The Falcons, fresh off their hottest and second win of the season, face off with a team that can’t even pick a state: The Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton went down early this season, and the team has bounced around that average .500 line.
I was a little surprised to see the Panthers had five wins this season. Unsurprisingly, they played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’s no rivalry between the Falcons and Panthers, so many fans could use a refresher on what’s going on with the team.
We reached out to Walker Clement of SB Nation’s Cat Scratcher Reader to ask questions like, “Who is even on this team?” He graciously answered a couple of questions about the Carolina McCafferys.
1. The Panthers only have three winning seasons in the last decade. The team is on their second HC, fourth QB, and so many wide receivers and offensive coordinators I can’t even count. What’s the biggest thing that has held this team back?
The old owner was quite happy to have a boat that didn’t rock. Rivera should have been shown the door a long time ago. He has had two generational players in Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly and they drag him to the playoffs when the rest of the roster isn’t filled with aggressively below average talent.
Not included in your three winning seasons zip is the fact that the Panthers won the NFC South three years in a row, with the middle year being on the strength of 7-8-1 record. 2014 was a hell of a time. Also not mentioned is the fact that no coach has ever in the history of this franchise put together back to back winning seasons. With talent like Newton and Kuechly for going on ten years now? That is inexcusable. I mean, seriously, Rivera stood by Mike Shula for five years. I don’t even know what to say about that.
2. Ron Rivera got the nickname Riverboat Ron by taking big risks early in his Panthers career. That seems to be something of the past as he makes more confusing decisions, highlighted by going for 2 against the Packers. Has he lost his touch?
Rivera was given a nickname he never fully earned. He was coaching for his job in 2013 and so going for it on 4th down was the only option he often had. Not scoring would have meant being fired. He immediately reverted to being a staid and stodgy stick in the mud in 2014 despite the proven efficacy of using Cam Newton over a punter in short yardage situations.
His going for two against the Packers, a decision supported by math, was recently uncharacteristic for him. He has openly expressed his disdain for math on more than one occasion. The fact that his team failed to convert those two points has led most Panthers fans to believe that he will never try it again and, I don’t know, burn an abacus in protest or something.
3. We can’t look at the Panthers without noting their biggest name player, Cam Newton, is on injured reserve after another injury-plagued season. Based on expectations around the league, Newton will leave Carolina with the same impact on the franchise as Jake Delhomme. Did the front office’s incompetence finally kill the former MVP quarterback by refusing to give Newton anything but a running back?
4. Kyle Allen has replaced Newton, likely for the rest of the season. Can you provide some information on Allen, as he is guaranteed to barely be the team’s quarterback long enough for readers to complete a Google search?
Allen has been a surprise for the Panthers this season. He’d be an easy under dog to root for if a certain section of Panthers fans would stop ignoring his flaws and preaching that he is the second coming. They happen to be the same section that thinks Cam Newton isn’t a leader because he either “plays the game the wrong way” or “wears hats.”
The good about Allen is that he has the quote/unquote moxie of a starting quarterback which allows him to project the requisite confidence to lead an NFL offense after making mistakes. The weakness in his game as a passer comes in passing the football. He is a competent thrower when targeting players within approximately five to ten yards of the line of scrimmage. He begins to lose accuracy and power when pushing the ball any further down field than that. If you recall the hype around the Panthers from the preseason then you’ll know this was supposed to be third year wide receiver Curtis Samuel’s break out year as a deep threat. Instead, he has spent much of the season falling down and tripping over defenders while trying to come back to or defend underthrown balls that are closer to the defenders he burned than they are to him.
Overall, Allen is a well above average backup quarterback who has proven himself clearly capable of starting for a few weeks in place of a franchise quarterback. The longer he is exposed to NFL defenses, however, the more turnovers and fewer touchdowns he will produce.
5. Do you expect the Panthers to graduate from 1990s football anytime soon or will this basically be a John Fox team, sticking around well past its prime like a statue outside of Bank of America stadium?
The hope here comes from sophomore owner David Tepper. He is most distinctly not Jerry Richardson. He spent his first year and change as an owner modernizing the business side of the Carolina Panthers such that team now actually resembles a modern business and not a billion dollar mom and pop hardware store known for its Jean Fridays. The next step for modernization should be the front office and coaching staff. That means the next coach who swears to make decisions “by the book” will have at least purchased one since 1985.