The Carolina Panthers continue their painful to watch season tonight against the Chicago Bears. Neither team is expected to look good tonight. The best we can honestly expect is a weird football game. Hooray.
Still. there are some things that we can learn tonight. In weeks passed we focused on harbingers of success in the to-date anemic rushing attack, clock management, and target distribution to try to predict growth in the Panthers offense. I think we can safely say that isn’t worth our time anymore. There is still time and room for this team to get better, but most fans have lost their appetite for waiting.
So, what are we looking for then? Signs people might get fired. There is no indication that Frank Reich is on a short leash in his first year with the Panthers, but there is also no indication that he is building a winning football team in the Carolinas either.
Does Tyson Bagent beat the Panthers?
I want to start this by saying that “quarterback wins” are a largely meaningless statistic. Football is a team game. Peyton Manning lost 79 games in his career. There haven’t been 79 quarterbacks to play in the NFL that were better than he was. I wasn’t going to put a lot of stock, win or lose, in the “head-to-head” match up between Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud a couple weeks ago, even if a lot of fans were ready to riot if Stroud had won that game.
That said, Young has struggled this season. A lot of that has been on the team around him. A lot of that has been on him. With fans already restless, I fully expect the torches and pitchforks to come out if Young, the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and his Panthers lose to the Chicago Bears as quarterbacked by Tyson Bagent, a 2023 undrafted free agent.
Bagent has not been a world beater, by any means, in his three starts with the Bears so far. He has, however, managed to complete passes for positive yards, something Young has struggled with at times.
Tonight’s loss could be the start of a shift in tone amongst the Panthers fan base. Their tone is already negative, but it could change from despondent to something altogether nastier quite quickly.
Do the players quit on the Panthers?
This was a question we asked a lot last season as former
charlatan Charlottean Matt Rhule was busy throwing players under every bus he could find. I thought we were done with it. Reich is, by all accounts, well loved in the locker room. He’s apparently a very transparent and present person in his conversations with players. It would be incredibly unusual for him to lose the locker room in his first season.
But losing is hard on everyone and doubly so on people with the competitive drive to make it in the NFL. Factor in the fact that the locker room is missing most of its more seasoned leaders because of injury and you have a recipe for a potentially disgruntled group.
I am not trying to start a rumor that players are restless. I am suggesting that such emotion is worth watching for as fans. It would be another nail in the coffin of the current staff that many fans have wanted changed since Week 7.
On the flipside, the Panthers putting forth a cohesive and inspired effort for the rest of this season would speak highly not only of Reich, but of his entire staff.
Does David Tepper scratch an itch?
This is more of a post-game scenario. Tepper fired the head coach of the Charlotte Football Club yesterday, making him the third head coach fired in the club’s short tenure. Tepper is not a patient man and he has to be tired of losing as much as the Panthers have since he bought them. Going into tonight, the Panthers are 30-60 since he acquired a team two seasons removed from going to the Super Bowl.
Did firing Christian Lattanzio from the Charlotte Football Club scratch his itch to make a change? Or did it just make the itch stronger?
A one or two win team that already traded away its first round pick in the coming draft is not indicative of a successfully built organization. Change is likely on the horizon for the Panthers, in one form or another. Who Tepper will fire and when are open questions.