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I Know What It's Like To Be 65 And A Former Sportswriter

Back in 1986, my career took me to High Point, NC, and for the next 14 years I would remain a resident of the Tar Heel state. During that time, the Carolina Panthers (and the Charlotte Hornets, for that matter) came into existence, launching a tug of war for my pro football soul.

A lifelong fan of what was then the Washington Redskins, the newbie in town was hard to ignore. The stadium was only an hour down the road, the area was flooded with Panther merchandise, and they were decent out of the gate, going 7-9 in that first season playing down at Clemson.

When they finished the new stadium in Charlotte (I was at the very first game, an exhibition contest with San Francisco) they were even better, going 12-4, getting good at just the time the Redskins were getting worse.

To say the least, I was torn.

Turns out in looking at today’s news, I didn’t really have to pick one or the other, because it sure is looking like the Washington Football team is becoming the Washington Panthers.

First it was head coach Ron Rivera, who then brought along some players and coaches from Carolina. Today, there are reports he’s chosen former Panthers' GM Marty Hurney as the team’s new general manager, and one of the first things he’ll have to do is decide what to do with the quarterback position.

Anyone want to take a guess where Cam Newton ends up in the offseason?

I don’t like where this is going, not because Rivera, Hurney and company aren’t talented people. It’s because they seem to be patching up a franchise that could end up with rebuild after rebuild over the next few years instead of just biting the bullet, blowing everything up and bringing in a team of people capable for being here for a long time.

Rivera and quarterback Alex Smith’s health issues are well documented. Now you’re adding Hurney, who is 65 years old to the mix, and if you end up getting Newton, there’s another individual with more years in the rearview mirror than the windshield.

Hurney is a former sportswriter from back in the 80s who used that background to transition into public relations, then administration in the NFL. He’s had some excellent years, but from a guy who was also a sportswriter in the 80s and will also turn 65 this year, I can see one big issue.

It’s not the being a former sportswriter, by the way. I see that as an asset, as you learn to communicate both verbally and in writing at a young age.

It’s the being 65.  

Having spent a lot of time in the world of sales, I probably once every other month see an opportunity and think “I’d like to get back in the game again.” But that idea is quickly quashed by my wife, who reminds me that 20 years ago I was up until 2 AM working on stuff, flying all over the country and getting little sleep.

“You don’t want to go through all that again now, do you?” she’d ask, and she’d be right. The spirit would be willing, but the flesh wouldn’t want to keep up. I think that’s what happened when Joe Gibbs came back the second time; his mind had the same drive and commitment he had when he was in his 40s, but the rest of him wasn’t as willing to sleep on a cot in the office and stay up all night like he did in the original glory days.

I’m not saying Hurney wouldn’t be good, but you don’t outrun father time. Plus it creates a situation that reminds me of what’s going on with the Virginia Tech football coaching staff. Rivera is surrounding himself with people he knows, people he’s comfortable with, people he considers safe. Which sometimes can work.

But playing it safe in the NFL can often lead you to an 8-8 or 9-7 record at best. Look at the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. They had a good QB in Alex Smith, going 11-5, 12-4 and 10-6 from 2105-2017. But instead of playing it safe, they traded him to give a chance to a young guy named Patrick Mahomes.

Which I believe worked out pretty well, didn’t it?

Safe means if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if that’s your goal, it beats the heck out of going 3-13. But if your goal is to be great and win a Super Bowl,  the biggest enemy of great is being satisfied with good. Good enough often is what keeps you from being great.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of liked “great” during the Super Bowl years. If I was happy with just plain ol’ vanilla good, I’d be a Cleveland Browns fan.

So I don’t know about this one. I’d prefer a 40-something whiz kid who can rebuild the roster, have the potential of staying here the next 15 years and hiring the next coach should Rivera’s health issues return. I’d also like to see a good young QB with a good young offensive coordinator like you had with Kirk Cousins and Sean McVay.

I’d also like to see enough stability so that the same players are here long enough for a couple of them to become the face of the team and I can buy another jersey.

Maybe it will. But with this hiring, it doesn’t seem like the direction the team is going.



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