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Richardson: "We're going forward"


CHARLOTTE - Since the last time Carolina Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson took part in a press conference, nearly nine years ago, the NFL franchise he founded has enjoyed plenty of highs but also endured plenty of lows.

Tuesday, coming off a season dominated by low moments, Richardson told reporters gathered at Bank of America Stadium that he believes good times await around the corner.

"We're going forward. We're moving forward. It's a new year," Richardson said. "I have the highest level of confidence that a person can have that this pain we've been through is eventually going to pay off in very good results for us."

It has been a painful period for the Panthers, who just finished a 2-14 season and parted ways with head coach John Fox following nine seasons.

The Panthers, however, do have the No. 1 pick in the draft as a result of the season's struggles, and now they have the opportunity to mold their top pick and their young but talented roster with a new coaching staff.

Richardson said it would be "somewhat unusual" for the Panthers to trade their No. 1 pick, and he expressed supreme confidence in finding a fitting coach in a search that is underway.

"I'm as enthusiastic as I've ever been almost since the first time we got the team," Richardson said, flanked by general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison. "I'm extraordinarily excited about the young players that we have on the team, and we know a lot more now than we did 15 years ago.

"I think people understand that this is a unique and wonderful place to spend Sunday afternoon. I'm more enthusiastic than ever."

Richardson said the organization decided not to renew the contracts of Fox and his staff in part because of the up-and-down nature of things since Richardson's last press conference, which came when Fox was named head coach on Jan. 26, 2002.

Fox directed the Panthers to the Super Bowl in his second season and to the playoffs on two other occasions, but Carolina finished above .500 in just those three seasons.

"If we look at John Fox's tenure, we did an outstanding job in a number of ways, but the facts are in nine years, we had three winning seasons, and we failed to have winning seasons back-to-back," Richardson said. "Back-to-back winning seasons are important. I guess you could conclude that that had an awful lot to do with it."

The Panthers released or did not re-sign numerous veteran players last offseason and opened the 2010 season with the youngest roster in the NFL. That resulted in some serious growing pains, but in some growth as well.

"I view that as a positive," Richardson said. "Young players, the best way that they're going to get better is to play. If you have veteran players here, we have a history with coaching staffs that are going to play the veteran players.

"In my simple brain, the best way I could assure that the young players were going to get to play was that they would have to play. I think they did very well."

Richardson said he could have made a coaching change before the 2010 season, but doing so would have resulted in having to in effect pay two coaching staffs in 2010.

"We are running a business here," said Richardson, pointing out that the coaches were paid $11,441,000 in 2010, the fifth-highest total in the NFL. "It's interesting that some of you writing articles about us not spending enough have written in the past about us spending too much."

In light of the lower payroll created by offseason player moves and the decision to wait on a coaching change, some have questioned Richardson's willingness to spend in order to win going forward.

The suggestion makes Richardson recoil.

"Not spending to make the game experience and the roster the best it can be would be foreign to me," said the 74-year-old owner, who played tight end for the 1959 NFL champion Baltimore Colts. "I can't speak for the 31 other owners, but I can speak for the only one that's a former player. I think as a former player, I think perhaps I may want to win just a little bit more than some others."

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