The Carolina Panthers being perceived as the NFL's laughing-stock hasn't gone unnoticed by new head coach Dave Canales.
It's no secret that the Carolina Panthers aren't exactly the most revered organization in the NFL. David Tepper's turned a once-proud franchise with a strong core ethos into a complete joke. Something that reached new levels during the 2023 campaign.
The Panthers boldly claimed they were ready to drop in a quarterback and take off. They were extremely pleased with their off-season recruitment. Their all-star coaching staff received envious glances from across the league. What followed was nothing short of catastrophic.
Carolina won two games. They are giving up the No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. Frank Reich was fired after 11 contests. There was complete dysfunction from top to bottom. This unstable environment turned quarterback Bryce Young from a confident upstart into a shell of his old self.
Then, there was Tepper.
The billionaire declared before the season that Young didn't need good weapons because he was a point guard. He had to let another head coach go and held a press conference that lacked accountability for his failings soon after. Of course, the embarrassing drink-throwing incident was a microcosm of his erratic petulance since buying the Panthers from Jerry Richardson.
Carolina Panthers' embarrassment continued at NFL Honors
Carolina's moves this offseason reflect the way they're being viewed. Head coaching candidates with other offers looked elsewhere. The Panthers promoted from within to replace general manager Scott Fitterer. Tepper has promised to stay out of the limelight, but this was met with fierce skepticism.
The Panthers were victims of a stray jibe at the NFL Honors evening. Host Keegan Michael Kay couldn't wait to take a shot at Carolina for their league-worst record and how far they appear to be from reaching the Super Bowl. Kicking someone when they're down isn't cool, I just wish the camera had panned to Tepper's face once the joke left his lips.
This remark didn't go unnoticed by head coach Dave Canales. The new arrival took to social media, placing a thinking face and bookmark emoji over the joke. He's taking receipts and holding firm in the face of immediate adversity. At the same time, he also knows the Panthers' current reputation - something the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator plans on changing immediately.
The disrespect is real. It's also deserved. What's important for Canales and everyone within the organization is using remarks and criticism as motivation to put things right. That includes Young, who's heard the chatter from some who've already written him off as one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory.
Canales isn't going to turn the Panthers into a playoff contender overnight. What he and new front-office leader Dan Morgan can do is restore the culture, bring in players willing to give their absolute all every single day, and return a sense of respectability that's been sorely lacking under Tepper's ownership so far.
Then - and only then - will people around the league begin looking at the Panthers differently. Their downward spiral has been a running joke for long enough. It's time to bring a sense of pride back to the fans who've remained fiercely loyal amid constant misery.
If Canales was in doubt about the team's reputation, this sight with the entire NFL community watching intently should have removed that entirely. The hard work starts now to get this franchise off its knees and into a promising new era.
Or so we hope.