Christian McCaffrey’s success is bittersweet for the Carolina Panthers

(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Christian McCaffrey’s playoff success with the San Francisco 49ers is a bittersweet situation for the Carolina Panthers and its loyal fanbase. 

The Carolina Panthers hadn’t provided Christian McCaffrey with many opportunities to shine in the postseason. Outside of his solitary playoff appearance for the franchise as a rookie, the running back’s elite skills were restricted to the regular season thanks to almost constant underachievement from the team overall.

This came to a head after Matt Rhule was fired and the Panthers began planning for the future. McCaffrey became a sacrificial lamb before the deadline when he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for what many believed to be a pretty decent draft haul in return.

Although McCaffrey was Carolina’s best player and focal point on offense, they were going absolutely nowhere following Rhule’s reign of terror. This trade allowed them to accumulate multiple draft assets and it also provided the former first-round pick with a chance to contribute to a legitimate contender.

Christian McCaffrey is thriving away from the Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey wasted no time in making a splash in the California sunshine. Aside from the defeat suffered when the Stanford product played a bit-part role just days after the trade was confirmed, it’s been smooth sailing.

The Niners are on a phenomenal winning run with McCaffrey leading the charge. Having the NFL’s best defense also helps, but what head coach Kyle Shanahan continues to conjure up is remarkable when one considers the team’s quarterback turmoil through numerous injuries in 2022.

San Francisco began their tilt for Super Bowl glory on Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. A game where McCaffrey thrived once again as a second-half surge ended Geno Smith’s fairytale campaign in convincing fashion.

McCaffrey went for 119 rushing yards from 15 carries and brought in a receiving touchdown for good measure. However, the NFL’s best dual-threat weapon is in no mood to get complacent in pursuit of the overall goal.

"“You want to be proud of what you put out there, and there’s always things like you might have made the wrong cut here or did something wrong here and that’s football. That’s what makes it so fun is that constant pursuit for perfection.”"

Watching McCaffrey do his thing in a different uniform still feels weird.

For Panthers fans, it’s also bittersweet.

Had the coaching staff managed his touches or put better players around McCaffrey, he’d likely still be on the team. But this mismanagement came at a cost and left general manager Scott Fitterer with no option other than to move on entirely.

If the Niners go deep into the postseason as expected, then the strength of compensation acquired for McCaffrey also diminishes. Something for fans to keep an eye on in the coming weeks before properly analyzing how this trade panned out.

Nobody in Carolina will be wishing McCaffrey anything but the best. Even if there is a huge sense of regret and envy attached.

‘What might have been’ is Carolina’s story of late. The new coaching staff has a big job on their hands changing this narrative sooner rather than later.

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