Carolina Panthers: A Time to Reflect While Looking Ahead


With the first week of the offseason just about in the books, now might be just as good of a time as any, to pause and reflect on the season that was, for the Carolina Panthers.

It’s amazing how fast a season goes! Amid the reports from last season of Julius Peppers’ uncertain future (deja-vu) and fans’ outcry to get rid of embattled quarterback Jake Delhomme–I’m beginning to notice a pattern here–I once again seem to pick up from where I left off.

A year later, very little offseason news seems to have changed.

Julius Peppers is once again about to enter contract talks with the Panthers, though this time with a more upbeat mindset about a possible return in 2010.

As for Jake Delhomme, well, some members of the jury–fanbase–are still deliberating.

Last year I spent a few articles standing up for Delhomme; for reasons of respect more than anything else. This year, I don’t really feel a need to go that route again, as he’s obviously not the type of quarterback he once was.

Out of respect, I will say that whatever the issue is, I hope he’s able to work it out. Having seen a lot of Jake this season, the problem doesn’t seem to be from lack of strength in his arm, rather it seems to be something within his head. Lack of self confidence? No trust in his receivers? Bad playcalling? Perhaps all that. We’ll probably never know.

When you start doubting yourself or those around you though, that’s a worse problem than any past injury can present. Physical injuries can be worked through and heal over time. Broken confidence depends on the drive and determination of the person.

Delhomme has always had that drive and determination, but this year, more often than not, the drive; the determination; the confidence was not there.

Which brings us to the next factor, John Fox. Why did he keep Delhomme as the starter until it was too late?

At some point, one has to be able to admit defeat. Fox was determined to stick with his guy. “I feel he gives us the best chance to win,” Fox said on a couple of occasions.

Fox is fortunate to have an employer like Jerry Richardson, who understands the bond between a coach and player.

Earlier in the year, just before training camp began, I wrote a piece about how the Panthers seemed poised to follow-up their winning season with one close to it, if not identical.

I’m not ashamed to say I did predict a handful of those games correctly. Amazingly enough, among my picks I predicted the Arizona Cardinals, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants, the home games against Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans as Panthers wins.

I had originally stated that on paper–we now know the Panthers were Paper Lions–the Panthers could finish as good as 12-4, but no worse than 10-6…Wow, try 8-8.

8-8 was a small accomplishment. 8-8 is not 7-9; I guess that’s the only good thing about being 8-8, you’re average.

So to look ahead, I’ll be doing position analysis in the coming weeks, to see who looks to be a keeper and who the Panthers might look to reposition–elsewhere, not in Carolina.

During this time I’ll also take a look at what needs the Panthers have and where they might be able to fill those needs, whether via the draft or free agency.

Cat will also be your source for any free agents acquired along the way.

There’s a lot to cover, and hopefully that helps speed this offseason along, because even though I don’t want to, I’m going to have to wait to go to Spartanburg in the late summer to take in my first Panthers Training Camp!

Stay tuned!