Carolina Panthers braced for embarrassing reality ahead of brighter future

Things will get better (hopefully).
Scott Fitterer
Scott Fitterer / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chicago Bears go on the clock to officially begin the 2024 NFL Draft, it'll be hard for those associated with the Carolina Panthers not to feel a sense of regret. After all, they handed over the No. 1 overall selection on a silver platter.

Scott Fitterer proudly proclaimed that the Panthers were ready to drop in a quarterback and take off. His roster construction was pleasing enough to those in positions of power to make a daring surge up the 2023 draft order, going from No. 9 to No. 1 for Bryce Young. The compensation was significant, but the previous general manager didn't plan on picking in the top 10 again.

A win-win, right? Wrong.

Fitterer's predictions turned out to be nothing short of delusional. What was projected to be a tremendous set-up for any rookie signal-caller turned into a complete abomination.

Carolina Panthers turn the page on incompetent era

Frank Reich had no energy and couldn't attain any sense of cohesion between his staff. David Tepper couldn't resist piling on the pressure to make this trade a reality - by his own admission. He also had no trouble giving his not-so-expert football opinion, especially when it came to Young's development following a rocky start.

It only got worse from then on. Reich was fired after 11 games. Things got no better with Chris Tabor at the helm as interim head coach. Young spent most of the season running for his life behind a torrid offensive line and throwing to players who couldn't catch or create separation. It was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish.

The Panthers won two games and tonight, their embarrassing reality of giving Chicago a chance to galvanize their franchise by taking quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1 is almost complete. Fitterer didn't think he'd pay such a hefty price, but he completely misread the state of affairs and paid with his job.

And yet, at the end of the storm, there's a golden sky.

This will hopefully signal the end of incompetence within the football operation once and for all. Dan Morgan, Brandt Tilis, and Dave Canales have moved swiftly and with conviction to limit any long-term damage, reinstalling a sense of professionalism and purpose that hasn't been seen for some time. There is much hard work ahead, but the early signs are positive nonetheless.

Morgan was Fitterer's most trusted associate and right-hand man throughout. However, he didn't think too much of the way he handled affairs based on eradicating almost every big move he made completely from the equation in a short space of time.

Ripping the band-aid off quickly to preserve future sustainability was a drastic yet completely necessary approach. The short-term gains were minimal and some tough sacrifices - especially with the Brian Burns trade to the New York Giants - were made. But the new front-office leader can thank his predecessor for that.

Fitterer was in way over his head. The extent of the damage caused only became greater once people were free to speak about the way he ran things after Tepper put the front-office figurehead out of his misery. Morgan isn't planning on making the same mistakes and weirdly, seeing such chaos unfold in front of his eyes might end up being the best thing that ever happened.

When Williams goes to the stage tonight with a Bears jersey in hand, the page will turn for Carolina. Hopefully, what emerges is a prosperous period on and off the field for a franchise brought to its knees.