The presumption is that Wade Phillips days in Dallas are numbered. Consequently the fans and media have begun Coach Watch 2010 (it is more fun than watching the games). On many people’s list are the usual suspects: hot coordinators, Gruden, Cowher, and Lombardi’s ghost via a ouija board.
Amongst the myriad of names is the current head coach of the Carolina Panthers, John Fox. Eric Quankenbush of CatCrave.com has agreed to answer a few questions regarding Coach Fox. Thank you Eric for taking the time to give us a bit of insight.
1. Is Coach Fox on the hot seat in Carolina? When is the last year of his contract up?
"I don’t know that I’d term Fox as being in the hot seat. As a lame duck head coach, and one who almost certainly won’t be offered an extension to remain with the Carolina Panthers, it’s difficult to label Fox as “in the hot seat.” In terms of auditioning for another head coaching job, I suppose you might loosely say he is in the hot seat to get the team to perform as well as possible in his last year as head coach of the Panthers, but his future in Carolina does not hinge on success or lack thereof."
2. How is Coach Fox’s time and timeout management? Does he frivilously challenge plays, does he call timeouts to save five yards but it later haunts him?
"Overall I would say that when Fox uses a challenge against an official’s call, 85 percent of the time, I would agree with throwing the challenge flag. Of course there are times where a call is so close to be overturned, that as spectators and upon review, we realize the previous play should not have been challenged. I do believe Fox makes a good case for using challenges wisely and most sparingly.As for clock management, I would say Fox is slightly below average in managing the game clock. There are numerous times I can recount where there have been timeouts remaining and they haven’t been used (sometimes it’s player error), and a loss or penalty has been the result. Other times time outs have been needlessly wasted, which usually impacts the team negatively in the long run."
3. How involved is he with the defensive calls and game planning? Ya’ll run a version of the Tampa 2 defense. Would he be able to transition to the a version of the 3-4, or like Mike Tomlin, defer to a defensive coordinator?
"I would say that until this year, Fox has been fairly well-involved with the defensive play calling. However this season it seems more like Carolina is actually utilizing a Ron Meeks defensive style more than a John Fox style. In his eight or nine years with the Panthers, Fox has been very controlling over the defensive play calling; so much that I would in fact be surprised if he would defer defensive play calling to a defensive coordinator on a new team. I believe the main reason Meeks has been allowed to run his style of defense, is because it’s one which Fox isn’t as familiar with as a 4-3 defense. Which will probably answer your other question on if Fox can run a 3-4 defensive set. I suppose he could, but I don’t think he’ll want to. He’s a 4-3 style of defensive coach. If that means deferring defensive playcalling to a coordinator who is versed in the 3-4 defense, then I suppose that would be different, but will he allow another coordinator full control of either side of the ball? I would venture to say I doubt it."
4. Fox has had some up and down seasons. Have there ever been any issues of the players quitting or not playing hard?
"To date, I can’t really recall ever seeing or hearing of a team quitting on Fox. Maybe certain individuals are not performing or have not performed to their full potential at times, to date Fox has never coachedd worse than a 7-9 record. I believe that a major factor of this season’s downfall has been the lack of veteran playmakers and veteran leadership. There are a lot of rookies and three – four year starters who are still finding their ways. Even with a record of 1-6, this team has still not thrown in the towel."
5. Is Fox a disciplinarian coach? How physical are training camps and practices?
"I would say Fox is not quite a disciplinarian style of coach, but he’s also not one who lets the team run itself. He’s very active with players during camps and practices, and he expects everyone to put in an honest day’s work. Some coaches run their training camps like a resort, while others like an army base. Fox is somewhere between those two extremes. Training camps are mostly like the rest in the NFL: two-a-days for the most part. For the Panthers, since the extreme heat and humidity in central SC is mostly unbearable, training camp practices usually take place in the late morning and right around dusk."
Coach Fox will seemingly be available, but he doesn’t appear to be a perfect fit in Dallas (scheme and disciplinary attitude). Unfortunately the Cowboys have dug themselves into an unenviable position where the players are overrated and overpaid, and management usurps the authority of the head coach. The question has been asked, “Who exactly would want to coach in Dallas?”