Stanford QB’s decision leaves Panthers un-Lucky

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - There’s been suggestions over the years the Carolina Panthers can never catch a break.

Now they’re out of Luck, too.

The lone bright spot amid Carolina’s NFL-worst 2-14 season was getting the No. 1 overall draft pick and the chance to take potential franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. But three days after a masterful performance in the Orange Bowl, Luck squashed the Panthers‘ dreams on Thursday in a two-paragraph statement in which he announced he’s staying in school.

“I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012,” the redshirt sophomore said.

Luck didn’t only forego possibly $50 million in guaranteed money, he caused a major jolt in Carolina’s offseason as the franchise is also busy trying to find a replacement for coach John Fox.

Luck fever had been gripping the area for weeks. A day after the Panthers‘ 31-10 loss to Atlanta to close their awful season, fans tuned in Monday night to watch Luck throw for 287 yards and four touchdowns _ one more than Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen managed in 10 starts _ in Stanford’s 40-12 win over Virginia Tech.

A day later during a rambling news conference in which he also took a hard stand against the players in labor negotiations, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson indicated they had no plans to trade the No. 1 pick.

“I think it would be somewhat unusual for us to trade down in this particular case,” Richardson said.

Now the Panthers may be rethinking their position. Luck’s decision also is a big deal for Clausen, who went 1-9 as a starter with an NFL-worst 58.4 passer rating.

“Somewhere right now my boy Jimmy Clausen is doin the jersey shore fist pump,” Panthers safety Gerald Alexander wrote on Twitter.

The Panthers, who have made the playoffs only four times in their 16-year history and have never posted consecutive winning seasons, had hoped to get what many considered one of the top QB prospects of the past decade.

Now they’ll face big decisions. Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers declared for the draft on Wednesday and might move into the top spot on draft boards. Carolina may also try to trade down for extra picks to help fill numerous holes.

The Panthers are eyeing NFL defensive coordinators as they seek to replace Fox, who was let go after nine seasons. San Diego’s Ron Rivera, Perry Fewell of the New York Giants, San Francisco’s Greg Manusky and Rob Ryan of Cleveland have been identified as candidates.

Ryan got a strong recommendation from his brother, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, on Thursday.

“I know he’s going to get opportunities, but to say that he’s specifically interested in Carolina _ my brother would be interested in any job,” Rex Ryan said. “If there’s one in Alaska, he’d be interested in that. That’s just like me. If I had the opportunity to be a head coach, I would’ve walked there.”

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