Carolina Panthers' Monday Morning Optimist- 12/13/2010

A picture speaks 1,000 words and those stands are screaming 1 million (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Good morning Panther faithful and welcome to the Monday Morning Optimist. Another week, another loss... that's kind of the modus operandi for the Carolina Panthers in closing out this terrible 2010 season.

The number thirty-one should be a number that haunts the dreams of Panthers' fans this season. Between the mediocre play of cornerback Richard Marshall the Panthers have now lost four games with their opponent scoring 31 points (New York, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Atlanta). 

Sunday's game looked much like the rest of the year. Mediocre defense, beyond mediocre offense for much of the game and ultimately too little too late. The Panthers managed to have less than 50 yards total offense in the first half only to roar back with over 200 in the second. It was confusing to say the least, and in the end the total yardage was almost comical: 76 yards passing, 212 yards rushing... just like old times.

Time for some cheers and jeers as we hurtle towards the end of this season. So join me... after the jump

It seems that some of the players have reached their breaking point. After the game Steve Smith apparently took offense that Clausen apologized to Jon Beason for his poor play when he should have apologized to the rest of the offense. 

"I’m the last guy to tell anybody to be apologizing, but if you’re going to apologize, you know, you should apologize to the people in the huddle with you. But he has a lot to learn. He ain’t at Notre Dame anymore, that’s for sure." 

I love Steve Smith, I really do... but it's times like this that he needs to shut up. Honestly, such actions do nothing to serve the Carolina Panthers football team and if he continues he will become a distraction. Obviously Jimmy Clausen is not playing well, and by apologizing to Jon Beason he's acknowledging that he could play better. Despite that he's still a rookie and it's not like Steve Smith is doing much to help the Panthers either. Even with the offensive line playing badly and the QB not helping him Smith has dropped countless passes this year. So, at some point I think Smitty needs to realize he's in a glass house too.

This iteration of the Carolina Panthers are a bad team, it's as simple as that.

 

Will they be good in the future? I have no doubt.

Could they be better with the exact same roster provided there were different coaches? I think so.

 

Regardless though they're just a bad team, any team who is entering week 14 at 1-13 is a bad team. There are numerous problems on both side of the ball and that's not going to change until the season is over. I'm never one to embrace apathy, but perhaps it's time some of the Carolina Panthers realize what this season is- a futile effort. Play hard on Sunday's sure, but it's not worth burning bridges and damaging relationships over one terrible season. This team is young and likely to be together for a long time.

Before we get to the individual rankings there was a comment in the post-game open thread from South Tunnel that perfectly summed up what is occurring with the Panthers: 

 

What's really scary is that we are worse than even the numbers show

Teams are not scared of us, so once they get a decent lead, they are keeping the ball on the ground and not opening up their playbooks. If ATL game planned for us like they did say, New Orleans, then they’d likely annihilate us.

This says it to a T. In other games like Oakland over Denver the Raiders continued to jack up the score and pour on the yards because in the end Denver still had a somewhat intimidating offense that could come back. This isn't the case with Carolina because teams almost go into 'preservation mode' not willing to do anything that could potentially lead to any unnecessary injury. They know that the Panthers can't score, so with a comfortable lead they'll grind clock even with a full quarter to go; it's a sad state of affairs that leads to situations like yesterday where the Falcons weren't so much running up the score, as rubbing it in and humiliating the Panthers however possible with their general demeanor after the play was over.

My only hope is that the next head coach the Panthers get isn't so genteel when it comes to respecting his opponent. John Fox was never one to drive a point home, maybe a new coach will.

In the end we can get mad, hold or breathes, stamp our feet and get mad or we can laugh our way though the last part of this season. Right now it stings, sure... but I look forward when in 5 years and multiple playoff births (and hopefully more) we can look back on 2010 with fondness and chuckle about this terrible year. 

 

 

Positive

 

Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson- Extremely Optimistic: I've lumped them together today as they become the de-facto 'Double Trouble' while DeAngelo Williams is on IR. Roughly four weeks ago I said in this article that if Mike Goodson continues to perform well then it's going to be a very curious situation to see if the Panthers spend the millions needed to keep Williams. At that time numerous people cautioned me about getting too far ahead of myself (and rightfully so) however now I think the discussion needs to be had. Since Mike Goodson was relied on in Tampa he's added 495 all purpose yards and 3 touchdowns. It's going to be very curious to see if the Panthers decide they can afford to both keep Goodson on the bench, and shell out the millions required to keep DeAngelo Williams.

 

Charles Johnson and Everette Brown- Extremely Optimsitic: Again, I've decided to look at another pairing. The young defensive ends for the Carolina Panthers are proving to be very effective. I think some people missed it, but the Atlanta Falcons were very scared of Brown in particular who was double teamed on numerous plays on Sunday. It speaks volumes to what the NFL as a whole thinks of him that a division rival would commit two OL to him. Johnson now has 8.5 sacks as a starter, and Brown has 3.5 in extremely limited time. Everette Brown's ability in limited time seems to mirror Johnson in year's past and that is a very good thing considering that despite meciocre DTs Johnson is on pace for a double digit sack season.

 

Jason Baker- Extremely Optimistic: Realistically he could be the Panthers only pro-bowler this year as he had another stunning day punting. The Todd Sauerbrun days of Pro-Bowl punters are here again!

 

Captain Munnerlyn- Extremely Optimistic: Keeps making a play to become a starter next year. I still don't feel that Munnerlyn plays on the ball well enough to be a starting CB, but he closes on his man very well and has developed into a player who looks like a threat on punt returns.

 

Jon Beason- Somewhat Optimistic: Honestly, I was on the fence about this one. Beason's game seemed to echo the Panthers as a whole; extremely lackluster in the first half, but impressive in the second. Regardless though he played well finishing with 8 tackles, 2 for a loss and 2 PDef.. and in the end that's enough to get a slight nod.

 

Pessimistic

 

Pass Protection- Extremely Pessimistic: Granted, some of this does lie on Jimmy Clausen either not audibling out of clear blitz packages, or not having the awareness to beat the rush but regardless 5 sacks allowed is terrible. Much of this falls on the pass protection. Notice that I didn't say "offensive line" though because they were stout in run blocking... a curious day to be sure.

 

Jimmy Clausen- Extremely Pessimistic: While there are myriad problems all over this team Clausen isn't  doing himself any favors and he knows it: "I think I’m just not being as consistent as I want to be. I’m missing throws here and there – throws I can make [...] And that’s just the way it’s going right now." I have no doubt Jimmy Clausen will get better in time, but there might not be enough time as the Carolina Panthers' fanbase goes into full blown 'Luck watch' to see if the Stanford quarterback will enter the NFL draft.

 

Richard Marshall- Extremely Pessimistic: Same old, same old. Marshall's tackles are high because he gets beat a lot. I don't think there is any way he returns next season.

 

In the end there were more positives than negatives, it's just that the positives were only slight and the negatives were huge. There was also a sea of 'meh' out there on Sunday with a lot of guys looking neither good, nor terrible.

 

Overall Outlook

One winnable game left from where I sit, next week vs. Arizona. Thanks to Detroit and Buffalo however we appear to be in the driving seat in owning the #1 overall pick. But, winning against Arizona could throw a wrench in that as currently the tiebreaker is thus:

- Carolina: 121-85

- Cincinnati: 120-86

So, with Carolina playing better teams than Cincinnati (just) overall they would get the #1 overall pick. However, this can change drastically in the next couple of weeks so if you don't like the idea of cheering for the Panthers to lose then be sure to cheer loud against Atlanta and Pittsburgh and for Cincinnati to win.

Next week we play Arizona who won a gutsy game today. Much like the Panthers they're a team in turmoil at the QB position, but they are finding ways to win games where we can't.

 

5% optimistic about the game vs. Arizona.... 90% optimistic about the #1 overall pick

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