My version of "staying balanced" after the Panthers' poor start to the 2012 campaign is a bit schizophrenic, but allows me to vent like everyone else while at the same time taking a step back, breathing deeply and taking a look at the big picture for our beloved Carolina Panthers.
Short Term Changes:
1. Whenever you have 3rd and 4th down and less than a yard to go, do NOT use the shotgun formation. Utilize the QB sneak or use one of your big running backs to pound out the yard and get a first down. Putting Cam in the shotgun with inches to gain is like penalizing yourself 5 yards, making it 3rd and 4th and 6 instead of 1.
2. Realize the run option is being figured out by our NFL opponents, and needs to be used far less. The running game will be more successful if it is less predictable.
3. Chud, we know you like the downfield passing game, and Cam throws a nice deep ball. But always looking for chunks of 15-30 yards per pass play has proven ineffective in consistently moving the chains. Dedicate Cam's reps in practice, and play calls in games, to 4-14 yard passes that set up less and easier third down conversions. That will open up opportunities for the timely deep completion to Smith, Murphy or Gettis.
4. If he is healthy, get David Gettis on the field. Smitty is no longer the deep threat he once was. A full-speed Gettis can run the fly route and stretch the opposing teams' pass defense.
5. Sign Jeremy Shockey or find another first down-making option for Cam. Tolbert has not come close to replacing the route running, hands, and dependability that Shockey showed last year that played a big part in Cam's successful rookie season. Be it Shockey, or developing Murphy, Tolbert, Pilares, or LaFell, Cam is struggling to find an open man on key conversion attempts.
Long Term Hope:
1. Cam Newton will mature in time. Cam needs to work on his attitude when things aren't going well. Up until last year, our QB had really no experience at losing, and he is learning about it the hard way, in a combination of close games, poor performances, and an occasional blowout. He is young, still growing up as a man, and maturity will come in time.
2. Cam Newton can still be a great QB that leads the Panthers to a Super Bowl victory. A good study of history will show that for every Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger who succeed in their first year or two, leading their teams to the Super Bowl early in their careers, there are many, many more quarterbacks who, through hard work, maturity, and determination, lead their teams to success after the necessary hardships of some tough early years in their careers. See Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Drew Brees, the Mannings, and if I may compare because I think it's fair, Michael Jordan. Matt Ryan hasn't gotten there yet, neither has Joe Flacco. Aaron Rodgers was in the league a long time before he got there. Sometimes, it takes a few years to get to that point of contending for a Super Bowl.
3. Our defense is improving. Today we were missing two key starters in Beason and Gamble. Despite that, and facing the NFL's leading rusher in Marshawn Lynch, we held the Seahawks to two FG's and a 27 yard TD drive on a short field after a turnover. The defense has held Tampa Bay to 16, did an admirable job in a win over the Saints, played a very tough game against the Falcons, and (yeah, I have blocked the Giants game from my memory, so I have no idea what happened that game) creating turnovers and even scoring points. Things are looking up.
4. Coach Rivera is also a sophomore. He has proven himself a quality, successful defensive coordinator in this league. Now he is learning how to be a Head Coach. He has made some mistakes and will make some more. But he, like his young QB, is also 21 games into his head coaching career. I am not convinced he is the problem, and hope we are not knee-jerk like other organizations in losing patience with him. Let's give him, Chud (yeah his head coaching prospects aren't looking so hot at this point), and Cam 4 years to see what they can do. You know, Collard Greens and all that.
5. Our young talent is flashing. Brandon LaFell has played better than I anticipated. Frank Alexander is a keeper. Luke Kuechly is as advertised. I have not given up yet on Joe Adams to be a difference maker on this team. Josh Norman, while struggling at times, has earned a lot of respect as a 5th round rookie starting at CB. Silatolu is a work in progress but would not be starting if he were a total dud. Maybe another losing campaign (sorry, this is a long-term hoping post, not short term hoping) will get us another key piece or two (WR? Offensive Lineman?) that will end up being a blessing in disguise.
I am as down in the dumps as the next guy with our current 3 game losing streak. We have played well only two of five games, and have one win to show for it. But I still believe in this team. It will take patience, hard work, and commitment, but if we keep pounding, I do have hope that things will turn around. If not this year, then soon. Yes, very soon.