It was just what you needed. Don’t you feel better now? Suddenly, there is hope, relief, belief, and a renewed spirit.
The Carolina Panthers and their fans have been through a miserable year. It wasn’t just the NFL-worst 2-14 record. It wasn’t just the injuries, the horrible quarterback situation, or John Fox’s lame-duck status. It was more than that. In the course of a year, this team lost its identity.
The very fact that you are reading this article tells me a lot about you. Most football fans are now focused on the playoffs and the teams that are left in the playoffs. That is the only football going on as far as they’re concerned. The Panthers’ season is over, and even most of the fans of this team won’t give much thought to them until the beginning of next season.
But that doesn’t describe you, does it? You have other things that you should be doing, but here you are, scanning the Internet, trying to find information about your beloved team. In fact, right now you are more interested in your team then you have been all year. Do you know why? I do.
The type of fan that you are, and that I am, requires more than just knowing what happens during the 3 hours of each game played. But this year has taught you a very frustrating reality. In order to be this kind of a fan, we must have a “face” to picture in our minds. The “face” of the team.
Over the past few years, the face you pictured may have been that of Jake Delhomme, John Fox, or Jerry Richardson. But this year Cajun Jake was gone, Fox was in his last year, and Jerry Richardson was agonizingly absent from any press coverage. By the end of the year, no quarterback had stepped up to take Jake’s place, Fox was officially out, and Richardson’s press conference left you more frustrated than ever. He didn’t say what you wanted to hear, and he seemed more concerned about the CBA and teaching the reporters a lesson than anything else. The situation got even worse when Andrew Luck explained that he would not be declaring for the draft. Every face of the franchise that you had, or that you hoped for, was ripped away from your mind. It wasn’t just that things were bad with your team. There was nothing for you to “see” in your mind.
Now, all of that has changed. Ron Rivera was announced as head coach. He said the right things; the things that you wanted to hear; the things that you needed to hear. They were just words, but they were the right words. They don’t solve every problem that the Carolina Panthers have. But it’s a start.
For the moment, we once again have a face to associate with this team. You know there are still a thousand problems to work out for the team, and you know Ron Rivera won’t solve every one of them immediately. But that’s OK. Because, now that we have a face that we can see in our minds, we are able to remember that this team has been in this situation before… and has quickly come out of it. We now have something to hold on to. And it will only get better. We will get more faces: We’ll get more coaches, we’ll resign some players, and we’ll pick up some new players. This team will once again have an identity.
For any team that is not in the playoffs, this is a time for hopes and dreams about what the next season will hold. Once again, Ron Rivera will not solve every problem that the Panthers have, and the words that he said when he was introduced as the new head coach were just words. But, in another sense, they were much more than that. They gave us something to hold on to. It was vitally important for him to say the right words. It was just what you needed.