I think a lot of times, football coaches and the front office get caught up in the day to day complexity of running a professional franchise. It's so easy to get lost in the details of each passing moment and to let one day flow into the next without any clear objective. I think that is how coaches fail. It's one thing to come into a job and have the energy and mindset to change things. Every coach and GM ever hired does that. It's quite another to put it into action consistently. Day after day. Practice after practice. Football season after football season into free agency and the draft and back again.
While it is important to take these tasks on one at a time, there is no denying that the future is predicated on your long term vision and your actions along the way to bring you towards it. Since the NFL has a hard salary cap and NFL rosters are made up of 53 men, every contract signed from a financial standpoint needs to be for the right amount of money and the right amount of time to maximize the prime years and the potential of your professional athletes. In order to have the best talent on the field, every penny must be documented and spent wisely and not a single ounce of effort wasted searching for talented players at a bargain price. Too much money in one position means you will not have money for others.
Draft picks are also an important factor. They must be meticulously researched and their personalities vetted. Their film watched and their measurables taken into account. Every aspect of who they are diced, sliced, torn apart, combed through, examined fully, and put back together and digested like the data sandwich it is. All to make sure that we draft talented players into positions of need to help this team in the long term the same way as our free agents. And I think that this is where a lot of franchises end up failing. It's hard to do this with the upmost of efficiency long term. Especially if you don't breed success immediately.
Impatience is a nasty thing. We are, after all, only humans. We are an intense, warlike band of creatures of mammalian descent that has since times immortal decided best our differences on the field of battle. From the school bully getting punched in the nose to intercontinental warfare that leaves millions dead, that is how humanity best resolves its disputes if left to our own natural devices. And if we are lucky, we only get about 80 years to go through this wonderful journey that we call life. That's not a really long time is it?
I believe that this is part of the reason a lot of coaches and general managers fail. Whether we think about it consistently or not, we are all governed by the knowledge of our own mortality.
And it puts us in a hurry. A hurry to get results immediately and to not play the long game. And once that happens and you start making decisions based off of that, you are almost guaranteed to fail as with places like Houston, Dallas, Washington, and elsewhere.
When you look at successful franchises in the NFL instead, there is an easy and distinctive similarity to see. The best franchises are run by long term coaches, front offices, capable scouting crew, and a general manager that knows how to make good decisions. There is clear division between the business side and the football side and they are run by separate people that communicate with each other well but lets each other carry about their business in the best way they know how. The Owner, whom is only in the equation because of his money, is never seen except for his 30 second clip every game where the camera shows him in the owners box. He knows his limitations and does not influence anything in the structure of the football team except to hire excellent people to run it. And he is a patient man. He will wait for his good decisions to breed results.
"The people that run this team have been the same people that have run it forever. The only ones that have left are those that died." -Bill Belichick
As we move towards the football season, our beloved losers the Carolina Panthers will face the results of their decisions over the past two years since we hired our new management. And I think it is important not to get into hero worship. To gaze at GM Fitterer as a deity and pretend that every decision he makes is the word of the gospel. There are many alternative paths that the Panthers could have taken to get where we are today. We would be foolish to not take them into account!
- We could have kept Teddy Bridgewater another year and invested in a elite offensive line to protect him. Knowing that the year was a wash anyway with over 45 million dollars in dead cap space. Or even better, not have signed him for having a good 5 game stretch with the talented Saints offense in the first place.
- We could have waited until the NFL Draft to trade for a QB like the Eagles did for Minshew for a 6th rounder or drafted Justin Fields or Mac Jones at the #8 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft.
- We could have invested more in our veterans, not allowing players like Mario Addison, Efe Obada, James Bradberry, Vernon Butler, Dontari Poe, Russell Okung, Curtis Samuel, Tahir Whitehead, and others go to other teams and made sure to keep our veteran core more intact than it is right now.
- Or we could have gone towards different players in a myriad of different combinations, some that may or may not become evident as ignored positions of need once the football season kicks off.
The most important thing this football season, as we have no business making the playoffs this year with the current makeup of the team, is that we keep moving forward and continue to improve as a team. With the addition of a regular season game, we should put our goal to win at least 6 or 7 games. Any more than that is a blessing. Any less than that and we should be looking internally at the one making the decisions and make sure that the Panthers are in a good spot to keep going forward in subsequent years.
It's not a fun thing, watching a meh football team. But I like to believe that patience under the care of a talented organization with long term goals will eventually breed results. We're going to stink this year. That much outside of Darnold Duck being the chosen one is beyond question. But that does not necessarily mean we will stink in a couple years time. Let's see what this year brings us and watch football for the love of the game just as much as we root for our own team. We can worry more about winning later. The Panthers are a work in progress.
With that said I can only offer you this. Go Panthers. Go Clemson. Trevor Lawrence is the truth.