The Carolina Panthers currently sit at 6-7 with a quarterback that turns 30 in May. It’s also likely that a good portion of their players are going to retire this offseason. The future for this team is blurry and its tough to see just what direction this is squad is going to go.
Ron Rivera was hired following an abysmal 2-14 season in 2010 with John Fox at head coach and Jimmy Clausen as starting quarterback. With the help of a shiny number one draft pick in Cam Newton, Rivera immediately turned the team around to a 6-10 record, then 8-8 the following season.
Fast forward eight years later, and Carolina fans are calling for Rivera’s job. The Panthers have now lost five games in a row, including one to their division rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and another to the Cleveland Browns, who finished 0-16 just a season ago.
Despite a shift along the landscape of the NFL (in a more offensive, aggressive direction), along with numerous missed opportunities over the course of the past few years, Rivera has remained true to his conservative coaching style.
For that, I don’t blame him, it has worked in the past.
Just take 2015, for example. The Panthers finished 17-2 (including the playoffs), making it all the way to the Super Bowl. Despite not having a true number one receiver the offense was able to finish first in total offense. The defense was able to hold their own as always and produced a solid season as well.
Since then things just haven’t been the same. Teams have adjusted to Carolin’s no-nonsense style of play. Cam Newton has had lingering shoulder issues. Players have underperformed after getting large contract extensions. Nothing is going right for the Panthers.
There’s no way you can pin this on one particular player or coach.
The NFL is an unpredictable league, and the Panthers have an aging roster. It looks as if Julius Peppers, Mike Adams, Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis, and Ryan Kalil may retire this offseason. If that’s the case, the Panthers lose five key starters from both sides of the ball.
There may be replacements on the rosters in guys like Ian Thomas, Rashaan Gaulden and Efe Obada who all have loads of potential. However, there is no telling if they will be able to fill the void left by their predecessors.
So, it just might be time for a new direction. That may unfortunately involve a rebuild. The Carolina Panthers were bought less than a year ago by billionaire David Tepper. It’s a given that he has ideas for his team, and that may involve new personnel. Jason La Canfora even reported that Tepper was considering making significant changes to the staff after the Panthers had lost three straight games, before dropping their next two games to the Buccaneers and Browns.
A rebuild is never promising. Just look at the forever rebuilding Buffalo Bills. They made the playoffs last season with Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman. This year, things aren’t as bright, despite Josh Allen having little to nothing to work with.
However, it may be a risk worth taking. The aforementioned aging roster is bound to drop off in the next couple of years. Cam Newton’s contract expires in 2020 and assuming he gets another massive extension (which is well deserved), the Panthers’ money situation isn’t going to get any better either.
As of right now, the Carolina Panthers hold the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are also scheduled to have around $25 million in cap room after this season. That isn’t favorable especially when other wild-card caliber NFC teams have millions more to spend. Detroit sit at $40 million, Packers have $45 million and Seahawks have $65 million.
It is very possible, especially if Cam Newton doesn’t return to full form after he has had numerous shoulder issues, that the Panthers won’t be good again for a very long time.
I know that I sound like a downer right now. However, we knew that this year would be one of Carolina’s last chances to win a Super Bowl. That’s something that Panthers fans should have known. It just seems that the message has been relayed in a more disappointing manner than what Ron Rivera and Co. would want.