The Carolina Panthers just lost to the Cleveland Browns. If you think that is going to sit well with David Tepper after the embarrassing prime time loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers then you should be writing the optimism for this column. Tepper, as a former minority owner of the Steelers, probably has some opinions on the franchises in the AFC North. Change is coming to the Carolinas.
I wouldn’t expect it to happen by the time this column is published, but it will be by the end of the season. There is no way to know if Ron Rivera will be given the chance to hire a new a staff of assistants or if Marty Hurney will be given the chance to hire a new head coach. I think both men are as likely to have their same jobs next year as they are to be fired before Christmas.
The thing about David Tepper is that he is an unknown quantity. All we really know is where he comes from and where his money comes from. Is he the patient scion of the Pittsburgh Steelers that he has sold in his press conferences or is he the analytical investor who made himself into a billionaire? There are going to be a lot of things said about and possibly even attributed to Tepper this week. Let’s keep in mind that none of it means anything until he says something himself.
This is the part where I talk about the players. The children, after all, are the future. Unfortunately, yesterday’s loss was at least as much on them as it was on coaching. Cam Newton was not good. I don’t know if his shoulder is to blame for all of his over throws. I also don’t know if it was to blame for all of his under throws. I do know this is one of those times where completion percentage tells a lot of the story about a game. Cam’s season low 61% was a reflection of his accuracy. It also raised questions about the offensive game plan.
Newton’s 42 attempts in a game where the Panthers weren’t chasing points —it was never more than a one possession game, regardless of who had the lead— should be the story of the game. This came one week after the Panthers publicly said that his 41 attempts last week probably led to some of his visible shoulder soreness against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whatever decisions led to this game plan were not made in the interest of Newton’s health and thereby were not made in the best interest of the Panthers.
Yes, the defense fell apart again. Yes, Curtis Samuel dropped a couple of catchable passes. None of that is surprising. Curtis Samuel is still a young and new wide receiver. He was a running back at Ohio State. The defense, meanwhile, still suffers from the same issue that has plagued it since Week 1: there is nobody opposite of Mario Addision that commands respect. Julius Peppers is 2 seasons away from a Boy Scout offering to escort him across the field.
It is all going to be OK, though. The Panthers, regardless of who their general manager and head coach are next year, are going to have to reckon with how to optimize the rest of Newton’s career. They are going to have to figure out the mess that is the left tackle position. They are going to have to acquire a defensive end who is more than just young or good—preferably that end will have played the position before and be of at least average size. The point of saying all this is that whoever is in charge of the Panthers should be able to recognize the work they have to do. The roster’s fatal weaknesses are obvious. They can’t miss these elephants for the trees when the room is forested with them.
I’ve written for weeks that the young core of this team is great. Yesterday showed us that we can add Ian Thomas as a definitive bright spot among the many stars still on their rookie contracts. But, I’ve written that for weeks. There isn’t anything truly new in this story. There won’t be until there are changes to the roster or the coaching staff.
For now, be happy for the Cleveland Browns. They finally have a quarterback. It is Week 15 and they have a chance, no matter how remote, of making the play offs. They haven’t done that since the year before Jake Delhomme’s disintegration against Arizona. We can criticize the Panthers for everything from bad game plans to bad tackling to wearing white socks with their all black uniforms, but that’s just adding to all of the negativity produced by this five game losing streak. Instead, I’m going to be happy for the Browns. They are due for something good.