USA Today's sport section, The Huddle, has released an article asking five questions about our Carolina Panthers, and I've decided tonight is better than any time to post my first FanPost, and this article is better than any other to talk about. "Whatchu Say" will be a recurring 'edition' of my own: taking other people's articles on the Panthers and questioning and/or praising them. USA Today's writer Bob Velin begins the recurring segment with the usual blah-blah: we're in lock-out and news is as bare as the Chicago Bears' pass protection, so we will ask five questions about every team! It sounds great, and this article on the Panthers was a great read, so I implore everyone to take a look! With that said, let's question these questions...
Editor's note: These questions were taken from this USA Today article. Follow the link to see their writer's answers. - JD
Question #1: Will rookie QB Cam Newton be the starter this season?
It is a very fair question, one that can be made about Locker/Tennessee and Ponder/Minnesota. Our NCAAF champion has been questioned for his ability to play at the NFL level, his ability to understand play-calling at the NFL level, and his ability to grasp the mystical 900-page playbook of our new Offensive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski. You would think that of any quarterback taken in the draft, Cam Newton would be best able to take control of an NFL game. His deterrents: the media (constantly biting at his heels), the change of coaching staff (constantly praising his heels, though they are unsure what those heels can do), and his own doubts (and what would those be?).
Let's forget college quarterbacks. Let's forget Cam Newton. Pretend, with the #1 pick, the Carolina Panthers chose Von Miller (i love that kid), and fancy the remaining draft with whoever you want. Carolina still has Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, and Tony Syke (PIKE! DANG! I SWORE I WOULD REMEMBER HIS NAME!). The Lockout has began, new coaches come in, and the playbook has been issued just in time. Clausen has had all this time to absorb Chudzinski's playbook, so I wonder how any other veteran would fare with this new playbook. There are those who say that quarterbacks have played in Chudzinski's system (Volek, D. Anderson), but not in THIS system. Not with the Carolina Panthers.
I really don't see how any veteran can come in and know more than what Cam Newton knows. He's known for months of D. Williams, J-Stew, Steve Smith. He knows who he is playing with. If a veteran comes after the CBA is agreed upon, only THEN will that quarterback know who is team mates are. Meanwhile, in my hypothetical universe, Jimmy Clausen has been holding practices with team players during the Lockout.
But no. It is Number One Pick (oh, sure, and the other QBs) who are practicing. Newton was Rivera's pick, Newton will be Rivera's starter.
(Extra comments: Ignore ridiculous statements such as: "Newton... will be handed the starting job because the position is one of the weakest areas for the NFL's worst team (Carolina was 2-14 last season).
Question for Question #1: Why start the season without one of your best players on the field, considering improvisation is his greatest asset?
Question #2: Is new head coach Ron Rivera the right man for the job?
It says several teams passed on him before the Panthers picked him out of the unemployment line, but I remember this hiring as one of the firsts of the year... even before Fischer of the Titans was handed his last pay-check (I could, and am most likely wrong about that).
There isn't much to be said. Whether you like the hiring or not, whether you like what he's said since being hired... this IS the new head coach. There is no "what if's" in sports, it's Win or Go Home (to steal the NBA motto). Cam Newton is the franchise's future, Ron Rivera is the guide of the franchise's future, and Lee Ziemba is the guardian of the franchise's future.
(Extra Comments: This section of the article does give good historical perspective on the hiring, and is a good read for those who needs to sharpen their memory.)
Question for Question #2: Can Ron Rivera make 2-14 into 14-2?
Question #3: Where will DE Charles Johnson and WR Steve Smith be playing in 2011?
Like Q#2, I feel this is a badly-phrased question. WHO can answer this right now? Please, if there is anyone in the comments that can answer this, then tell me. (I'll go ahead and give a chuckle for those who answer "The Panthers", if only because it's the easy answer!)
Like the previous questions, I will leave the answering to you guys, only I will phrase this in better terms.
(Extra comments: Additional information about these players in the text.)
Question instead of Question #3: Who can step up in place of Charles Johnson and Steve Smith, if they are lost to other teams?
Question #4: How can the Panthers improve their offense?
See? Did you catch it? They ask the first question about the NEW quarterback, and ask the second about the NEW head coach (and within that, the new coaching staff). Respect to the writer, of course, because he does list players who could potentially be traded/lost, but... replace "the Panthers" with any team, including the Green Bay Packers. As a fourth question, it's too generic and too easy. Hopefully, I can challenge the wonderful CSR readers with something better!
(Extra comments: It might only be my opinion, but of all free agents, Deangelo Williams is most important. If he can stay healthy, then he's ready for a blow-out season. He needs Cam Newton, he needs that type of quarterback, and if he stays... he, and we, could be in for a treat these upcoming seasons.)
Question to Question #4: It is what it is, until it isn't what it is because it is something that isn't it anymore. Right?
Question #5: Can the Panthers escape the NFC South cellar?
Now THIS is a great question. The camera lens, which up to now has focused on the Panthers only, is taken back and we see the full picture: that we are trapped in a vicious conference. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints could both go to the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay wants it so bad, and Josh Freeman will do everything he needs to make sure they get it. The Philadelphia Eagles (Ohhhh wait, wrong conference...)
The beauty of this question isn't "Can the Panthers beat the NFC South teams", but "Can they escape the most difficult conference"... which means, whatever the Panthers have to do, the birds, bucs, and saints must also. At this point, I am not ready to say that the Panthers can do whatever they can do, but they are certainly on a solid path toward it. He-Who-Has-Been-Named-Too-Often could potentially pan out to be a new trend of quarterbacks, and our defense MIGHT, JUST MIGHT be the best in the entire conference. Think about that: plug the holes on offense and this ship could sail into the postseason. My God, are these cliche statements not getting to you: escaping the NFC South cellar is possible! This season? Well, we don't know because of the stink-bombs going off in the courts, but this Lockout might have shrouded this team into complete mystery. What will happen? Are the Panthers capable of taking up space in that Cellar? Who holds the most space? Again, what will happen?
I am very optimistic. I am not optimistic that we will win games, and I am not optimistic that any other team (in the entire league) will win games. There are no games to be played. But I am optimistic that we hold some very, VERY talented players. I have never spoken in team names, such as saying "Can the Boston Celtics (my favorite NBA team) push through and win another ring?". No, I say, "Can these players come together and beat whoever dares comes in their path?"
At this point, it's about the players. The represent the Panthers, and hopefully, they will do so respectfully and honorably. But a different question must be asked...
(Extra comments: Let's get to the damned question!)
Question for Question #5: Can our players take on those of the Atlanta, those of Tampa Bay, and those of New Orleans? Can they carry the Panthers to the top of the NFC South?
That was fun. Maybe not for you readers, but this is my first FanPost and I truly did have fun thinking and considering so much tonight! :P I will be around to defend my terrible commentary, so I hope to hear what people have to say! *Statements about how much I love the Carolina Panthers in hope to win over some people instead of them proposing to ban me* Hope I entertained this bit of time during your guys' days :)