Dave Canales lays down gauntlet to NFC South rivals with ambitious claim

Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales laid down the gauntlet to the team's NFC South rivals with an ambitious claim for his first season at the helm.

It's hard not to buy into what Dave Canales is selling. The Carolina Panthers head coach talks with supreme conviction and is concise in his plans to take the franchise forward. Talk is cheap for fans who've been sold fool's gold under previous regimes, but this one feels different.

Canales is looking to get back down to basics when organized team activities resume. This is a blank slate to a certain extent, but he believes there is enough talent across the board for improvements once his coaching staff implements a progressive way of thinking.

Instead of approaching with caution, Canales has been somewhat bullish about the scope for immediate growth. Dan Morgan is taking a more realistic approach, stating the tough decisions being made this offseason are firmly with the future in mind rather than any monumental short-term shift.

Dave Canales believes Carolina Panthers can win NFC South in 2024

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator harbors bigger ambitions. Canales laid down the gauntlet to his NFC South rivals with an ambitious prediction based on comments via the team's website. He believes that if the Panthers play smarter football and embrace the fundamentals, they'll have a shot at winning the division in 2024.

"I think we're going to be competitive for the division this year. And what I'm saying is if we play good football, if we can get the football right, like we believe we can, and we can take care of the football, that the numbers take care of themselves. We'll be in the hunt, and we'll be in every single game, which will give us an opportunity to be in the hunt for the division at the end. And if we can play great defense and run it, it will carry us right into the late into the season."

Dave Canales via Panthers.com

This is a bold statement. But Canales wouldn't have made it if he didn't fully believe.

Going from worst to first happens more often than you think around the league. The Houston Texans were a prime example last season. Not many held out hope for immediate success under DeMeco Ryans, but with some shrewd acquisitions and a complete reset of the football culture, they won the AFC South and even attained a wildcard playoff success as a result of their efforts.

The Panthers were the worst team in football last season. Established stars have left and the balance of investment has shifted to surround quarterback Bryce Young with a more accomplished supporting cast. From Canales' perspective, he wants to clean everything up, make everyone aware of their responsibilities, and restore some pride in the fanbase along the way.

If he can achieve this, everything else should take care of itself. The NFC South isn't the strongest division, although quarterback Kirk Cousins joining the Atlanta Falcons makes things more difficult for everybody. Therefore, Canales has his work cut out to get his team ready for a divisional title tilt during his first campaign at the helm.

Canales is right to aim high. He's heard all the jibes and knows how the Panthers are being perceived around the league. But make no mistake, the likable figure won't be backing away from any fight.