And there I sat.
On a gorgeous fall afternoon at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, enjoying everything except the one thing I paid money to see. The sun was shining brightly, there was some wind, and the temperature was about 65 degrees. I was surrounded by food, family, friends, and celebration. Yes, lot’s of celebration. By Washington fans. Twice.
I sat there as they celebrated TWICE.
They celebrated their victory as they went up by two scores with four minutes remaining, as they cheered and mocked our fans leaving the stadium in droves, phones out, cat calling for some kind of reaction. Their hubris was repaid by a very quick scoring drive from the Panthers, followed by one of the easiest onside kick recoveries I’ve ever seen. I watched them go from celebration to full “surrender Cobra” in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The Panthers took over near midfield with plenty of time and timeouts, and all the momentum they could possibly desire. It would have been even better if some of the wine and cheese crowd had stayed to witness it.
But then, as we know, the Panthers Panthered. They drove all the way down to the one yard line where they assumed control of first and goal. The fourth time this season they’ve had an opportunity to win or tie a football game in the final minute, and as we know, the fourth time they’ve failed.
But the sad part, is that we all knew we were going to fail. Those who stayed in the stadium, those still watching on TV, whomever... we didn’t expect our team to win despite their overwhelmingly favorable on-field situation. We looked on for confirmation of what many had been feeling for years.
The culture installed by Ron Rivera and his staff has failed, and it is time for a new one.
The culture will continue to fail, until I can watch a Carolina Panthers football game and expect them to achieve victory when given an opportunity like this, instead of fold like an origami convention. I know what it feels like. When I watch the Appalachian State Mountaineers play football, I expect them to win. I don’t consider who’s hurt, what is unfavorable about the matchup, or any of that stuff... I know the culture at ASU is to win. It is infectious. And by god, it works. Ask any fan of the Michigan Wolverines, North Carolina Tarheels, or South Carolina Gamecocks about its effectiveness.
Rivera just spoke some true words finally...— Tr1pp Morgan (@Tr1ppMorgan) December 2, 2019
"We talk about it's a process, but at some point the process has to be complete or things are just excuses."
I don’t care how “respected Ron Rivera is in league circles” and that “he’ll have another job within a week.” That is fine. I DO want him to have a job in another place that simply needs a culture change, I have no personal beef with Ron. After all, he brought one here when the team was in a dire losing situation where the former staff had grown stale and the natives were restless. But sometimes a culture that can fix problems isn’t the same one you need to thrive.
This Carolina Panthers team has a lot of young talent primed to be molded into vital pieces of a championship roster. Many of them weren’t around for the Super Bowl run in 2015, and all they’ve known their profession career is mediocrity or worse. We need to do better by them, and maybe leave them on the field for more than thirty-percent of plays, especially if they are a first round pick.
We need to do better for Cam Newton, who has already given the best years of his career to this team, but can still give many more if he can finally get healthy. We need a staff that supports him in that endeavor. One that doesn’t force him into action when he can barely throw a ball ten yards down the field, or when he sustains an injury in preseason that makes him unable to jog in practice, before, or during games. The lack of focus on the big picture was never more evident than with how Cam was handled.
But we also need a front office with the foresight to plan for the potential inevitability that Cam may not regain his prior form. One that can manage the talent situation in a way that obtains value for what the team already has, and provide fresh blood to secure the future. That may mean drafting a quarterback early, even if he doesn’t take a single snap next season. In fact... I would prefer that.
It’s not that I have huge scruples with this newer version of Marty Hurney. Other than a couple head scratchers in the third round and the botched Harrison Butker situation, he’s done well to address holes in our talent. Still, he represents an old regime that we are all anxious to move on from, and keeping him around would signal less than a full commitment to changing the culture.
So David Tepper, it falls to you. If you happen to be reading this, I implore you to do the painful but necessary thing to begin crafting a brighter future in Carolina. I don’t want you to have to do it again for a very long time, but I think we are all there now...