That Year The Panthers Were Supposed To Be Really Bad

Yes the Carolina Panthers played impressively-ish in the playoffs at the end of the 2014 season. Yes they have Cam Newton. Yes they won the NFC South over Matt Ryan and the Falcons and Drew Brees and the Saints. But when the Panthers entered the 2015 season, the defending NFC South Champions (the first team in the NFC South to repeat as division champions by the way) were on their way to a lousy third place finish in the division. The only weapon they had was Cam Newton. Maybe their cornerback Josh Norman could be good. But this team was atrocious. Oh the receivers were so awful. They had no weapons in the passing game. Greg Olsen You stop that. There's no such thing as Greg Olsen.

Panthers fans may not remember how bad the expert criticism was against the team in 2015 but it was quite laughable. This lasted the whole season too. There was even a conversation or two about whether Ron Rivera was on the hot seat prior to the season. Not kidding.

When Robby Anderson Senior Kelvin Benjamin was injured in the preseason, it was believed the only weapon the Panthers really had outside of Cam Newton was the icon that was him. All of a sudden, Kelvin Benjamin was a star but only after he was injured. The other wide receivers were just awful. Yes this argument aged well as it was Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery who came in the clutch throughout the year. Ricky Proehl had limited talent to work with but they came ready even after messing up in late moments in the game. They rose to the occasion enough to get the team to win when necessary. But Cam had no help in the passing game of course and the season was done. The Panthers needed to go ahead and chase a first round pick and start over. Honestly, the Charlotte Observer probably still blames the Panthers current woes on their greedy decision to try to win the Super Bowl instead of going for a better first round pick than Vernon Butler. If only the Panthers would have lost enough games to at least get the magician that is Eli Apple.

Every single week was an example of disrespect. The Panthers after winning twelve games were literally called the worst 12-0 team in NFL History at one point. They were expected to lose every game except for three of them even in the playoffs. The first one was that game in Atlanta when the Panthers actually did lose. The other one was the final week against the Bucs, who were the worst team in the NFL and Carolina still possibly had the number one seed on the line if they lost. The other game Carolina was supposed to win was the Super Bowl and they lost that one.

That's right. The monster blowout win over the Cardinals in the NFC Championship was supposed to be an L folks. So was the shellacking of the Washington Redskins.

How did so many people who study the game professionally get so wrong about the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2015 season? They didn't study the game. They didn't watch the games. They trusted the mouths of their fellow media members. That's what happened. If they had studied, then anyone who would have argued about the Panthers having no weapons would have been countered with a long list featuring Luke Kuechly, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Khalil, Greg Olsen (There's no such thing as Greg Olsen.), and Toldozer.

The experts also didn't consider the fact that the NFC South struggled in 2014 due to a ludicrously difficult schedule against heavy hitting defenses the whole year. Nobody else had to face 8 games against the Bengals, Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Packers, Lions, Bears, and Vikings in 2014. People blindly read the w-l record with the assumption that everyone has the same level of difficulty each year. Therefore entering the 2015 season, the NFC South seemed like a joke. The South did improve dramatically in 2015 with the exception of the Bucs.

But what would happen if spectators and fans were optimistic about the Panthers? Thomas Davis (whoever that is) said that the team was motivated by people doubting the organization. And yes teams started taking them seriously. But the longer the press kept doubting the team, the more the Panthers kept winning.

During this time another strange thing happened that was unusual for the Carolina Panthers. The team started to have a lot more fun than they ever had. The "dab" was repeated all over the league by fans everywhere, as was the famous "Super Man" gesture. Players took group photos after the games. Tolbert was doing the dirty bird dance in the endzone against the Falcons. And Josh Norman was able to get into the heads of the top wide receivers in the league at the time, except for Julio Jones.

The crybabying from the national media over the Panthers was lottery for the team as the Panthers forced them to make every excuse they could concoct

. "Oh the referees got the wrong call here on that fourth down catch!"

"Oh they got lucky on that catch late in the game!"

"Oh they don't have their star player on the field!"

The national media didn't take into account Luke Kuechly's injury the first quarter of the season when Carolina was winning. They didn't factor in the fact the Panthers had to rebuild from losing star defensive end Greg Hardy the year earlier. There was no sympathy even in the Super Bowl when Philly Brown was injured on purpose by Aqib Talib with a concussion, a play that deserved more conversation than Cam not diving on the football.

The 2015 Carolina Panthers as a team were motivated by hunger for respect. They knew they could earn that respect because they gave each other respect. But they didn't concern themselves if the respect was not given. The team chose to take it not ask for it. The next year the team was supposed to be great. The Panthers went 6-10.

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