Steve Smith has been a stalwart member of the organization since 2001. He's the team's leading receiver, its heartbeat -- and while Smitty has had his fair share of off-field issues, recently he's willing to be reflective on what his career has meant, as well as how much is left. Speaking to the media today, Smith offered a fairly succinct view of what 2013 means to him, courtesy of Joe Person.
Steve Smith said there is more than sense of urgency this yr. Equated it to 35-year-old woman who wants to get married & pregnant right away
It's a great sound byte, but more importantly denotes that Smith realizes that his biological clock is ticking. Just yesterday I explored how much he has left in the tank, and while Smith has said he wants to play another 2-3 years, there is a need to get it done right now.
The problem is reconciling that desire with where the Carolina Panthers are as an organization. Most national pundits believe the Panthers are likely a 7-9 or 8-8 team in 2013 -- while I'm slightly more bullish (but not by much) thinking they probably have a 9-7 team.
If there is a grand sense of urgency the Panthers aren't really showing it. Instead Dave Gettleman has been preaching the need to find answers on the roster. He's been keeping the team cap-solvent, and leaning more heavily on a 'wait and see' approach with his coaching staff, rather than being aggressive with the makeup of the team.
In a perfect world both goals could be achieved. Smith could be sent off into the sunset with a Super Bowl ring, and the Panthers would keep enough in their reserves to reload for 2014 -- but that's not very realistic. Make no mistake, there's an outside chance. I'm a firm believer the Panthers could be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL this year if they remain healthy, and if they find their way into the playoffs they have the tools to make a run to the end, similar to the New York Giants when they went from 10-6 to the ring in 2007, and again in 2011 where they rose from 9-7. The chance is there, but it's hard to find a back door into the playoffs in the NFC, where the conference as a whole is getting tougher.
Ultimately Dave Gettleman's vision is the right one. Slowly building this organization and not making knee-jerk moves is the right plan to make the Panthers a perennial contender, but it's a slower burn than the "marriage and pregnant" approach Smith is taking. If Gettleman were to gamble now on a 7-9 roster it could only set back the in roads he's made to fix the cap mess, and put together a winning roster.
A fairy tale ending would be ideal, but these things rarely go that way. There are small moves the Panthers could make in order to sure up the roster without jeopardizing the future, but they need to make them now. Whether it's Travelle Wharton, Quintin Mikell, or a player we haven't discussed -- the options are there, but they can't pussyfoot around too much more while the last remaining veteran talent in snatched up.
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