Hello, masochists. As a seasoned veteran in disappointment, I can tell you that I completely understand the frustration of Panthers fans everywhere. I'm sure that many of you are college football fans as well, so let me justify my qualifications to write this by assuring you that I am the most miserable fan in the world. That being said, I am comfortably numb right now. I am no longer angry or upset with my teams as much as I am optimistic for change. However, to ensure that the fan base stays in tact, I have created some guidelines for both the fans and the front office. I've done this with a level head and an open mind.
Guidelines for Panthers Fans:
There are only a few of these, but they are important to remember especially when trying to maintain sanity.
Do not come to Cat Scratch Reader for sunshine pumping. These writers work hard to be straight shooters. If there is a time to smile, they will be the first to tell you. But if you are looking for consistent, unparalleled optimism, I can assure you it can be found somewhere else.
Firing Rivera Midseason Fixes Nothing
Ron Rivera getting fired will have almost little to no impact on the outcome of this season. Does that mean our fate is sealed? No, not yet. There is still cause for optimism, minuscule cause, but cause nonetheless. (Don't ask me what that cause is, because I can't formulate logic or reason behind it.)
Jon Gruden Doesn't Want This Job
Neither does Bill Cowher. Neither does Tony Dungy. Neither would Tom Landry or the excavated corpse of Vince Lombardi. Keep reasonable expectations for the future. It's time to entice David Shaw. (Texas insiders have already declared Shaw as the number one candidate for the Longhorns, so it is going to come down to unlimited money vs. NFL prestige. I don't want him in Austin, but I'd love him in Charlotte.)
Guidelines for Panthers Front Office:
Please copy and paste this portion of the post and forward it to David Gettleman's office email. Just kidding, don't do that. Gettleman is probably #TeamFaxMachine.
When A Team Has Virtually No Depth, Don't Release Veterans
Ha. I could have told you this the day they released Hangartener. I know you are building for the future and that you believe the future is dependent on the gimpy knee of a solid FCS interior lineman. The problem now is that, unless Kugbila plays like an All-Pro when he comes back, his future in Carolina is doomed to fail. Especially when everybody will always compare him to who we could have picked up instead *cough* Quinton Patton *cough*. Veteran help is important because nothing compares to experience. The Hangartener move was premature. Oh, did I mention that the offensive line is terrible?
When A Team Has Virtually No Depth, Don't Release Veterans (Part II)
So Drayton Florence is not the future of the Carolina Panthers secondary, I get that, but he had a very solid preseason at another position with no depth. Now that the DB's are dropping like flies this looks like a pretty stupid move. I said at the beginning of the season that the Panthers only needed tolerable DB play to be successful. Yesterday, we saw that we are light years away from tolerable.
Don't Fire a General Manager and Leave The Coach
Wow, if there is anything I am qualified to talk about it is that late season turnarounds are inaccurate ways to gauge a any coach's growth. Last season, Texas had a terrible defense whose inept schemes were embarrassed weekly by inferior opponents. After a positive bowl victory, it was decided that because of the "defensive maturity" witnessed in that bowl game, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz deserved to stick around another year. This season? After giving up 550 rushing yards against BYU in week two, he was fired.
Go with your gut instinct. If Rivera isn't going to win any fourth quarter games in 2012, what makes you think he is going to do it in 2013? Telling the media he is going to be more aggressive doesn't translate to wins. Promoting Mike Shula to offensive coordinator is not going to translate to wins. When it's time to clean house, it's time to clean house. The answer is almost never, "Go prove everybody wrong."
Don't Ask The Taxpayers For Money Again This Year
There should be a rule enforced by the NFL that only allows teams with 11 or more wins to squeeze money out of local taxpayers. If you want more money from the city, come to the city when you've earned the right to ask for more money. Don't flirt with Los Angeles like that's a realistic option. If you keep playing the way you always play, they'll probably just send you right back.
Building For The Future Doesn't Take Years
Look at San Fransisco. Look at Kansas City. It is very possible to have a quick turnaround. You have to make competent decisions and play to your strengths. That means when you have a great offensive weapon with a big arm and quick feet, you don't turn him into a pocket passer. That isn't going to work. Why am I telling you this? Why don't you know this?
Do Not Run Off The Franchise Quarterback
You want to really upset the Panthers fan-base? Run off the franchise quarterback. I dare you. See how that works in your favor. If Newton leaves this team and goes to play somewhere else, in a place where coaches will utilize his strengths, he will come back to Carolina and drop 100 points on the Panthers. If you don't think he fits your scheme, adapt your scheme. That means, surround him with weapons, give him an offensive line that won't kill him, and provide coaches who can utilize his talents.
I hope that this has been a learning experience for everyone. In my own personal football hell, Mack Brown would go coach the Panthers and Ron Rivera would come coach the Longhorns. Hopefully that won't happen. Change is coming, and, if for nothing else, that is something to keep us optimistic.