- Associated Press - Friday, January 7, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is unhappy with his team’s offensive play, most specifically at quarterback.

He thinks general manager Marty Hurney can solve those problems even if he’s focusing on hiring a defensive-minded head coach.

Richardson told The Associated Press on Friday night he still believes Hurney is the right man to run the football operations after consecutive seasons out of the playoffs culminating with an NFL-worst 2-14 record this season.

Hurney, a former sports writer who moved up the ranks with Carolina after once handling salary-cap issues and contract negotiations, has faced criticism as Richardson decided to only let coach John Fox go after this season.


“We have the worst record, but we don’t have the worst players,” Richardson said, defending Hurney. “That’s my opinion and the opinion of a number of other people that I have a high regard for.”

Hurney and team president Danny Morrison are in the process of interviewing four known candidates to replace John Fox. They’re all defensive coordinators: Perry Fewell of the New York Giants, San Diego’s Ron Rivera, San Francisco’s Greg Manusky and Rob Ryan of Cleveland.

“We’re putting a very high priority on the offense and that can be accomplished without having an offensive head coach,” Richardson said by phone. “We’re also putting a very high priority on trying to get the absolute best person, whether it’s a coordinator or individual, to coach the quarterbacks.”

It’s quarterback play that Richardson is focused on. After Jake Delhomme was let go following an 18-interception season in 2009, Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen weren’t any better this season as the Panthers finished with the league’s worst offense.

Clausen, a rookie, went 1-9 as a starter, failed to have a 200-yard passing game or throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. His 58.4 passer rating was the worst in the league.

“It appears that the play of our quarterbacks has deteriorated over the last few years,” Richardson said.

But the Panthers saw their chances of getting Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick squashed when he announced he was staying in school.

Luck’s father said it had nothing to do with the Panthers holding the top pick.

Luck’s decision Thursday came two days after the 74-year-old Richardson held a rambling news conference in which he took a hard stand against the players in the labor negotiations and was sometimes combative with reporters.

Richardson also stopped in mid-sentence to ask the name of a female reporter and had a running conversation with another woman television anchor in which he asked her to move to the front row.

“I didn’t intend to offend anybody,” Richardson said. “If I did I apologize.”