Do the Panthers have a Plan?
In all honesty, the Carolina Panthers were not on my radar at all this past weekend….until I saw the video clip of a free agent tryout camp going on in pregame to identify a kicker from within their roster. Yep, I couldn’t believe it either. What is this, an intermural league at Temple? Carolina’s kicker injured himself in warmups and chaos set in- no plan obviously for this one.
It made me think, how come this was never discussed, planned for, and a plan implemented before now? Every team has disaster plans at key positions. Are we just operating by the seat of our pants? At minimum, it was bad optics and junior varsity in style. I just expected more than the “gong show” of anyone who had ever kicked in their prior football life’s taking a turn on the field before an NFL game.
I have been a big fan of Panther Head Coach Matt Rhule’s since his days of doing more with less at Temple and Baylor before stepping up to the big leagues, but this made me wonder, have they used this same decision-making process to solve its riddle at the games most important position, Quarterback? Lets recap.
One of Rhule’s first financial commitments was to sign Saints free agent QB Teddy Bridgewater to a 3 year- $63M contract making the Panthers Bridgewater’s 4th NFL team. That lasted exactly one season and Carolina had to swallow what was left on his 2021 contact (the Panthers are still paying his salary) in order to trade him to Denver for a cup of coffee. They had acquired Sam Darnold from the Jets and soon after committed to his 5th year option of fully guaranteed money to be their answer for the future. Darnold proceeded to continue his inconsistent ways before fracturing his shoulder 5 weeks ago and being inactive since. Even though Darnold was plagued by many dropped balls his performance never did level out.
PJ Walker started one game in Darnolds absence, a win I might add. Then a whole new lane was picked and the Panthers decided to sign, former franchise ICON QB Cam Newton, who had not been on a roster since final cuts were made in New England. In his second week, he was named the starter but has since been relegated to rotational duty with Walker.
So- if your counting that’s 0-4 in QB evaluations, not counting the temporary flirtation with disgruntled Texan QB Deshaun Watson just before the trade deadline and oh yeah; Rhule replaced an on offensive coordinator in there somewhere as well. My palms have been turned up and my eyes are rolling. In the meantime, their offensive line has struggled in all areas, their best player, RB Christian McCaffrey, who is on the books for the balance of his 4 year $64M contract he signed in April 2020 before Rhule ever coached a down in Carolina. This year, it’s been ankle and hamstring injuries that cost the Panther playmaker most of the 2021 season.
I applauded this team for its aggressive nature by which they upgraded depth in the secondary prior to the trade deadline after losing first round pick corner, JC Horn to injury. For the most part, their defense has been the one saving grace in this up and down season (they started 3-0) but after losing last week to a Falcon team who has had their hands tied from making any moves to improve a roster that got the last staff fired, except through the 2021 college draft, because of a prior regime’s mismanagement of the salary cap, I feel the Panthers have fallen to the basement of the NFC South resurrection race. They lost to a team that has not even been able to “attempt” to get better yet. The Falcons rebuild has not even started at no fault to their current decision makers.
Well, like my tie rack in my closet, what goes around comes around as we now wait for Sam Darnold to get healthy and play the last two games for Carolina before we ask again, What’s the plan?