Joy of joys! It’s time to get excited about Carolina Panther Football! Yes, the regular season has ended. The Panthers didn’t make the playoffs… or even come close. Fans went through an excrutiating year that couldn’t end soon enough. There was almost nothing to get excited about for the the whole season.
We got spoiled! We got quite used to the idea of having the zigs and zags and breakaways from Deangelo Williams. We learned to expect Jonathon Stewart to run like a Weeble that wobbles forward but refuses to fall down. We just took for granted that Steve Smith would pull out a miracle catch and somehow slide away from all the defenders for an incredible touchdown run. That was what we saw in every game. It’s mind boggling to think that this team seemingly went through an entire season with less highlight-reel plays than we used to see in one game.
Ah, but the stage was set for us to get excited right from the start. You remember the feeling, right? It’s Game One. Charles Godfrey intercepts Eli Manning’s pass. Deangelo Williams breaks away for 29 yards. Our offense is ready to score! Umm…
During the off-season, our team had focused on upgrading the offense… you know, the offense that already had one of the best receivers in football and a wonderful offensive line opening holes for a record-breaking duo of running backs. The same offense that had solved its turnover problems by releasing Cajun Jake and now looked to that incredible up-and-coming quarterback that we stole from Dallas. The same offense that finished out 2009 by embarrassing several playoff teams. “Oh, just wait ’til next year!”
During the draft, the commentators actually talked about the Panthers instead of just breaking to commercials when it was our turn to pick. You see, we got this high-profile quarterback that the other teams just kind of forgot about. He was NFL-ready and would probably take the job from Matt Moore before the end of preseason. You could almost hear 31 other teams yelling “Dangit! I can’t believe we missed out on Jimmy Clausen!” We ended the draft knowing we had both our current QB and our QB of the future. We finally had receivers to complement Smitty. We even had a guy named Pike that would be our project for the future and another guy named Armanti that could throw a 70 yard pass to himself for a touchdown. Boy, were we ever set at those positions!
The only worry was defense. The question “Can they replace Pep?” was answered so vividly when we ended preseason with the #1 ranked defense. We knew we’d probably get five to ten sacks a game. After all, we did in the preseason. That’s real football, right?
This brings us back to Game One. This is where Coach Fox, our newly appointed leader at QB, and our young offense made all our dreams come true. (Insert the word “bad” wherever you deem appropriate.)
You remember it, right? We’re poised to score our first touchdown of 2010. Suddenly, reality hit you in the face like a lame duck. (Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds appropriate.) Speaking of “lame ducks,” the lob that Moore threw into quintuple coverage (that’s “double trouble” times two-and-a-half) was prophetic… and not just of how he’d play the rest of that game. It represented an entire season; a season of slow-motion helpless agony; of hoping for a miracle, but knowing the reality that had to follow. Now, the season has finally ended. With 14 losses, you, dear loyal fan, have sat through approximately 42 hours of that agony, in a season that has given you no reason for excitement.
For those who have managed to read this far without slitting your wrists, I have good news! The Carolina Panthers have a new coach! I don’t know who it is yet (because, as far as I know, he hasn’t actually been picked yet), but he is guaranteed to lead us to a Super Bowl win in all of your dreams between now and next season. Fox is a great guy and has been our most successful coach… but you’ve earned the right to have those dreams.
I don’t know if we’ll get “The Chin,” “Chucky,” a QB/Coach Combo, or the coach behind curtain #3, but whoever it is, he gives us the right to once again be excited about our team.
But wait! There’s more! As the season progressed, you learned to expect Carolina to lose. You knew it was unrealistic to even think they had a chance. But now, Carolina does have a chance to win! Of course, we’re talking about a different game; one that’s not on the field. Actually, it’s a whole set of games: The off-season games. Those poor playoff teams! They’re so focused on the playoffs, that they haven’t even realized they’re behind in this new race. The Panthers have already won the first game. They have the top pick in the draft. Our team is 1-0 thus far. The rest will include some waiting-games; for example, will Andrew Luck declare for the draft by the January 15th deadline? (You’ve got to admit, that game will be more exciting to keep up with than the Carolina @ Atlanta season finale was.)
Other games will determine whether Deangelo Williams, Thomas Davis, Steve Smith and others are still a part of this team next season. Yet another game will be played around a new CBA and will determine if and how much football will be played next year. This is quite definitely the scariest, most unknown, and most exciting off-season for Carolina fans in years, and maybe ever!
So, stay tuned, and start your wish list. The future is bright! Maybe all we need is a little Luck. Maybe we should trade down for enough picks to fill any and all needs. Maybe the coach that you want is setting up a meeting with Jerry Richardson right now. Whatever the case, we suddenly have something to cheer for. Carolina Football is back to being exciting!