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The Optimist: 2021 is finally over, 2022 has to be different

No matter what, the offense is going to look different next season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Win or lose, the Carolina Panthers had shockingly little to play for yesterday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They couldn’t affect their own draft position (6th overall) and they could barely move the needle on the Bucs playoff plans. All they really had as motivation was pride and, uh, welp.

Pride, consistency, progress. These were not the hallmarks of the Panthers 2021 season. Nothing seemed to come together according to anybody’s plans and there is currently no clear indication of what plans, precisely, are being laid next.

The weekend began with an explosion of reporting that Matt Rhule’s job was safe for the next year. There were names being floated as targets for the Panthers open offensive coordinator position. Then Sunday morning brought a report that Rhule’s job wasn’t as safe as once thought. His future, per Jay Glazer, hangs on his ability to hire a “rock star” offensive coordinator. Otherwise, the Panthers may be a late entrant to the head coach market.

This year has been marked by head scratchers and surprises. The offseason seems poised to be no different. That’s the only thing that has me honestly hopeful for the coming football year. Something is going to change. Whether the Panthers keep Rhule, Sam Darnold, or both. Whether the Panthers commit to working though their roster problems with their current assets or compound those same problems by making a blockbuster quarterback trade.

Next season will feature a new offensive philosophy one way or another. In effect, it can hardly be worse than what we’ve endured through 2021. Maybe it stays as bad. Maybe it improves. No matter what, it will be different. That’s technically a reason for optimism after 17 weeks of stable mediocrity.

Oh, and Myles Hartsfield had a hell of a game. He’s under contract in 2022 with a cap number under $1M, which means he should be back. That’s nice.