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Five Optimisms of the Carolina Panthers 2016 Season

Now that the dust has settled a bit on 2016, let’s reflect on some positives the team can take into the off-season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The first optimism I’m going to lay out to you, and this doesn’t count as one of the five, is that 2016 wasn’t as bad as it feels right now. The Carolina Panthers have a lot of positive things they can take away from this season, and I firmly believe that there are several teams in the league that aren’t in as good of a position as we are. Some of those teams had better records than us, and one of them even made the playoffs.

I’ve been a rational realist my entire life, sometimes to a fault. Though despite that, I can continue to enjoy something once I realize the futility in it (like this past season). Having watched the 2016 Carolina Panthers and many iterations before them, I can tell you this team isn’t for the weak of heart. Consistency and predictability have never been our strong suit. However, this team has routinely shown the ability in years past to bounce back quickly from bad seasons, and this current pre-free agency squad is no different. As a way to help shake of the disappointment of this past year, I give you five optimistic points you should carry into this coming off-season, even if they may seem a bit over optimistic to some of you:

Optimism #1: The Corners we drafted are the real deal.

Infamous dipper of already chewed up chips, David Gettleman, really sent the germaphobic masses into a hand sanitizing frenzy when he dipped not once, not twice, but three times into the cornerback queso in this past draft. Though even I, a true sultan of sauces, think that final dip was a bit much. He actually reached so deep in the bowl trying to get that last little bit of Zack Sanchez with a hastily formed stack of broken chip shards, that he came out with some dried dip on his cufflinks.

Look, we’ve all desperately tried to use a tortilla chip to scrape the last shards of queso dip from the round empty bowl of sadness before. You can’t knock the man for trying to get one last taste before the waiter hastily collected the saucer. But once you taste that barely flavorful chip, you can reflect contently on all the heartily scooped chips that came before it. Soon, you’ll forget your error, and sit back happily as you wait for your piping hot fajitas to arrive.

Somewhere in there is a lesson about how James Bradberry and Daryl Worley are showing huge signs of development and promise in their rookies seasons, but you’ll need to excuse me while I go heat something up.

Optimism #2: Enough changes to rattle doors, but not the foundation.

In what I’m sure will be a controversial statement... I think there has been just enough turnover so far on the coaching staff to bring in new ideas without creating an insurmountable void. With McDermott and Proehl leaving, Wilks being promoted, and two assistants set to be hired, we are going to get a few sets of new eyes on our roster and philosophy while maintaining continuity.

Some of you think there should have been a huge coaching shakedown. I don’t buy that for a minute. The worst teams in the NFL are consistently caught up in coaching searches. The more consistent ones are not. That is a simple statement of fact with just a few exceptions. It would be a tall order to fire a head coach who brought you to a Super Bowl just one year prior, or even fire a coordinator who had recently helped pilot a #1 scoring offense. The list of other factors leading into those two things are long, yes, as they always are in football... but fans are quick to forget what it is like to see a head coaching change year after year with failure upon failure.

Optimism #3: The pass rush was statistically good, and can get better.

The Panthers finished the season ranked #2 in total sacks despite not having a top 16 pass rusher. They were one off the lead in this category, and Mario Addison was #17 overall. The coming draft is rich with pass rushing talent, there are free agents that can help, and maybe most importantly... improvement in the secondary makes everyone farther up front a lot more productive.

Optimism #4: The best off-season positioning in years.

Don’t look at the woman’s head in the background or you will have nightmares. -- Management

The Carolina Panthers will enter the offseason with a boat-load of cap space, very little in the way of dead money, and a high draft pick. This represents the best situation they’ve had in quite a long time, maybe ever. If there is one unquestioned success for Dave Gettleman in his time with the organization, it is that he has officially brought us out of the cap hell of the Marty Hurney era. Now all that is left to do is invest that capital and hope for some nice returns...

Optimism #5: If you think the Carolina Panthers had the worst 2016 season...

And really so many more helmets could be added to that. Just... lots.

We had a bad year competitively, one that was no doubt disappointing compared to last season’s Super Bowl run. But seriously... holy crap. Just look around the league. Look at the teams who moved from their cities, whose playoff droughts continue, whose hopes were raised so high just to be crushed by a key injury, whose team will be on their 5th coach (or worse) of the decade...

Really, Carolina. It ain’t so bad.