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Monday Morning Optimist: Accepting Teddy as our perfect quarterback

The 2020 Panthers don’t need a good quarterback, they need a guy who is going to teach them about who they have while not endangering who they can get.

Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers offense has struggled coming out of half time all season. Their lackluster third quarters have been a significant contributing factor to the team being only 2-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less. To honor their season, they decided to treat fans to an entire game of that quality offense as they came out of their bye week. The offense only really got moving in the fourth quarter when they were at risk of losing by more than seven points. Thank God for preserving the integrity of their identity as a team.

Tank enthusiasts and people who are in love with a 2021 quarterback prospects will be happy, at least. Every game the Panthers lose is one fewer excuse I have to left to make for Teddy Bridgewater and one game closer to a better draft pick with which the team might pick the first round quarterback you believed in before anybody else. Good for all of us, I guess.

There was an outside chance that Bridgewater was going to come in and prove to be ‘the guy.’ I’ll admit, off the season opening loss to the Raiders, that I was optimistic that maybe he was. If only for a year or two, maybe he could have been that guy.

The truth is that Bridgewater is actually the best quarterback the Panthers could have hoped for in 2020. With an incredible amount of roster turnover and a new coaching staff, nobody outside of maybe Matt Rhule actually thought the Panthers had a chance of competing this season. 2020 needed to be about evaluating the guys the team had left and figuring out what the next steps were for fully implementing the vision of Rhule, Joe Brady, and Phil Snow.

What I liked

6:34 Second Quarter, 2nd and nine at the Carolina 32 - Extremely Optimistic

Look, it wasn’t a great game, so let’s revel in the one truly great moment. Jeremy Chinn, he of the eternal cause for optimism, sacked Drew Lock for what would have been a nine yard loss. However, Chinn also forced the ball out of Lock’s hands before he went down. This allowed Efe Obada to turn a nine yard loss into a 65 yard loss with what was officially a 54-yard fumble return. Their stellar play set up the Panthers only touchdown while the Broncos were still actively playing defense.

What I didn’t like

Teddy Bridgewater - Pessimistic

I’m sure Teddy is truly a nice guy. He’s going to make a lot of teams very happy to have him as a back up or a bridge guy, but he isn’t more than that. He’s had more average games than good and more bad games than great. He doesn’t show up big when the team needs him and it isn’t because he lacks a supporting cast.

Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel are probably the best trio of wide receivers the Panthers have fielded. The others contending for that spot are groupings of Steve Smith, Mushin Muhammad, and some other guy, or Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn, Jr, and Philly Brown. It’s probably higher praise to say that Anderson, Moore, and Samuel are an actually good set of NFL receivers.

It is also worth saying that the offense hasn’t really missed a beat with McCaffrey down thanks to tremendous work done by Mike Davis.

Bridgewater has shown that he is consistently willing to throw the ball short of the sticks on crucial downs. The best example of this was his one yard pass on fourth and nine yesterday with the game on the line. That decision earned the closest thing to direct criticism of a player that we have yet heard from Matt Rhule.

It doesn’t matter if you are throwing a one yard pass on fourth and you-lose-with-fewer-than-nine-yards to a tight end, a wide receiver, or the actual Catholic Pope. The error is in the decision making and not the roster construction. Bridgewater’s commitment to those lethally safe decisions has been proven time and again this season. It is what it is.

The takeaway

We came into 2020 with a mixed bag of opinions on Curtis Samuel. It looks like third time may have been the charm for longtime fans predicting his breakout season. Those longtime fans decidedly did not include resident Cat Scratch Reader editor and charter member of the Samuel Doubters, Jon DeLong. Hi, buddy.

What’s great about Samuel, who had a solid if unspectacular day yesterday, is he shows Bridgewater’s value to the Panthers. Samuel has become a reliable receiver who retains game breaking potential. Panthers fans and brass alike would not have known that with Kyle Allen still under center. Instead, an efficient Bridgewater has proven the value of retaining Samuel without actually costing the Panthers much in the way of draft position.

He—and likely this is largely down to the design of the offense—is generating mountains of information about the guys on the Panthers roster right now and what kind of guys the staff wants to target in future drafts and free agency.

I might be pessimistic about his chances of becoming the next face of this franchise, but Bridgewater is invaluable this season. And I’m not that hurt by the mounting losses. There has been a collection of bad decisions by Bridgewater, Rhule, Brady, and Snow across all nine of them now. That six of them have come by a touchdown or less (three by less than field goal) shows how close this team is. Bridgewater’s close-but-not-quite routine is teaching us who these Panthers are close with such that they might be able to field an adequate and understood supporting cast for the next guy, whoever he is. That’s a fairer shake than Jake Delhomme or Cam Newton ever got in Carolina.