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Six observations about the Carolina Panthers after watching Amazon Prime’s ‘All or Nothing’ series

I watched ‘All or Nothing’ on Amazon Prime and came away with six observations about the Carolina Panthers.

If you haven’t watched All or Nothing on Amazon Prime yet, you should make arrangements to do that as soon as possible. Yes, the 2018 season didn’t end the way that fans of the Carolina Panthers wanted it to. Yes, the 2018 season got really dark after that Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football. Yes, you would have to be crazy to want to relive those moments.

But, isn’t being a fan (aka a fanatic) crazy anyway?

All or Nothing takes a deeper look at the Panthers’ up and down 2018 season and provides us with something that we’ve always wanted from our favorite NFL team — insider access. The series is eight episodes of approximately 45 minutes each, so you’re committing to a total of about six hours of your time. Believe me when I say this: it’s worth it.

I binged the series over the weekend and came away with a fresh perspective on the Panthers and a better understanding of what went wrong in 2018. Below are six observations I would like to share with you.

David Tepper buying the team is the best thing that could have happened

I say this for two reasons. The first reason is pretty simple: Without Tepper buying the team, there would be no All or Nothing for us to watch. There’s no way that Jerry Richardson would have allowed this show to happen, so if you enjoyed watching this series you (most likely) have David Tepper to thank for that.

The second reason is that you can tell throughout the series that Tepper is genuinely committed to having a winning team in Carolina. He’s heavily involved in the day-to-day operations and he’s invested in putting the right people in the right positions to ensure that the team operates as smoothly as it can. He’s also invested in getting the Panthers a quality practice facility and new team headquarters to bring them up to the league standard. The practice bubble that is currently being erected is a temporary measure, but the simple fact that he thinks practicing in a ballroom during inclement weather is unacceptable is a much needed positive change for the organization.

Tepper also talked about how it ‘takes balls’ to make risky moves such as signing safety Eric Reid, but he’s willing to take those risks if it means the team will win more games. To hear an owner say that he is willing to take, as he calls them, ‘intelligent risks’ for the sake of a winning team is so damn refreshing to hear, and it’s a shame that we’ve had to wait as long as we have to finally hear things like that.

Luke Kuechly is a film junkie (duh), but he’s also low-key hilarious

Everyone knows that Kuechly studies film more than anyone else in the history of the game, but seeing him in the film room late at night when everyone else has already gone home was still an interesting sight to behold. It’s honestly no wonder that he can tell the opposing offense what play they’re going to run based on the formation they’re lined up in, because the dude has simply watched every single second of film available. There was one scene in the lead up to the Panthers’ game against the New York Giants where Kuechly was disappointed that he only had four games worth of film to study on rookie running back Saquon Barkley. That’s dedication, folks.

While everyone knows that Kuechly is a film rat, most people probably don’t know that the dude is also funny as hell. There’s one scene in the episode that covers Carolina’s game against Washington where Kuechly calls former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, and with Cam Newton by his side, gives Norman false information on the status of tight end Greg Olsen. Honestly, if you still need a reason to watch this series, the phone call between Cam, Luke and Norman is as good as any.

Ron Rivera is a very good motivator and isn’t an unemotional statue

The common belief about Ron Rivera is that he ‘just stands there with his arms crossed on the sideline with a blank, emotionless stare no matter what is going on in the game’. I used to think that myself, but after watching All or Nothing I can tell you that it is absolutely not true. Rivera is a very passionate individual, and while the cameras might not catch him firing up the team on the sideline during the game he gives them plenty of motivation both on the field and in the locker room.

While it didn’t really make the team play better, his halftime speech in the Thursday night game against the Steelers is amazing, and honestly it’s shocking to hear some of the words coming out of Rivera’s mouth during that speech (despite his public persona, when he’s in coach mode Ron has a potty mouth). I went into that episode dreading the thought of having to re-watch the team’s lowest moment of the season, and came out of that episode ready to run through a brick wall for Ron Rivera thanks to that halftime speech. It was truly epic.

Devin Funchess deserves some slack for his up and down season

We were all mad at Funchess for having what was his worst game as an NFL wide receiver in front of his friends and family against the Detroit Lions, and we were even more upset when he said that the loss wasn’t just on him to the media. After watching All or Nothing and learning just how much he was dealing with during the season, he deserves a bit of slack.

There’s one scene in the series where Funchess blows up at quarterbacks coach Scott Turner during the team’s Week 3 practice ahead of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals because the team was taking too long to get the plays called in the huddle. Funchess had to be separated from Turner during the confrontation, and then he immediately broke down and confessed to Turner and Rivera that his cousin had been murdered in a random act of violence and his funeral was that day. Funchess breaks down in tears and tells the coaches that he wasn’t trying to cause problems, but he was just trying to keep practice moving because he just wanted to play ball. It was genuinely difficult to see him get emotional like that, but watching him air out his feelings allowed us to see that there is a real human being wearing the uniform instead of a soulless gamebot.

In the Week 11 game agains the Lions, Funchess had the worst possible day he could have had on the field. He dropped numerous passes and just couldn’t seem to get anything right. He got frustrated and is shown yelling expletives at the officials when they don’t throw a flag on Lions cornerback Darius Slay, who Funchess believes interfered with him. After the game — which the Panthers lost 20-19 after a failed two-point conversion in the last minute — Funchess loses his cool with the media and points out that the game wasn’t just on him, and that he was just one player out of 11 who failed on offense.

The next day, there is a conversation between Funchess and quarterback Cam Newton, where Newton tells Funchess that he believes he tried too hard to ball out in front of his hometown crowd, but that he still has the potential to be an All-Pro receiver but his attitude is holding him back from reaching that potential. Funchess explains that he is still battling his demons and is still upset over the Week 3 confrontation with Coach Turner, and he has let it get into his head too much but he doesn’t know how to open up and talk it out with people. So yeah, while we can criticize Funchess for dropped passes and argue that he should be more mature on the field, we should also cut him a bit of a break because the dude was dealing with a lot of off-field stuff last year, and that’s partially responsible for his less than ideal results on the field in 2018.

T.J. Watt didn’t intentionally injure Cam Newton

Some Panthers fans are still angry at Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt for hitting Cam Newton’s shoulder and causing his steep decline in 2018 that was responsible for the team’s collapse from 6-2 to 7-9 over the second half of the season. I used to think that Watt intentionally tried to take Newton out of the game by attacking his throwing shoulder, but after watching All or Nothing I have a totally new perspective on what happened that night.

After watching the episode covering the Panthers-Steelers game, I believe that Watt wasn’t trying to injure Cam — he was trying to avoid injuring him. There is a slow-mo replay of the hit that rocked Cam’s shoulder, and it appears that Watt ducked down to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact with Newton. Based on that replay, it appears the hit on Cam’s shoulder was just an unfortunate accident. The team didn’t even react to it on the sideline. No one thought anything of it when it happened because there didn’t appear to be any malicious intent behind it (compared to the hit on a sliding Newton by Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee in Week 2 — Ron Rivera lost his shit when that happened). The fact that Cam’s shoulder took a brutal hit was just one of those ‘football is a dangerous sport’ plays that happens, so if you were (or still are) mad at Watt over that play, you should probably cut him some slack.

Cam’s injury was unfortunate, but it’s like Rivera said — shit happens.

Cam Newton is a true leader and has the support of his teammates

We all know that Cam Newton makes people stupid (h/t Darin Gantt), and All or Nothing solidifies that fact. Yes, he likes to dress funny. Yes, he smokes cigars. Yes, he wears funny hats. But none of those things stop him from being what he is — the franchise quarterback and leader of the team. He has the respect of his teammates. He has their back, and they have his.

From the scenes of Cam talking to Funchess after the Lions game, to seeing him on the sideline coaching up his teammates and congratulating them for making good plays, to seeing him in practice, to seeing him in the locker room giving inspriational speeches, to seeing him having an aura of leadership about him — if you watch All or Nothing and come away still thinking that Cam Newton is an immature whiner who doesn’t know how to lead, then the problem lies with you. Full stop.

There are plenty of other tidbits to discover by watching All or Nothing, and unfortunately I can’t list them all so you’ll have to watch it for yourself if you want to get the full picture of the team’s 2018 season. Yes, it gets dark after the Steelers game, but it’s still something that all Panthers fans should want to watch, because it gives us an unprecedented look at why things are the way they are in Carolina. I hate giving out ratings, but if I had to rate the series I’d give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars* — it’s that good, and you should absolutely make time to watch it.

All or Nothing is available to stream on Amazon Prime. To sign up for Amazon Prime, click here.

* - My one minor quibble is that it should have been more than eight episodes. I think there should have been at least 10 episodes to give us an even more in-depth look at the 2018 season.