In the November 11, 2010 sports section of The News & Observer, writer Caulton Tudor opined what everyone who follows the NFL already knows… the Carolina Panthers are terrible. Titled “Panthers are awful, and no fun to watch: Even worse, there’s not much hope for the future,” Tudor whines about how depressing it is to watch the 1-7 team which appears to be struggling mightily to win. He is especially critical of the Panthers’ quarterbacks, stating that they lack any hint of promise or improvement… and that they are unable to get the ball with an accurate throw to the team’s most exciting player Steve Smith. Mr. Tudor ranks another 1-7 team, the Dallas Cowboys, as being better than Carolina. Even winless Buffalo Bills are placed in a more enviable position than the lackluster Panthers.
Now, there is not much that I disagree with in the Tudor evaluation, including his prediction that Coach John Fox will not be able to retain his position as head coach. Although I will bet dollars to doughnuts that Tudor is equally accurate in his assessment that John Fox will not be at the team’s helm next season, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It seems that whenever a team goes into a tailspin, the solution all too often is to release the coach. With the Carolina Panthers, it is the owners who are responsible for the dire situation in which they find themselves. First they were too quick to rid themselves of the veteran quarterback (Jake Delhomme) whose play was admittedly streaky at times, with no quarterback of substance to step in immediately and take over the position. Matt Moore and Jim Clausen may very well develop into first rate quarterbacks, but that usually requires experience to back up talent. Secondly, and more importantly, the owners of the Carolina Panthers had the opportunity to pick up, for a song, one of the best and most exciting quarterbacks in the league… Michael Vick. But they didn’t.
After Vick was released from incarceration after serving a two year sentence for his role in a dog-fighting venture, he was available to play for all of the teams in the league. Carolina could have made an offer to Mr. Vick, which I am sure he would have taken. As it was, no team showed any interest in having Michael Vick on their team. Carolina definitely did not. Philadelphia Eagles was the only team willing to give Vick any consideration, and this only after its star quarterback McNabb pleaded with the Eagles to give Vick a chance. So, it was only with reluctance that Michael Vick landed on an NFL team as a backup QB. This is hard to comprehend when one considers the talents of Vick… he has a rifle for an arm, the southpaw is accurate with his throws, he runs like a deer, and he has the ability to escape from a collapsing pocket and turn a big loss into a big gain. Talk about an exciting tandem of Vick and Steve Smith… makes your mouth water. Not only that, but Vick has been playing in the league for years, so he brought with him to Philadelphia on-the-field experience, as well a maturity that was honed in prison.
Panther owners passed on the opportunity to have Michael Vick quarterback the Carolina franchise, and now to make amends for their lack of foresight they will most likely sack their head coach, John Fox. Had the owners made the logical and intelligent decision to immediately pick up Vick the moment he was available, there is little doubt that the Panthers’ record would more likely than not be better than .500. There is no doubt that it would be better than it is currently. An attempt to obtain Vick was not a coaching decision, rather it was a ownership one, and because the ownership messed up by not at least trying to acquire Vick, it appears as though the Panthers, Coach Fox, Panther fans, and Sports commentator Caulton Tudor will suffer.
The reason the Panthers owners did not go after Vick is not a mystery. They were in cahoots with the other owners to blacklist Michael Vick. He was not supposed to be picked up by any NFL team, but the Philadelphia Eagles owner, it seems, would much rather have a chance at bringing home a championship trophy than engaging in a loosely knit cabal to put a premature end to a talented professional’s career. Not so, the Carolina Panthers owners (who needed a quality quarterback much more than Philadelphia which had Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Donovan McNabb at the time), and as a direct result, the Tar Heel state team is now suffering the consequences.
The media has kept quiet about the debacle with NFL teams not pursuing Michael Vick, especially those in need of a quality player in the game’s most important position. Mr. Tudor did not even mention the fact that Carolina passed on the opportunity to obtain Vick. And, of course, since Michael Vick landed with the Eagles, the media has consistently tried to stir up a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia... even after Vick’s spectacular play was interrupted by a rib cartilage injury. I did not buy into the media’s QB controversy hype for a minute because I knew that when Vick recovered that he would be playing… and he would be playing because the Eagles want to win more than they want to punish a man who has served his time with dignity.
As I have stated before, this same sort of blacklisting can be compared to legal events in the cash-strapped city of Durham. Another Michael, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, represented the finest prosecutor, in my opinion, that the state of North Carolina will ever have the fortune to have. He had nearly three decades of prosecutorial experience under his belt when the Duke Lacrosse case fell into his lap, and he had built a reputation of being a prosecutor who was fair and who had integrity. One thing that set Mr. Nifong apart from other prosecutors is the fact that he was independent in seeing that justice prevailed. Very much like Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett who defied England’s King Henry II and followed strong-held religious principles much to his detriment, District Attorney Nifong defied the wishes of the Powers-That-Be when he proceeded to prosecute the three Duke Lacrosse defendants based on statements made by an alleged sexual assault African American victim. When the defense attorneys for the Duke Lacrosse defendants filed a motion for prosecutorial discovery, Nifong’s office responded within 24 hours with approximately 1,500 pages of documents, plus CDs and DVDs. The media has never mentioned that Mr. Nifong has always maintained an open file policy when it came to sharing evidence with defense attorneys… doing so 25 years before it became mandated by law. Finally, Mr. Nifong demonstrated his dedication to the principle of acting as a “Minister of Justice” when, after later statements by the alleged accuser did not meet standard for rape, he immediately dropped those charges against the Lacrosse defendants.
The media, egged on the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants, flagrantly devoted its energies to destroy Mike Nifong. One outstanding example was the fabrication by MSNBC Legal Analyst Susan Filan that Mr. Nifong requested that his son attend his hearing. Using this false statement, she then lambasted Mr. Nifong for using his son, when she is the one, in fact, who was using Mr. Nifong’s son. Another example of media bias was the rigged Primary Poll sponsored by ABC-11 News in an attempt to establish a pitiful and diabolical motive for Mr. Nifong’s decision to prosecute the Duke boys. Another egregious act by all media was the misleading and false statements that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were exonerated, cleared, and determined to be not guilty… all based on Attorney General Roy Cooper’s April 11, 2007 “Innocent Promulgation.” Although the state persecuted Mr. Nifong, it was the media that crucified him, and turned the unwitting public against him.
In comparison of the cases of the two Michaels, the owners of the Carolina Panthers went along with the overriding consensus of the majority of other NFL owners… only at their detriment when giving up the golden opportunity to have on their roster one of the game’s most exciting and talented players. The people of Durham County, who did not rally behind their unjustly beleaguered district attorney, are the ones who suffer by not having as district attorney the man who epitomizes “equal justice for all.” Furthermore they lack the services of a prosecutor who has the courage to go it alone in truly fulfilling his role as a “Minister of Justice.” Whereas the people of North Carolina should be well aware of the blunder by the Carolina Panther owners, it may take some time before the people of Durham County realize theirs.