Win or Lose?

For the Carolina Panthers, it’s hard to ask for a better outcome than what happened Sunday.  It’s been such a miserable season that fans are torn between wanting to win and wanting the first pick in the draft.  This week, things finally bounced our way and we got the best of both worlds.  Our team won the game and stayed in first place in the draft race!  So, now what?  Should you hope for more victories or should you hope for two losses to finish out the season and assure the Panthers of that number 1 pick?

First, consider what was accomplished this week.  Even in the draft race, it was worth this victory.  Let’s face it.  Carolina played one of the only teams in the league that they had a chance of beating.  But that truly didn’t matter.

Clausen needed to get that monkey off his back.  He needed a touchdown pass (no matter how ugly it might be).  He needed to move the ball, lead the team, throw down the field, and give Smitty the opportunity to fire everyone up with that strut/dance/trash-talk thing he does after a catch.  Clausen needed to show, not that he’ll necessarily be great, but that he can play in the NFL.  He did all of that Sunday.  There was no way we could accurately judge his progress until that monkey was gone.

The team needed to know that they are not a 1-15 team.  As bad as it got this year, they never gave up.  Even if it’s a short week, they’ve earned the right to be happy and victorious for that week.  For example, Charles Johnson has more sacks than Julius Peppers.  What a personal triumph he has going on! But how do you celebrate that when your team keeps losing?  This week, he can celebrate.

John Fox needed a win.  Fox deserved a win!  The deck was stacked against him before the season ever started, but he had a winning overall record coming into the season, and deserves to leave here with a winning overall record.  That is now assured.  Since this was likely his last home game in Carolina, this was the right game to win.  Years from now, as we reflect on the coach that brought respectability to this team, won’t you be glad that he got to walk out of this stadium with a win.  Instead of dreading the press conference, he got to walk out of there admiring the fans’ signs of gratitude.

Yes, this was the right game to win.

But where do we go from here?  Should we hope for wins or losses?  You could hope that we win and still get that 1st pick.  It is possible.  But it’s not likely that the Bengals or Broncos will win any of their last games and if it comes down to a tie, currently, Denver is winning the tiebreaker.  But obviously, there’s no wrong answer.  Hope for whichever you choose.  Here’s one suggestion:

There’s a huge difference between a 1-15 season and a 2-14 season.  2-14 keeps this from tying our worst record ever.  But there’s almost no difference between 2-14 and 4-12.  As far as wins go, we got what we needed this week.  So, maybe what we should hope for is simply that we get to face Pittsburgh’s best game this Thursday, and that Atlanta doesn’t rest anyone for the playoffs.  Why?  Because, then, while we still will probably lose the games, we’ll hopefully see our offense grow.  We’ll see if Clausen can move forward now that the monkey’s jumped off his back and onto John Skelton’s.  If we lose, we’ll see what we need to see before the draft, and still have the power to address those needs in the draft.  If we win, we may drop a spot or two in the draft, but we’ll know our young team is coming together.

Either way, we can hope to finish a miserable season by facing a couple of the best teams the NFL has to offer, and come away seeing a much brighter future.

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Tags: 2010 NFL Draft Carolina Panthers Charles Johnson Jimmy Clausen John Fox Julius Peppers Poll

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