"I understand it's not something that's going to be instant, like instant grits. It's more like collard greens. You've got to let it sit and wait. But at the same time it's going to be a fun process. I know that." -Cam Newton
Most of you remember these words spoken by our new franchise QB before the season started. As a good leader he chose to set high goals, yet keep the current situation in perspective. As fans, I believe some of us have started to lose our perspective on this year's season. Without perspective one tends to lose objectivity, and may miss the many details and nuances of the present situation. My goal is not to pump sunshine by saying that we are so close, but rather to give perspective on how much better things have become, and that time is required in order for us to become a better team overall.
This is not instant grits. You do not go from 2-14 to a 10-6 playoff contender overnight. Personally, I hate instant grits. The taste and texture are subpar when compared to those that have simmered more slowly. I love the "collard greens" analogy Cam made. If you are not familiar with the process of cooking greens, then I would like to take time to enlighten you to the process:
Step 1: First you have to take time to select the right greens from your grocery store. You definitely don't want any wilted or wormy greens (i.e.-Jimmy Clausen). Obviously we have selected "good greens" in our #1 overall draft pick, Cam Newton.
Step 2: Greens tend to come very dirty and sandy. You have to take time to wash and scrub them very thoroughly before cooking them. Heck, I've even known some older folks to actually use the washing machine to wash their greens. The point is, each game that our young team goes through helps to remove the impurities in them. Each mistake is a cleansing process in itself to eventually help make you mistake free over time.
Step 3: Seasoning. Collard greens taste a lot better when you add in some form of smoked meat, usually hamhocks or neckbones. These have to be cooked themselves separate of the greens. Our seasonings will be the guys we add in to the team that makes us that much better. Hopefully guys like Greg Olsen, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, Brandon Hogan, a veteran DT, and better special teams players will be our seasoning.
Step 4: Lastly, you have to put it all together and allow everything to cook and simmer together. Time makes the flavors better. Collard greens actually STINK while you are cooking them, but if you remain patient, the end result is well worth the wait.
I wish to leave you with visual proof of just how far we have come. Though it is a painful reminder, the score differentials below should show you just how bad we were last year. Those who state that we had a lot of close losses last year are flat out incorrect.
Carolina Panthers 2010 Season
Week 1: September 12 at New York Giants L 31–18 Record: 0-1
Week 2: September 19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 20–7 Record: 0-2
Week 3: September 26 Cincinnati Bengals L 20–7 Record: 0–3
Week 4: October 3 New Orleans Saints L 16–14 Record: 0-4
Week 5: October 10 Chicago Bears L 23–6 Record: 0-5
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: October 24 San Francisco 49ers W 23–20 Record: 1-5
Week 8: October 31 at St. Louis Rams L 20–10 Record: 1–6
Week 9: November 7 New Orleans Saints L 34–3 Record: 1–7
Week 10: November 14 at Tampa Buccaneers L 31–16 Record: 1–8
Week 11: November 21 Baltimore Ravens L 37–13 Record: 1–9
Week 12: November 28 at Cleveland Browns L 24–23 Record: 1–10
Week 13: December 5 at Seattle Seahawks L 31–14 Record: 1–11
Week 14: December 12 Atlanta Falcons L 31–10 Record: 1–12
Week 15: December 19 Arizona Cardinals W 19–12 Record: 2–12
Week 16: December 23 at Pittsburgh Steelers L 27–3 Record: 2–13
Week 17: January 2 at Atlanta Falcons L 31–10 Record: 2–14
Carolina Panthers 2011 Season
Week 1: September 11 at Arizona Cardinals L 21–28 Record: 0–1
Week 2: September 18 Green Bay Packers L 23–30 Record: 0–2
Week 3: September 25 Jacksonville Jaguars W 16–10 Record: 1–2
Week 4: October 2 at Chicago Bears L 29–34 Record: 1–3
Week 5: October 9 New Orleans Saints L 27–30 Record: 1–4
Week 6: October 16 at Atlanta Falcons L 17–31 Record: 1–5
Week 7: October 23 Washington Redskins W 33–20 Record: 2–5
Week 8: October 30 Minnesota Vikings L 21–24 Record: 2–6
Week 9: Bye
So yes, while the close losses this year are painful, do not lose sight of just how far we have come from last year. Don't lose sight of the fact that this is an extensive process, and I believe that by the end of this process, we will truly be pleased with our "collard greens"- a championship contending team.