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Saturday, May 14, 2011
Hitting the NFC South hot spots

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Time for a trip into the mailbag to see what's on the minds of readers across the NFC South.

Evan in Charlotte wrote to say he’s bothered by the fact what he thinks was the defining moment in the history of the Carolina Panthers was not on the list of choices on our Flash Point poll. He said it is was the 2003 regular-season opener when Jake Delhomme was inserted after Rodney Peete started slowly. Delhomme rallied the Panthers to victory against Jacksonville, and they rode that momentum all the way to the Super Bowl.

Pat Yasinskas: Excellent point. I was limited to four choices for that poll, and you make a strong case this one should have been included. Go ahead and vote “other’’ in that category if you agree with Evan and send me a mailbag note similar to what Evan did. I’ll be making the decision on the key moment in each franchise’s history, and it won’t necessarily be the one that wins the popular vote (that project is scheduled to run May 25). Evan’s note has opened my eyes and has me thinking that 2003 Jacksonville game has a chance to be my choice.


Martin in Aberdeen wrote to ask if the Bucs really should be interested in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha because they play a Cover 2 scheme and he excels in man coverage.

Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs don’t play the true Tampa 2 scheme as often as they used to. Raheem Morris has brought twists and turns to it to try to stay ahead of offenses. He’s an adaptable coach, and if you gave him one of the league’s best cornerbacks, I think he’d find ways to adjust to Asomugha’s strengths. By the way, John Clayton and I will be having a Hot Button debate Monday on the best landing spot for Asomugha. My side of the debate might be of particular interest to NFC South readers.


Gabe in Port Orange, Fla., wrote to say I made a nice (and accurate) call by not including Carolina’s Jerry Richardson on my ballot in our Power Rankings on the owners. Gabe said Richardson was one of the best owners in the sports world a few years ago but thinks his moves in recent years have been very questionable.

Pat Yasinskas: Agreed. There was a part of me that was very conflicted on this one. Richardson is the NFC South owner I know and respect the most. He’s a brilliant and fascinating man, and I can assure you he cares deeply about his fans and all the people who work for him. He even cares about the media members who cover the team. When my father died, Richardson was one of the first people to call me, and when I got this job he gathered all the local beat writers for a luncheon to celebrate. When another writer was going through a tough personal time, Richardson called me to ask what “we’’ could do to help him. This man is a very good human being. But the Panthers have struggled in recent years, and there’s no doubt some of Richardson’s moves have been questionable. He’s heavily involved in the NFL’s labor situation, and his hard-line stance is a reason why there hasn’t been anything close to a deal. We’ll have to see how some of that plays out, and we’ll have to see if some of Richardson’s moves somehow have a positive flip side. But, right now, I think it’s very fair to say Richardson is at a career crossroads. Time will tell if he can get back to a point where he's viewed as one of the league's best owners.


James in Shreveport wrote to thank me for not voting for New Orleans’ Tom Benson in the Power Rankings on owners. He said there are a lot of New Orleans fans who will never forgive Benson for trying to move the team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m well aware of those sentiments, and that’s why I didn’t vote for Benson. Those were some dicey times, and I think former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a big part of the reason why the team is in New Orleans. As for Benson, let’s at least be fair and acknowledge that once things got settled with the state of Louisiana, he has helped to put the Saints on very firm ground. They’re in better shape than ever, and their fan base is incredibly dedicated. I’m glad it all worked out because I couldn’t imagine New Orleans without the Saints.


David in Cedar Falls, Iowa, wrote to say he thinks the Flash Point for the Buccaneers came when the Glazer family bought the team. He points to the disastrous and comical reign of former owner Hugh Culverhouse and says it all stopped when the Glazers took over.

Pat Yasinskas: I agree totally, and I’m glad there is at least one fan out there who recognizes this. We’ve talked about this here before, and I can’t understand why Tampa Bay fans have so much venom for the Glazers. No, they might not be perfect, but they’re a million times better than Culverhouse and are better than a fair amount of owners currently in the league. They did bring a Super Bowl champion to Tampa, they built a stunning new One Buccaneer Place with their own money and, even though it came with taxpayer money and a lot of bickering, they helped get Raymond James Stadium built. I’ll consider the Glazers buying the franchise as a deciding moment when I roll out my NFC South Flash Points on May 25. But I’m going to have a tough time going with that one simply because -- fair or unfair -- so many fans seem to despise everything the Glazers do. I’m leaning toward going with something the Glazers did – hiring coach Tony Dungy in 1996.