Ricky Proehl’s surprising resignation as the Panthers wide receiver coach has opened another void to fill on the Panthers coaching staff. After a disappointing season by the Panthers wideouts, it seems a particularly important vacancy for a staff searching for ways to recreate the success of 2015.
Proehl was beloved by Panther fans, who viewed him as the “receiver whisperer.” He spent the last four years as the position coach and has been often believed by fans the coaching marvel that can help rookies and undrafted free agents grow into an effective unit. It’s unsurprising that fans have some strong opinions on who should be Proehl’s successor.
Reality TV Cancelled Before the Pilot: Steve Smith
Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way—Steve Smith could never be this guy. Not only is the relationship with the Panthers coaching staff and front office still strained, he doesn’t have the temperament to coach up the kids. He admitted as a player he didn’t see it as his role to help tutor younger players and it’s hard, despite the recent commercials of touting his commitment to conflict resolution, to believe he wouldn’t either punch a rookie in the face or run out onto the field mid-play and catch a pass while wearing a headset and holding a Surface tablet.
A Favorite Among Fans: Randy Moss
He lives in Charlotte and has extended his services to any Panther receiver interested in his mentorship. The Panthers didn’t bite when they needed a receiver and Moss implied he was still willing to put on the pads, so it’s hard to believe they would be open to injecting him to such an influential role as a positional coach. He knows the position and arguably played it better than anyone. Again, it comes to down to temperament. Moss wasn’t ever known as a selfless player when in the league. He was a diva, one who I loved as much as anyone, but a diva nonetheless. Moss has been surprisingly good as a football commentator and has helped coach players individually and the high-school team his son currently plays for in Charlotte. It would be a fun hire for sure, but I don’t think this is a real option.
A Seasoned Addition: Jerry Sullivan
BBR’s Bill Voth noted that the current assistant wide receivers coach, Cameron Turner, is probably “too green” to be promoted to the position. He raised the name Jerry Sullivan who has been the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach since 2012. Doug Marone, the Jaguars’ new Head Coach, notified Sullivan that they would be going a different way. Sullivan is anything but green. He’s been coaching since 1973 and has been an NFL coach since 1992. Obviously, he can coach. He’s helped guys like Allen Robinson, Marquise Lee, and Allen Hurns become great fantasy players at the very least. Sullivan commented after his firing that he still believed he “had something to contribute,” but the right fit would be critical in him making that commitment.
A Forgotten, but Feel-Good Fit: Muhsin Muhammad
While everyone is salivating over Randy Moss, there is another guy who lives in Charlotte who could offer much of what Proehl did, experience, hard work, and some black and blue roots—Muhsin Muhammad. (Full-credit to PeekaBooJones from Youtube) Moose played eleven seasons with the Panthers, played on the 2003 Super Bowl team, and was a 1st Team All-Pro in 2004 when he caught 93 passes for 1405 yds and 16 touchdowns. In 2005, he left for the Bears in free agency, but returned to finish his career in Carolina in 2008. Moose played alongside Proehl in Carolina and finished his career with more catches, yards, and touchdowns than the former Panthers wide receiver coach. It’s hard to believe Proehl wouldn’t support Carolina bringing in Moose and there are some links between Muhammad and Rivera from Chicago that could help to make it happen. Rivera’s final year coaching in Chicago was when Muhammad arrived in Chi-Town as a free agent. It’s not likely this little time together, especially since Rivera was a linebacker coach, forged a strong enough relationship to suggest that it will happen, but they are acquainted with each other.
Where Moose proves to be a particularly interesting coaching prospect is that the guys he would be coaching resemble him as he came out of college. He may not have been as big as a Kelvin Benjamin or Devin Funchess, but he was a big receiver who many believed needed some polishing as he entered the pros. He excelled as a #2 receiver in Carolina because he worked hard, blocked like a madman, and became a consummate pro. We’ve all seen both Benjamin and Funchess play soft against the jam and be less than effective blockers. Muhammad was known as the best run-blocking wideout ever. He was tough, physical, and had a good head on his shoulders. Heck, he even restrained from punching Kerry Collins in the face—something we know Steve Smith could have never done.
Who knows who the Panthers will pick to be the next wide receivers coach, but be certain us fans will have a lot to say about it until we find out. Until then, why not relish in this feel-good moment with a tribute video of this Panther great!
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.