Panthers brace for more departures

The HeraldJanuary 19, 2009 

CHARLOTTE -- As stunning as the news of defensive end Julius Peppers forcing his way out of Charlotte was, he's apparently not the only one on the way out.

According to multiple team and league sources, the Panthers have made little move to retain their coaching staff, and significant changes could be coming soon.

The first domino to fall is apparently quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike McCoy, who is reportedly taking a job in Denver. However, many more of his colleagues are looking around, after the team failed to fill them with security for the future.

In past years, the Panthers have moved quickly to keep their own. Last offseason, they denied Cincinnati permission to interview secondary coach Tim Lewis for a coordinator job. But this year, they've apparently told all of their assistants they could look elsewhere. Lewis' name was immediately linked to the defensive coordinator opening in Green Bay (along with former Panthers head coach Dom Capers).

Multiple sources told The Herald the team has offered nothing more than one-year extensions to all current deals, which expire this offseason.

General manager Marty Hurney didn't return calls seeking comment, and a team spokesman said Saturday they wouldn't comment on McCoy's reported departure until the Broncos announced his hiring.

Aside from the lack of security they're offering, there's a chance some firings could be afoot after a disastrous late-season defensive collapse.

The name that has garnered the most attention -- at least from an angry fanbase -- is defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac.

His job has been under scrutiny the last two years. The Herald reported in 2007 that coach John Fox had effectively taken over Trgovac's defense meetings early in the season (specifically after a Week 4 loss to Tampa Bay), though Fox denied at the time he was undercutting Trgovac's authority.

"No. Mike knows. He's the defensive coordinator," Fox said then. "He calls them on game day."

Several members of the organization (both players and from outside the locker room) confirmed that Fox did a similar thing this year, though it was closer to midseason when he began to exert his influence again.

Considering the defense's second-half collapse (against some of the league's top offenses), Trgovac's future has to be far from secure.

If Lewis is looking around, he might not be the coordinator-in-waiting many thought he was when he came to Charlotte two seasons ago.

It's also worth monitoring what happens in Kansas City with coach Herm Edwards. He and Fox were college teammates at San Diego State, and if Edwards is fired by new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, he could find a soft landing spot in Charlotte while he waits for another head coaching opportunity.

• WAITING FOR A QB?: For all the small moves they made last week, the one the Panthers didn't make might be the signal.

They signed nine players last week to future contracts, with a 10th deal coming soon.

Included in that group were three outsiders -- linebacker Jeremy Leman, Canadian long snapper Patrick MacDonald and former Redskins fullback Nehemiah Broughton. They also completed deals with six of last year's practice-squad players, and the agent for a seventh (offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz) said a deal should be finalized soon.

The one left out was quarterback Brett Basanez, who wondered last week whether he'd be back.

"If the opportunity's there, I'd love to stay and be a part," Basanez said. "Right now I'm waiting to see what they say."

The Panthers might still sign Basanez, which would likely set their depth chart at the position going into training camp -- since starter Jake Delhomme, backup Josh McCown and third-stringer Matt Moore are all under contract through 2009.

But if they don't make a move on Basanez, it would point to bringing in another quarterback, either through free agency or the draft.

The Panthers haven't wavered in their support of Delhomme, but with the other two also in contract years, it might help to add another to the mix and see who sticks.

• HOW RUMORS GET STARTED: It was at once odd and surprising to hear Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper's name associated with the head coaching vacancy of the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Skipper's name was floated as a possibility to Canadian outlets last week before the Argos offered the job to Tennessee assistant Bart Andrus. Skipper laughed and referred to it as "just a rumor."

"I ain't going to Canada," he said.

But all you have to do is look at the connections to see where it probably came from.

The Argonauts' director of player personnel is Greg Mohns. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mohns held the same job for the San Francisco Demons of the XFL, when the head coach just happened to be Skipper.

• EXTRA POINT: Strong safety Chris Harris will undergo surgery this week to repair a torn labrum suffered in last week's game against Arizona. Harris first mentioned the injury while appearing on WFNZ's "Morning Sports Page," saying he'd be back in three to four months. While he expressed confidence he would have, there's no certainty he'd have been available today if the Panthers had won, which would have left Carolina with Nate Salley and rookie Charles Godfrey patrolling the middle.

daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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