This is a very good time to be an optimist if you’re a Carolina Panther fan. Everything is unknown. The future is wide open.
Sure, there are plenty of things to worry about:
- Many are worried that Jerry Richardson has become too cheap to pay for a good team.
- John Fox was just officially informed that his contract would not be renewed, nor the contracts of his staff. This means the franchise currently has no coach and no coaching staff, and no one seems to know what direction the Panthers will go next.
- Several of the team’s best players are at the end of their contracts and no extension has been offered.
- It also appears that both the Matt Moore and the Jimmy Clausen projects have failed. Thus, Carolina has no reliable quarterback. This season, they have the worst record and the worst offense in the entire league.
- On top of this, even though the Panthers have the first pick, there’s a rumor going around that says Andrew Luck may not declare for the upcoming draft. There’s a large group of Panther fans that foresee gloom and despair and agony on us, singing “If it’s not for Andrew Luck, we’ll have no luck at all.”
- And just in case this isn’t enough to worry about, there’s always the concern about the Collective Bargaining Agreement and if there will even be a football season next year.
As I said, this is a very good time to be an optimist. Of course, if you enjoy being a pessimist you’ve got everything you need to be as depressed as you want. But if you like to look at it from the glass-half-full standpoint, take another look at those same six points:
- Jerry Richardson and the Panthers have a history of being willing to pay their players and coaches well. Mr. Richardson even sent around a letter to fans confirming that he will be willing to pay whatever is necessary to get a winning team on the field. While this team has admitted they cut a lot of costs prior to this season, this was very likely for the purpose of putting the team in a good financial situation in preparation for the new CBA.
- While this team had one very bad experience with George Seifert as coach, the only other two head coaches in this team’s history had very quick success. Dom Capers led this team to the NFC Championship Game in its second year. John Fox took over a team that had been 1 and 15 the previous season. His second year, he had them in the Super Bowl. So, this team has a good history when it comes to picking coaches.
- Many of the players have confirmed that they want to keep playing for this team. They have made it clear that they understand the only reason they have not received an extension to their contract has to do with the business end of football, and will be resolved once a new CBA is reached.
- Yes, the quarterback situation has been quite bad. But having the first pick in the draft and having money to work with in free agency makes it seem reasonable that this position can be successfully addressed. There is also a lot of good news when you look at other parts of the team. For the most part, the defense has fared quite well despite being on the field for much longer portions of the game than they should have been. Special teams had a better season than Carolina has seen in many years. Even on offense, it appears that once they get a few players back from injury, Carolina will have a steady offensive line and is deep with quality running backs.
- Andrew Luck has made it clear that he has made no decision about entering the draft this year. Instead, he is focusing on the bowl game he has Monday night. This means that, while he may decide to stay in school for another year, any speculation to that effect is, in fact, just speculation.
- Who knows what will happen with the CBA situation? But we do know this: there is a lot of money to be made in the NFL. No one will be making that money if there is no football. Roger Goodell has expressed confidence that an agreement will be reached shortly. It makes financial sense that, one way or another, he is correct.
This is the start of a new era in Carolina Panther football. Admittedly, the John Fox era raised our expectations. Ever since the surprise run to the Super Bowl in 2003, nothing short of another Super Bowl run will satisfy Carolina’s fans. Will that dream come true this next year? The year after that? Ever? I don’t know. You don’t know. Neither does Jerry Richardson, Andrew Luck, or anyone else. But if Panther fans plan on keeping their sanity between the end of this season and the next time we see Carolina take the field, this is the perfect time to become an optimist.