Of the Carolina Panthers various problems, theres only one that really concerns me.
And no, its not the name of the next offensive coordinator.
What worries me most is that the Panthers are about $15 million over the 2013 projected salary cap, which means they have self-admitted themselves into salary-cap jail once again. That means new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman is going to have to whittle some good players from the roster to make the cap before he starts signing anybody and players, after all, are what make the world go round in sports.
Coaches? Not so much. The sky is not falling right now in Pantherland, although the Twitterverse would have you believe it is.
The Panthers deserve some of the blame for this. By keeping Gettleman and Ron Rivera away from the media for days on end, the team has allowed the resulting news vacuum to be filled by hand-wringing.
But let me ask you this: Would you trade all of Carolinas problems right now for Washingtons?
If you are in your right mind, you would not. The Redskins made the playoffs. Their staff is mostly intact. But their franchise quarterback just had serious knee surgery. That one injury to Robert Griffin III is far more significant than all of the turmoil the Panthers are finding themselves in right now.
You can have the best offensive coordinator in the universe, calling the absolute perfect play, and if the left tackle misses the block the quarterback still gets sacked. Alternately, an OC can make an awful call and the quarterback can still freelance his way into a touchdown.
Anyone who has ever coached any sport at any level knows this inherently talent on the field is what ultimately wins games. You coach Tom Brady and you look great. You coach Brady Quinn and you do not (unless hes playing the Panthers, but thats a different story).
How many of you could have named even one of the three Panthers assistant coaches who were fired by Ron Rivera earlier this week before they were fired?
Theres a reason for that. NFL assistant coaches dont have nearly the importance as assistants do in, say, college basketball where one superb recruiter or Xs and Os defensive genius can upgrade a team significantly.
Im not saying Rob Chudzinski suddenly going to Cleveland Thursday night to become the head coach wasnt a blow to the Panthers. It was.
But its a blow that can be much more easily absorbed than a serious injury to one of the Panthers best players would be. Ron Rivera will find another good offensive coordinator who can call plays. There is no shortage of candidates quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, for one, would do just fine.
Whats going to hurt the Panthers more than staff turnover, though, is their salary-cap woes.
They will soon have to cut cornerback Chris Gamble the franchises all-time interception leader. No way around that. Gamble has a $10.9 million salary cap figure next year. A few other major personnel changes are on the horizon, too, (Jon Beason? DeAngelo Williams?) as Gettleman tries to find an exit strategy for all the money that former GM Marty Hurney spent.
Thats where the biggest current problem lies. On the field, not in the coaches locker room.