6 Solid Concerns for Panthers at end of 2022 Season (yep, a new stadium)

As a sports analyst, I’m ‘money,’ but Rhule’s 3rd year was my worst prediction ever.

Can Sam Darnold, game manager, sling it like the #3 stud pick five years ago more than once? If DJ Moore hadn’t pulled his helmet off, and Mr. Tepper hadn’t yanked (and given no reason for) the financial rug on a facility in Rock Hill, would Charlotte have been even more hyped about beating Tampa Bay/Brady for a playoff spot?

The answer was Yes, fans would have loved to see the playoffs after brutal early season situation. Football still counts in Charlotte, even if its gained some image as a futbol town after Tepper’s soccer team posted a 13-18-3 inaugral season, with a league record 74,759 for its home opener, and a playoff chase until next to last game.

https://www.panthers.com/news/rapid-reactions-panthers-finish-season-with-10-7-win-at-the-buzzer

The quarterback situation and Darnold ‘s ‘value,’ a contract for Steve Wilks, more Scott Fitterer magic in the draft, sports fannies and the economy, and a stadium are The Six Concerns, with the QB position and person (Sam Darnold) being two questions at same time.

Darnold – The jury is out

Expectations for Darnold’s return were based on what Walker did during a running game fueled string of successful outings. Back in the lineup after 11 weeks with a high ankle sprain, he did what was asked, while the running game dominated. Last weeks game in Tampa -341 yards and three TDs, two thows that were really ripped, is what most had expected in Years 1-4 of his career. The productive display in loss was Bucs stopping the Foreman-Hubbard running tandem, and GOAT Brady taking advantage of turnovers and CJ Henderson.

Part Two is Darnold becoming a free agent after Sunday, when his rookie contract expires. Does he get a raise and guaranteeed contract? MORE than $20MM, compared to what? $18.85MM was what Panthers were always on hook for, but he was disappointing and considered expendable until the last part of season.

His 5 of 15, 47 yards and a fumble game line, even if it scored, doesn’t sound like a fully revamped version of Darnold worth $20 million.

-Myself, 1/8/23

Panthers expecting Matt Corral back from a broken ankle, okay; PJ Walker knew the system well enough to make a difference, the Atlanta game with Moore’s penalty aside, he would have been 3-2. Neither is considered a top line, Insert for Success QB.

Mayfield wasn’t answer

There was plenty of hand-wringing early about whether new QB Baker Mayfield would be the solution to the Panthers poor offensive production, but his numbers as a 1-6 starter in Charlotte (57.8%, 1,313 yards/6 TD-6 INT) look like those of a journeyman vs. a former #1 pick. His 24/28, 230 yards, 2 TDs in rout of Denver weren’t a sign of anything more.

That he he was picked up by Rams and got a W on a Thursday night despite knowing almost nothing about their offense is what medical personnel call ‘a false positive.’

Mayfield being picked up by Rams and getting a ‘W’ Thursday night, despite knowing almost nothing about their offense, is what medical personnel call ‘a false positive.’

–Myself, a fine sports analyst. 1/5/23

CONTRACT for Coach STEVE WILKS

Early whispers about Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh and Charlotte abound, and NOBODY fails to understand what a damn fine job 6-6 was for Wilks, AND he’s personally responsible for turning around every aspect of Panther pride, on team and in community.

Don’t throw out the fact he’s A Local Legend, or what the numbers offered would have to be. Would/should he be disappointed if Panthers put ‘reasonable’ four years- $36MM on the table? Forty-one mill, paying a little for job just done?

Mr. Tepper slathered Rhule in $$$, and it would take a major commitment ($12MM, and probably a management say in personnel) to get Harbaugh away from Michigan and past other suitors.

Wilks is a home-grown Charlotte Legend from West Charlotte, he’s 100% responsible for rebuilt Panther Pride in community. While Harbaugh has undeniable credibility at pro level, Wilks deservedly owns the loyalty of this locker room.

While there will be Big Money laid on the splashy notion of Harbaugh as coach here, Tepper couldn’t go far wrong with a head coach that holds such sway in a locker room making a transition. If the real losing is done here – with DETROIT LIONS as example – Wilks would be an outstanding choice.

Fitterer Continues GM Magic

Panthers will have a full seven picks in March draft, including a 3rd, (2) 2nds, (2) 4ths this year from McCaffrey trade. Panthers have steadfastly refused trade offers for Brian Burns, Pro Bowler and stud defensive end, who they will shortly have to negotiate with. They feel the 7th round pick that brought WR Shenault was worth it. https://www.panthers.com/team/players-roster/laviska-shenault-jr/

If Fitterer bringing in Darnold last year wasn’t the solution expected https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/ at this point he’s perhaps a different quantity, but a *valuable* asset…? An old football axiom is “If you have two quarterbacks, you have a problem. If you haven’t got ONE, you’ve got a real problem.”

Panthers are still in latter category. Free agents and Ikem Ekwonu transformed the reputation of the offensive line for Panthers in 2022, RB D’onta Foreman is looking to get paid well over the $2MM for this year. https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/carolina-panthers/donta-foreman-21831/market-value/ If Fitterer and Dan Morgan get more input on drafting for need, like OLT Ekwonu, 2023 draft could be a bellweather year, like all-defense picks three years ago.

STADIUM

Its going to come up again, probably sooner more than later. There have been two upgrades on BOA stadium, there was a promise to stay X years after last one, but owner-Charlotte are on horns of a dilemna, including five negative years and strong progress only at end 2022. Would Charlotte spring for a NEW! stadium after Tepper’s Rock Hill debacle, where he blew off/bankrupted his corporate real estate arm? He paid bills off to county ($80MM) but it tarnished his image as great businessman.

Panthers coming off 1-6 start to 7-10 finish, that’s when fannies are going to get tapped as taxpayers.

— #gshorkonsharonroadseam It won’t officially be a negotiation in 2023, but its an awareness of hmmmm.

Agreeing on a new stadium with public contribution is probably a tough sled in 2023 economy. Not that anyone hates the team, but a $Billion sports palace doesn’t seem in the cards. Would Tepper threaten to move TWO teams, having been so proud of great first season for soccer/”Charlotte is a soccer town”?

It seems problematic for other reasons besides where a stadium would go besides downtown. Baseball Knights did LOT better in Charlotte vs. Ft. Mill, and that was corkscrewed into its location next to Romare Beardon Park, and benefits from regular downtown and stadium parking.

Fannies and the Economy

Hotwalkers Ball, after Queens Cup Steeplechases, 2022

For those who invested in live ticket events in 2022, as the country pulled out of the full force of COVID, Charlotte now has professional teams in every major sport, including lacrosse. There are plenty of overlapping seasons, and you can look up the stats on what it costs to take a family of four to a hockey, football, basketball game – hot dogs and beers, parking, etc.

If there is retrenching, where is the most reasonable spot to do that? Discretionary events like sports, where interest can be accomplished with online-cable membership. EVERY time someone says “WE NEED” a stadium, I know Mr. Shinn didn’t get what he wanted, even if it got built anyway. Original Panther stadium was built with PSLs (personal seating licenses), an incredibly unique solution back in 1992. Tepper doesn’t have free reign over such a consideration, his $800MM Rock Hill fiasco is a legitimate concern.

There are plenty of options for Charlotteans, including chilling at Whitewater Center. Having survived a Great Recession and COVID-19 the last ten years, people still vote with their dollars. Change requires planning. Choices get made. Don’t take too much for granted, Sports.

And as far as best practices Mr. Tepper, get Mr. Wilks his contract.

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