on the team in the playoff loss, but he was coming off an injury when he did so. Keep him for at least another year, and let him mentor the receiver that we will probably draft in the first round.

Anonymous said...

in denial smith is an overrated snarly punk well washed up as he gets closer to 40 who needs to be dumped like a stuffed garbage can

Anonymous said...

With Richardson's history of "doing the right thing" if I were Smith I would not expect to be playing for the Panthers next year (See cutting John Kasay). If Smith does get cut, I hope he plays next year somewhere next year and wins a Super Bowl then retires NOT a Panther. Smith is hands down the best player the Panthers have ever had, if every player played with the same drive that Smith plays with, we would be unstoppable.

Anonymous said...

Charlotteans,

This is a business and with any business, they let employees go everyday. Smith chose this profession and he know's the risks. Get over it!!

t said...

Totally agree with Kevin, could not have said it better.

Anonymous said...

Once the management, Steve and his agent talk; i have to believe that Steve would be willing to negotiate his cap hit in order to play 1-2 years (which is how long he publicly stated he wanted to play FOR THE PANTHERS).

Several year back, he stated that the team needed a #1 WR and fans freaked thinking he had lost heart; but he understands the wear and tear... Don't think Mr. Richardson and Cam don't have some say in Steve being with the team next season... and both understand what Steve has meant to the team.

I think it's just a matter of letting the fans understand that IF Steve Smith doesn't restructure or IF another team is truly willing to offer a high draft pick... it's a high paying business. And I think they should build a statue and let him retire (whenever) a Panther.

Mark S. said...

To Mr. Anonymous Business Owner replying to Kevin M. You sir are someone I would never want to work for because obviously you are someone who doesn't care about loyalty, dedication, and family because family is what Steve Smith has been to Panther fans. He has earned the opportunity to leave this organization on positive terms whether it's this year or two years from now. Good luck with your business.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Kevin. Hey, "business owner"... Get a clue. No one is saying that employees have the right to leave whenever they want to. This is a totally different situation, and unless your business is being an NFL owner, then no one cares how you run your company.

Anonymous said...

How can Steve Smith me your number two receiver when he's the best one that you have had since mushin mohammed left. Letting him go would be a drastic mistake and as a die hard panther fan I would be furious.

Farmboy said...

Please do not think about building a statue of Steve Smith #89 in front of BofA Stadium. This is the guy who smashed the face of his own teammate several years ago in a film room the week after a game along with other dishonorable things. He was lucky to not be fired then -- let alone now. Research the Observer news clips if you want the whole story. Sam Mills and his family are a class act. Keep the statues for those who deserve them. I played sports for many years and #89 is not what I would call a professional -- he just got paid like one.

Cyteria Knight said...

Thank you for thoughtful and intelligent commentary regarding the Steve Smith matter. Your comments were about the reality of the Panthers situation and Smitty's contributions to the team. Unless Gettleman and Coach Rivera know something that we don't know then even considering the idea that Steve is expendable is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

I would love for Smitty to retire as a Panther. I believe Smitty knows he will have to take a cut in $'s to do so.
Hopefully Gettleman & Smitty can work out a number they can both live with.

Anonymous said...

Bye Steve enjoyed your time!

Anonymous said...

As a native Charlottean and a fan of this franchise that BLEEDS black and blue, I can honestly say that there is only one thing that I am totally against and that is CONTINUING TO NOT HAVE A LOMBARDI TROPHY resting in a trophy case in BoA stadium!!

Now, I love #89 as all of us fans do and certainly would agree that he should be put in the Panthers Hall of Fame, however.... I am in full support of our current team leadership, even if those decisions are difficult to make and are not popular amongst our fan base. Piss poor GM decisions have put this team in the "mediocre" category for far too long and, at least for me after seeing what DG has been able to do so far, am ready to stand behind him, JR, and RR to do what needs to be done to put the Panthers into contention EVERY season. Winning the NFC South is great. Having a first round bye is great. Heck, even making an appearance in a Super Bowl is great. But not having a Lombardi Trophy in Charlotte ... Sucks.

We will miss you if you are truly done as a Panther Smitty, but as they say "it's not personal.., just business".

Archibald said...

I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1999. Being originally from Europe, I had no clue about American Football till 2001 when I moved to Charlotte and started following the Panthers to get my mind diverted. This little man Steve Smith was the only reason I continued following the game and became a Panther fan as he made me forget my pain while watching him. He was an inspiration. He gave his heart and soul to anything he did in the field. He is the only sportsman whose jersey I bought.

I had the privilege of meeting him in person a few days after he donated in charity after the Aurora movie theater massacre. (By the way, no other sportsman did). I just happened to tell him that he shares his birthday with my child. He immediately wrote a note to pass it on to her. Not many people will do that.

I don't have anything more to say about his game that you all don't know already. He is undoubtedly the best player that this team ever had. I never thought I will live to see this day so I maybe I am just venting and writing incoherent things. Just wanted to thank Steve for all the great memories as a fan. You will be severely and sincerely missed.

After today I don't think I will be able to support the Carolina Panthers anymore. This team has no heart or soul left. I never wish ill about anyone but seriously Dave Gettleman, you will rot in hell. And this is coming from someone who sees death from close quarters every single day.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure they asked him to restructure or retire, but I'm guessing he said no - pay me. He could only be a #1 receiver (and paid like one) on the Panthers. It's obvious they are blowing up the receiver position and will be bringing in free agents/rookies to rebuild.

Isaiah said...

Unless we are missing some facts about money, cap space, etc ... PLEASE DON"T RELEASE STEVE SMITH !!! He is better than Hakeem Nix. He'd be a great number two. Again, Dear DG unless we are just missing something about Steve's attitude or money .. why release a fan favorite and part of the heart & soul of team (especially if you plan on overpaying another WR?) You have to pay Steve $3 million and a $5 million hit, plus any quality receiver is at least $2 million = same $7 million you'd be paying without any re-structure (CAN ANYONE HELP ME MAKE SENSE OF THAT???)

Anonymous said...

I am just torn up about this. We won't get to see him talk trash and spin the ball after catching a 5-yard out anymore.