Ever since we won the NFC South division in 2008, it seems like we always had one or two excuses why we couldn’t make the playoffs again. In 2009 Delhomme seemed to never get over his playoff loss to Arizona and remained in his funk for the 11 games he played, until a finger injury sidelined him. Then Matt Moore came in and finished strong leading us to 4 more wins for the season. Even though he was definitely not the solution, we the fans questioned why he didn’t play earlier. Then came the 2010 season, the second worst season in Panthers history. We thought we hit the jackpot when Jimmy Clausen fell to us in the second round. Even though that year also produced Lafell, Hardy and Gettis, all was lost because of our second round pick. With this being Fox’s last contract year we just knew he was going to coach like he had never coached before and get us back to the playoffs. But then about halfway through the season it seemed that no one cared that there was football to be played. There was no excitement, teams knew we were going to either run or give them a chance to intercept the ball. When we won at San Francisco that year we all breathed a sigh of relief that these Panthers couldn’t tie or break the record for most consecutive losses. We ended up 2-14 that year cementing our fate as owning the #1 pick in the 2011 draft.
The low we all hit for the season prior seemed to disperse because we were going to get the absolute best player available that year. And with that selection we got Cam Newton, a dual threat QB that put on a show each and every possession. We also started the season with an almost entirely new staff. New head coach, Rivera, did his best to surround himself with the best talent on the field and behind the scenes. But while the 2011 season was exciting and Cam broke a couple records, we still found ourselves not getting an invitation to the big dance. Then came last year, which seemed to drag on slowly and painfully. We would be so close in games and just couldn’t figure out how to finish, offensively or defensively. We did have some injuries, on both sides and that seemed to deflate us more than I wanted to realize. But the good news is we finished out the second half of the season 5-3. Which we could hopefully ride that momentum to the next season. But the offseason is a mighty long time to be excited about 5 wins.
Which brings us to the 2013-2014 season, with no clue as to what our excuse will be. Could it be we have the toughest schedule in football? Maybe the fact that we have a new offensive coordinator. Injuries? Tough division? How will Cam bounce back? Who do we give the ball to? Who knows how things will play out this upcoming season. I hope this regular season ends with a trip to play another day, rather than pack your bags and enjoy a nice long cold winter on the couch. I hate having to watch other teams knowing that the only team that matters to me is already preparing for the next season.