The Panthers entered their Week Six bye with an 0-5 record and little hope of putting together the turnaround it will take to get into an NFC playoff race that is short on elite teams. In another sign of the trouble brewing in Carolina, head coach John Fox is taking subtle shots at the front office for personnel shortcomings.
In public comments Fox has alluded to having a limited budget in the offseason, using it as a shield for criticism. When he was asked this week whether he regretted the decision not to pursue a veteran free-agent receiver, he passed the buck, saying, "Those aren't my decisions."
"We've got what we've got," he said. "It's where we are. We'll coach who we've got and try to get them better to hopefully get the results we want."
While Fox attempts to put space between himself and the team's failings, there are some who say the head coach deserves blame for the way things are going. It's true that the Panthers went with a youth movement this offseason and expectations were not very high for them, but the coaching staff hasn't done a very good job of preparing the young players, according to some league observers.
It's no surprise that Fox is clearly in the mode of preserving his reputation as a capable leader. He's in the final year of his contract and is expected to be one of the more sought-after head-coaching candidates if he fails to get an extension and hits the open market, as expected.
He's already been rumored as a potential contender for jobs in Oakland and Cleveland if Tom Cable and Eric Mangini are not retained. He has connections within the Giants' organization after serving as defensive coordinator there from 1997-2001, and rumors have linked him to the franchise as Tom Coughlin sits on the hot seat.
Before the rumor mill hits its peak later in the year, Fox will try to lead the Panthers to a respectable finish. He hasn't announced whether Jimmy Clausen or Matt Moore will start at quarterback in Week Seven but left the door open for Moore to supplant the rookie earlier this week.
The Panthers' schedule lightens up a bit with the 49ers and Rams up next before a difficult three-game stretch against the Saints, Buccaneers and Ravens.