It’s time to let go and embrace the Carolina Panthers’ new era

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Ron Rivera and Cam Newton
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Ron Rivera and Cam Newton /

Some sections of the Carolina Panthers’ loyal fanbase are having trouble moving on from the Ron Rivera-Cam Newton era.

If you’re having trouble embracing this new era of the Carolina Panthers, trust me, you’re not alone. It’s still hard to believe that just two seasons ago, this looked like a team that could make another deep playoff run. Because of that, I was in major denial that team ownership would press the “rebuild” button, even after the tumultuous 2019 season.

Before we move on, let’s review what the era of Ron Rivera and Cam Newton gave us.

It was a fresh start for all of us. The Carolina Panthers hired a first-time head coach in Rivera who earned his stripes in three different organizations before arriving in Charlotte. They also earned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by being unwatchable in 2010 (thanks, Jimmy Clausen).

Despite all the naysayers, Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney selected Cam Newton first overall and from the first game of his career, we all saw that he could be special. In addition to a great hire at head coach and a dynamic playmaker at quarterback. The front office rewarded us with savvy additions like Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly, and Josh Norman.

We didn’t have to wait long for this new era to see success. In 2013, Carolina celebrated an NFC South championship for the first time in five seasons. The following year, they made history as the first back to back divisional champs since its formation in 2003 and even managed to win a playoff game for the first time since 2005.

If that was good, then 2015 was even better for the Carolina Panthers.

None of us will ever forget how we felt in 2015. We witnessed Newton dismantle and outscore the entire league with Ted Ginn Jr. as his best wideout, which is something he still doesn’t get enough credit for.

Kuechly and the defense suffocated opponents, and who could ever forget his incredible performance against Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving?

As great as that felt during the regular season and playoffs. It was followed by a horrific feeling following Super Bowl 50. The following season wasn’t any better.

In 2017, the Panthers got their groove back. Core players like Newton, Kuechly, and Olsen were still contributing. Julius Peppers returned to add veteran leadership on defense alongside Thomas Davis. In the draft that year, Hurney aced another first-round pick with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

Although the team’s inability to beat the New Orleans Saints cost them a deep playoff run, there was still confidence that this core could compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy again soon. This faith was rewarded with a 6-2 start in 2018. Unlike previous years, Newton had career highs in completion percentage and showed even his harshest critics that he could win from the pocket.

There’s no need to rehash what’s happened since then, but for many who thought the Panthers would bounce back, this new reality will take a lot of getting used to. As we anticipate the 2020 season, here are some things that can help you move forward and embrace change.

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1. Remembering that in sports (and in life), change is inevitable.

We have no control over anything that happens to the team, so acknowledge that things will always change, whether you like it or not.

2. Staying positive.

Matt Rhule built a reputation for creating successful programs in college. It remains to be seen what he can do at the pro-level, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and be optimistic about what he can do in Carolina.

We also know that the Panthers should be very competitive on offense. Teddy Bridgewater played well last year and he’s familiar with Joe Brady’s scheme. Not to mention McCaffrey coming off a stellar season and we all know what Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel are capable of. If all else fails, we could be “rewarded” once again with a draft pick high enough to put Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in a Carolina jersey next year.

3. Taking a break, especially from social media.

This tip is really important because as fans we feel guilty when we don’t watch games or we’re not somehow immersed in what the team is doing. Watching the Panthers lose so much last year was mentally and emotionally draining.

If the team happens to slide this year, find an activity that makes you happy and check the scores later. Spend more time with family and friends, read books, play video games, or exercise. There are always other options. If you play fantasy football, watch other games and cheer for players in your starting lineup.

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So Panthers fans, no matter how you choose to cope, just remember that in the almost three-decade history of the franchise, it’s always bounced back after turmoil. The journey to bringing a Super Bowl to the Carolinas has been a long one, just consider this another chapter.