Panthers owner defends Fox, Hurney, promises active offseason

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said Wednesday he never considered firing coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, and is convinced the duo can put the struggling franchise back in the playoffs.

In a rare meeting with reporters, Richardson confirmed the two men will return next season, but suggested the team will make many personnel moves after consecutive non-winning seasons.

"John and Marty are prepared and they have a lot to do," Richardson said. "It's not going to be a ho-hum offseason I wouldn't think."

Richardson, who hadn't spoken publicly about the team since August, had declined to end speculation about Fox and Hurney's job security as the Panthers struggled to a 7-9 season.

But Richardson said he first informed the two men on Nov. 30, five days after Carolina's season-long losing streak reached five games with a 31-6 loss to New Orleans, that he planned to make no major moves.

"I said, 'Just to put your mind at ease, it seems grim now but the sky is not falling,"' Richardson said. "If you don't have problems and issues, you don't have a real job."

Richardson then had Fox and Hurney visit his vacation home earlier this month, and was convinced after two days of discussions that he agrees with their plan to turn things around.

"I asked them what they thought they wanted our football team to look like," Richardson said. "They told me and I said it's real important that we all agree. We agreed."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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