Simple question many possible answers. The Carolina Panthers are entering their mid-teens now, and boy have they been rebellious these last few years. Turns out however Big Daddy had a plan after all despite some chicken little claims of the sky falling. Got to admit last year was dark enough for the team to feel like it.
The team has been through several metamorphoses through the years. Dom Capers worked with Bill Polian and brought about an expansion team that was a mash of old wilily veterans, and a few wide eyed draftees that, along with their distant feline cousins the Jaguars, became the quickest and most successful expansion franchise by reaching the Division Championship game in their 2nd year. The team had a dominate defense and sustaining offense. Then they got old fast and Polian fled to white and blue pastures that had much more cap space and the first overall pick.
More after the jump….
Five years of futility followed, the price of seeking too much to fast the wrong way, along with the down fall of an unnamed franchise quarterback, had some thinking the Panthers would become a bottom feeder franchise…. After all they had shot through a Super Bowl winning coach in just a few painful years, and had not found their identity in those years.
John Fox stormed in and with Marty Hurney built a team the proper way. The organization saw some changes but a slow and steady pace. It was a pace that transformed the team into the “sexy” pick for a Super Bowl run nearly every year, and found the team reaching the big game along with a few playoff runs. The team and fans knew each year the product that was going to be on the field…. A strong defense and ball control offense. Some faces changed but very few, and never the philosophy, or for that matter the identity of the team. We had once again a dominate defense and sustaining offense
This was the identity that the Panthers had sought to regain for so long, and we held fast to it, yet without change comes stagnation. The team’s offensive identity became very Predictable Pee Wee power running style. That combined with the Big Cat’s intuition of dangerous seas ahead saw him settling in till the storm blew over. He refused to lock up veterans to long term deals that could be very costly when the new rule book came about. The Big Cat had learned from the hard lessons of the past.
To know who someone is the past is of the utmost importance. The same applies for teams, business, countries, no matter how many fresh starts the past always echoes loudly. However this year the team may have many of its core players, from the group that went to the 08 NFC Championship game, but so much has change so very quickly that the teams identity is influx. Thus begs the question, Who are these Panthers…
Every team eventualy reflects its coaches. Head Couch Ron “Rambo” Rivera was a hard nose defensive coordinator who used speed as much as power in his schemes. He added a friend in Sean McDermott, whose aggressive schemes will see linebackers and corners attacking often. They look to give the quarterback more to think about and less time to deal with it. The fast and athletic front seven of the defense will be unleashed this year, seeking to do away the bend but not break philosophy it had been centered in in years past.
The offense was the real catalyst behind the 2-14 record, no shocker there. It is in the offense that the team has seen the most change in personnel, philosophy, and identity. Rivera has the tools for a hammering running game that any former DC would love, and he brought in Robert Chudzinski to ensure there is balance while attacking all parts of the field. The push and pull of run verses pass is what opens up one part of the game for another, the less predictable the offense the greater chance of obtaining lasting and repeatable success.
The Big Cat allowed Marty McFly to do his thing in helping Chud bring in talent that would add to the passing game. Therefore a long forgotten tradition was reborn, the receiving TE. We have ourselves two shot callers in Shockey and Olsen that will demand respect enough to free up the running game and ease the pressure upon Smitty and a certain young Heismanan Tiger of the rare reddish brown champions breed.
In all seriousness the team has built itself a steady ship offensively. One that will be so for years to come no matter who is the captain should trouble arise and promise becomes disappointment. Cam Newton is an aspect that maydetermine greatly the answer of who these Panthers are for years to come. He brings with him the arm that can reach all parts of the field, x-factors that are unique to him, that is the combination of speed, strength and mobility, all of which will force defenses to change their approach in how they face the Panthers.
This Panther team is strange and new in many ways, most of all and sadly it is without John Kasay, A kicker and player that was almost always unheard from, but has some how obtained with the fans and players a respect and gravitas that is extraordinary. The new names and face are dizzying but no matter how bizarre and new the team seems it is still one born of an organization that seeks to have a dominate defense and sustaining offense
Young, stable and strong.... that is who and what these Panthers are. The foundation has been set and no matter how much damage they seemed to take during the storm they remained strong in who they are. It is easy to rebuild when the foundation and core remains. It is an obtainable goal to be a winning franchise when it has become a part of who they are. For these Panthers the future is bright.