Six reasons (beside Rhule’s history) to keep a positive vision on 2022, the QB ‘upgrade,’ as Panthers get Mayfield cheap

Baker Mayfield will continue to be a MAJOR source of interest in Charlotte, now that Positive Reason #1, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer, has fixed their QB situation, again. Props to Baker for converting a manly chunk of guaranteed salary into incentive pay, its what moved the needle. Cam is *definitely* off the board.

Walking to the terrific Queens University campus is less than a mile, and its truly a jewel in Charlotte’s crown. It was an idyllic 4th of July, with a car parade, and young families – Yo! Nick Savarino with three little ones – pouring in from all directions.

Another under-loved QB comes to Charlotte

I actually cheered when Matt Stafford got out of Detroit last year. Stafford seemed like a good player whose Lions always lost, wasn’t going anywhere (but years he would never forget, as per his phone commercial). Then the Rams asked what it would take to replace Jared Goff with him, and it paid off in a Super Bowl win, as Stafford got good ball to all their receivers.

Fitterer brought Sam Darnold to Charlotte last year after three poor seasons with Jets, under nearly the same circumstances as Mayfield’s deal. Less draft capital (a conditional #5) spent, and Mayfield doesn’t have the $18.85MM option tag fans have opined about Mr. Tepper picking up too quickly (though in line with CBA). He also pulled a 3rd round pick out of his hat to get Mississippi QB Matt Corral this year.

Lets hope Mayfield brings a real chip on shoulder attitude regarding nobody wanting him for $18 million. Darnold beat his old Jets to start last year, but Baker hanging a quantity of whupa** (300 yards, 3 TDs enough?) on Cleveland to start 2022 season will have fans singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ SO GOODs! for him.

Mayfield keeping DJMoore, McCaffrey, Robbie Anderson et al happy with distribution like Stafford’s would be a darn good first step. “Super Bowl” shouldn’t pass anyone’s lips.

–Me, and IMHO, minimum number of Ws for Rhule’s Rule on ‘major 3rd year improvement’ should be nine wins. It’s still Tepper’s $$$.

CMC is *always* open, or just turning and give the rock to him is legitimate. There’s a TOTALLY new O-line, $$$ well-spent, including local product Ikem Ekwonu, the stud OLT Panthers have missed forever, props to Jordan Gross. Podcaster Colin Cowherd feels Baker could be best QB in the division soon, because they’ll give him every chance to produce- and Brady has to retire sometime.

BIG Reason #2 – Christian McCaffrey

As noted in his Panther bio:

Despite only playing seven games in 2021 due to injury, Christian McCaffrey became the fastest player to reach 3,000 receiving yards and 3,000 rushing yards in NFL history, doing it in his first 57 career games.

Christian McCaffrey is a documented high-achiever, and he’s ready to tear it up again, after most of two years on the shelf (99 carries/442 yds./1 TD in 2021). Its difficult to judge whether he made the Panthers offensive line look better than it was with the 1000 yards rushing and receiving year, but that’s kind of the standard he’ll be looking at. Running behind a much improved O-line should be gratifying to all.

Yes, “staying healthy” often comes up, but stop that noise about wearing out/breaking CMC now. Long-time Panther linebacker Thomas Davis https://www.panthers.com/team/players-roster/thomas-davis/ had knee surgeries that would have ended many careers, and he had 14 seasons of thrills to his credit.

Anyone who thought McCaffrey was trade bait for DeSean Watson trade was nuts. HE sure didn’t like riding the bench, wasn’t given the choice.

#3 – How much better can Defense be?

Lets make two things clear- the Panthers D was #2 in the league, allowed 305 yards/game – giving up 23.8 points was 21st (of 32). The cupboard clearly isn’t bare on that side of the ball, and Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow isn’t riding on reputation at 67. https://www.panthers.com/news/phil-snow-excited-by-all-his-new-options Some pretty solid flag planting was done last year, 36 sacks, coming from a bottom three in league ranking in nearly every category the year before Snow arrived.

JEREMY CHINN is a bright and effective weapon wherever he lines up, Jaycee Horne has lots of peoples attention, coming back from a broken foot. Burns, Brown, Shaq Thompson, several free agent signings, the squad has risen from road kill to quite respectable. Hasson Riddick’s 11.5 sacks/12 tackles for loss/18 QB hits is a free agent loss (3 yr./$45MM with Eagles), but what comes out of Spartanburg should thrill fans often.

In a division with The GOAT (Brady), Atlanta and the Saints look vulnerable at QB – Panthers won’t fear Jameis Winston at the controls. If/when the defense stops giving up short scoring drives and the offense puts points on board (17.9ppg, 29th) vs. three and outs, those sacks become more important. It would still be better if ‘Action’ Jackson used speed to tip balls away vs. whacking receivers immediately after catches.

#4 – Baker Mayfield – Size of fight in the dog

They used to respect a guy being gutsy, playing through injury, and that obviously cost Baker with stats. Brownies bet the franchise on Deshaun Watson, he was out on salary, not Good Baker-Bad Baker performance. He lit things up with 26 TD-8 INT season and a playoff win against arch-rival Pittsburgh the year before.

7/6/22 – Me, okay with Baker Mayfield (and McCaffrey) playing with chips on their shoulder this year.

The first time he throws a 60 yard rainbow to the flag that DJ Moore comes down with, I won’t be the only Panther fan to spit my beer in joy. Cam NEVER had that throw.

STATS don’t tell the story of fight in the dog analogies, and his history of Attitude-talent, bouncing from Texas Tech to OK and a national championship and Heisman is well known. As with Cam and Darnold, all that sort of gets baked into the way we’ll be looking at results. The first time he throws a 60 yard rainbow to the flag that DJ Moore comes down with, I will spit my beer in joy. Cam NEVER had that throw.

New Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo’s teams in NY were run-oriented, but CMC is going to be a huge pain for linebackers on all the check down passes he’ll get. *Maybe* they’ll even throw it to Hubbard if they lighten CMC’s reps. Nobody wants him or DJ Moore out in space – tough to get on the ground.

#5 OFFENSIVE LINE, Especially OT Ikem Ekwonu

The Panthers are back in Spartanburg, SC after a new practice facility-headquarters deal in Rock Hill blew up. In 2018, the heat index was brutal at 10 a.m., most spectators wisely in minimal shade.

There was rejoicing all around with the ‘local boy makes good’ choice of Ekwonu, a Providence Day (Charlotte) grad who played collegiately at North Carolina State. At 6’4″, 320 pounds, he’s the epitome of protecting a quarterbacks blind side, and wowed! all with pancake blocks on a regular basis. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2022/03/25/panthers-6-pick-cant-fill-two-major-needs-so-7-ideas-for-gm-fitterer-to-consider-along-the-way/

Taylor Moton was considered an underachiever in Year 2, but he’s a stud at 28 now, all right? One of five players in league to play every snap the last four years. Got the contract extension last year to prove it. Christiansen will apparently get his shot at LG, and along with several solid free agent signings, Panthers will now have depth to run OC McAdoo’s run-oriented offense, after years of moving players all over when injuries occurred.

There’s some evidence that the line which was good enough to help McCaffrey get that rare 1000-1000, might have hidden some blemishes.

The difference McCaffrey makes to an offensive line is elemental, his ability to go long is inspirational – hold your block that fraction of a second and CMC could be checking his style on the big screen for last ten yards of a score. While previous OC Joe Brady’s offensive scheme didn’t impress the NFL, McAdoo has Moton and Ikem where he wants them, and James Campen is a well regarded line coach. https://www.panthers.com/news/panthers-adding-james-campen-offensive-line-coach

#6 Winning cures Everything

Perhaps its a little easier to understand how losing organizations fans are somehow cheered by the start of another year. Stafford would be a poster child for that – Detroit always felt if they got a few more quality players (a few? sorry…) they could be competitive, because they had an above average QB. That Charlotte, after a pair of 5 win seasons, smells that same air is encouraging.

In the 2015-16 Super Bowl year, fans here reallllly weren’t believing getting there was possible, not until they mauled Dallas 33-14 on Thanksgiving to get to 10-0. They also thought they’d been Carolina nice enough to Darnold to get him thinking-playing righter down here, so adding even a definitely better QB isn’t going to move a lot of needles. Just sayin’.

Its way too early for any kind of projection, although my suspicion about nine wins earns Rhule his contract is a flag in the sand. Tepper decided not to cut bait OR fish on an $800 million Rock Hill HQ, but eating the last years of Rhule’s contract if he’s found wanting in victories/growth doesn’t seem likely to be necessary. Neither will any further discussion of Cam somehow getting a spot on even a 90-man roster in Charlotte.

‘Great Suit Feeling’ in retail continues, Queens Cup races a social grace, Panthers get stud left tackle Ekwonu

My personal micro-economy gets #1 for attention, but the steeplechases are a premier Must-Do live in NC sunshine event, one I’ve enjoyed five times. Our American football? vs. futbol team has drafted help in a VERY big way. Hellllloooo Ikem Ekwonu!

Tony did a great job on an old pinstripe

Customers respond to someone who walks the talk with style, redone pinstripe was a worthy micro-economy investment.

An analogy between what the Carolina Panthers have recently said regarding QB Sam Darnold and my new-look classic blue suit is righteous. You appreciate the bones-skills, but it doesn’t look quite right.

Who didn’t know the Panthers have been wringing their hands, about how to upgrade the position AND fix an underlying problem with offensive protection, specifically at left tackle in the draft? Darnold hadn’t overly-impressed anyone in ten starts in 2021, picking up his 5th year option early was seen as a misstep.

Then, in days before yesterdays draft, there were headlines about ‘Mr. Tepper likes QB Panthers have,’ and ‘Steve Smith says Carolina hasn’t seen how good Sam Darnold can really be’ (duh), and similar stories.

Did someone in the brain trust decide running down Darnold for $18MM due in another season and negatives of stats https://www.pff.com/nfl/players/sam-darnold/29048 was less effective than putting a “We could win with Sam!” face on things? (Still, I doubt anybody would want to be in Baker Mayfield’s cleats right now…)

Relative to my suit – I can’t really remember how old it is, certainly from the previous centuryit owed me nothing. ‘Just a suit,’ like Darnold coming from Jets, just a QB.

It didn’t cost anywhere near $18 million to make important changes though.

Panther fans won’t be as unanimous about how Ekwonu (salvation by local boy!) and Darnold (still here, huh?) present themselves when things get real this fall, but everyone has been positive about my suit’s transformation. Tightening things up with Darnold’s game would be a similar deal.

While wearing an older-‘experienced’ pinstripe suit and ties was already classier than most coworkers wear at Nordstrom’s, I believe customers relate to a professional image. ‘I have the suit, what can I do with it?’ didn’t take Scott Fitterer-level smarts to invest $145 in upgrading this regularly used asset. (Thanks Tony!)

  • Legs not billowy, tapered now.
  • No cuffs, almost showing ankle, Shortest I’ve worn in forever.
  • I still have pleats! Waist and behind taken in
  • The top button, at bottom of lapel, is repositioned.
  • Jacket difference is huge,*definitely* feels closer, sleeker. Wallet goes to back pocket, it changes the line on right side.
  • We didn’t mess with lapels – its always a classic pinstripe.
  • An inch off bottom was an immediate, noticeable change. ($52)

Yes, I picked up the option on doing another suit – then negotiated with the shoe shine guy for polishing and a tight left boot situation. Spirit of the season on ‘additional considerations’?

Queens Cup Steeplechases

The aura of Good Will that permeates the QCS is legendary. Congrats on Silver Anniversary!

Whatever they’d told me a ticket cost at Harris Teeter, I’d have gladly paid it. The event history is a specific charity – Alzheimer’s Association in this, the events Silver Anniversary running – gets a significant jolt from proceeds. For $60, after three years away, vowing NOT to miss this All Kinds of Good social event to WORK! was easy. Using the “Never is heard a discouraging word” is Truth – once you’ve been, you’ll know.

There are ‘good horsies’ in a central area, where children and sorority sisters can be led around on or have pictures taken astride. If the Raptor Center can be allowed out again safely, previous owls and hawks were excellent for kids, wildlife up close. Newbies are the greatest to show around, its impossible not to strike up conversations with total strangers over cornhole, haberdashery, or tailgating.

The bright yellow Garcia tie with blue-blue Bugachi, topped with ‘antique’ 1979 Ferrari hat, from final Watkins Glen (NY) Formula I race.

It’ll be seersucker or Nantucket Red pants, and because I’m saving #1 Tommy Bahama shirt for a costume change, a bright yellow Garcia autograph tie with good-fitting blue-blue Bugachi (long sleeve, $160) to show some Ukrainian support. Ahhh! and an ‘antique’ Ferrari hat, purchased with poker winnings at Watkins Glen Formula races waaaay back, never fails to get comment.

I haven’t experienced the major sponsor tents – in tiers along the finish line, after a loooong final straightway – but the Top Tailgate award winner (entrants around infield of the 1.5 mi. turf) is often an excellent place to get an additional beverage or snacks.

Operationally, its a slow drive through Waxhaw (Note: Took 1:15 to go last mile, coming from south on 75), to get to the GA (general admission) gates, so allow some time for that. If you don’t catch one of the small tour buses, the walk in from the far out fields is a decent trek. Being even a little early on the 1:30ish first race, you’ve got a shot at closer parking.

The After-Party (Hotwalkers Ball) is a buffet and an always jumping band, which continues about 1 1/2 hours after last (of usually six) races.

Micro-economy still a Great Suit Feeling

While pleased with my own haberdashery after suit upgrade, setting up one dude with something that spoke of ‘uptown casual’ tone of invitation for QCS was fun for all.

We were on a Millar sportscoat (silver-gray-black with almost Panther-blue window pane, $700) early, but the final choices were a blue Hugo Boss unlined hyperlight ($390), Millar sueded-medium gray pants (a must have, $158), Bugachi short sleeve ($150) white with smaller, three-color swirls, and cognac Mangianni weave belt ($150). I told him most of his outfit was free, if you put it against the original sportcoat $$.

Cranked it ($4,700) on Monday, capping a hustling last two hours with a $2,000 Canali suit as they counted down the last 15 minutes to 8:00 close. That made me #2 in the store, and Tuesday night I sold handled another suit past 8:00. For someone who STILL hasn’t gotten a Sunday in six weeks, my numbers are strong.

I’ve interviewed for another sales situation (with a much higher upside to a good day) that’s appeared, so my micro-economy is like millions of others – ready to do more than listen, I’m ready to make moves.

Absolutely nailed a Hugo Boss black suit, 44 Regular, first shot out of barrel Friday. Gentleman was impressed with long-sleeve Bugachi black shirt (ooooCotton! $160), killer textured off-black belt ($1300 total), scoring a last minute-kick save! on classic black funeral outfit for him. The hem on pants (+$60 alterations) was ready in morning.

Losing another suit to politics was an unfortunate situation, but I’ll be over it well before I’m done with my second Lazy Bird Brown Ale tomorrow.

My micro-economy is like millions of others in USA – ready to do more than listen, I’m ready to make moves.

We’ll see how my picking of horseflesh – there’s no real betting, just sayin’ “I think the gray one” – results stacks up with whenever/whomever the Panthers get to pick again.

Extra note about draft: Panthers GM Scott Fitterer is the bomb-diggity, trading up to third round to get Matt Corral, the necessary QB upgrade that was Item 1-A in draft. https://www.nfl.com/news/panthers-trade-up-to-select-ole-miss-qb-matt-corral-in-third-round-of-2022-nfl-d

Panthers #6 pick can’t fill two major needs, so 7 Ideas for GM Fitterer to consider along the way

Without burying the lead, but with a quantity of tongue in cheek, the answer is Testaverde. They wouldn’t owe anyone compensation picks.

Just kidding, a bit of shock therapy there. Its Kaepernick.

Every Panther fan, in fact the NFL WORLD knows how desperately the Carolina Panthers want-need an alpha-type leader as a quarterback. Sound of mind and limb (letting Cam out the side door easily with that criteria), able to hand the ball to McCaffrey regularly, and throw some long TDs to the now properly taken care of contract-wise DJ Moore.

With the DeShaun Watson dalliance settled after his trade to Cleveland (!?), and nobody experts project as a franchise QB in the draft, that #6 should mean General Manager Scott Fitterer grabs a documented and undeniably sturdy OLT (offensive left tackle) to settle an obvious long term line problem.

Names are circulating, but if you’ve heard the Panthers might select a stud edge rusher, that’s what they call ‘smoke.’

Highly Motivated – Absolutely!

Are Kaep’s skills anywhere near NFL levels after years (post 2016) wandering in the relative desert, essentially black-listed for his kneeling as a silent message about constant shooting-killing of young black men by white cops across America? Held to the light of retreads (Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick) who have gotten opportunities elsewhere, is he at all a consideration?

Just in case you didn’t know, Kaep and the Panthers passed this way before, in 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1z2kBAO5yI

While it would have to be one HELL of a workout to make such a bet-the-franchise move, when options include Cam and the un-good performance of Darnold over his first ten games, Baker Mayfield sure isn’t a more logical answer than Kaepernick.

You wouldn’t keep the lid on a workout with professional route runners Kaep says he’d like to throw to (Panthers have several), some PR circus would accompany it – Cleveland is getting a ration of negativity for bringing Watson in – but that isn’t Panthers problem. Would they have to make a huge offer to satisfy some sense of ‘worth’ after so long, or just put together a ‘Make Good’ incentive package (Wins? 4000 yards, Comeback Player of Year?) that puts him in camp and working full time on his skills?

Cam’s haberdashery and previous community efforts shouldn’t and won’t count in further discussions.

‘Make good’ sounds like a winner, and its doubtful Mr. Tepper pays prime $$$ for another stop gap QB. Like many teams, when you’re down, it behooves looking at all options, and Panthers continue to sign positional players. If Coach Rhule can’t turn a former Temple player like PJ Walker into the starter, Darnold is signed for $18MM, and Rodgers got $200MM to stay in Green Bay, Fitterer will have some leeway on a contract.

#2 – Sam Darnold

Okay, this isn’t Sam Darnold by any stretch of imagination, but would he be more likeable if he dressed like Cam?

Charlotte fans were willing to believe some good loving after three years in New York would cure the former #3 overall pick of all his demons, yet with an easy, 25th place schedule, his ability to throw the long ball, and a plethora of offensive options, he indeed under-performed in 2021.

How much blame for that goes with exiled Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, whose LSU superstars (Joe Burrow, 4 receivers, RBs) blowing away college secondaries got him the job but didn’t seem to faze many pros, is open to discussion.

FYI – Panthers will be playing the 12th toughest schedule this year. https://www.panthers.com/news/carolina-panthers-2022-opponents-are-set

Yes, Darnold looks like a weak link, and whether anyone could fail while having CMC to hand off to (please, please!) or to drop swing passes he lugs 18 yards or so, we may never know. In gallows humor, if the Panthers can’t somehow package him in a trade, at least he isn’t the $40MM dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take by shoving him at the Colts.

Darnold looks like a weak link, but at least he isn’t wearing a massive, albatross level $40MM dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take.

FYI – An albatross has nearly a 10 foot wing span, and is considered an insult when its meant as a psychological burden that feels like a curse. In Rime of the Ancient Mariner  (Coleridge,1798), as bad luck (becalmed) continues, the ships crew blame their misfortunes on the mariner killing an albatross, which is hung from the his neck to signify the mariner’s culpability in cursing the ship.

Sam Darnold is not the unwieldy burden Ryan’s $40 million cap hit is.

Jury is out on Coach Rhule – Year 3

Ending pursuit of Watson means the Panthers will be able to keep many of their really good pieces, which includes a defense that’s regained a place in the middle of the pack compared to previous bottom three in most categories. Jeremy Chinn, Derek Brown, and edge rusher-mayhem maker Brian Burns are part of that cadre. Donte Jackson would belong in that category if he used that speed to *stop* receptions instead of laying a lick on receivers immediately after the catch.

Whether every former player (Temple, Baylor) of Rhule’s that comes to Panthers is an automatic best choice, Fitterer is a known and respected quantity as a trader. It seemed like a gaping hole had been fixed with his initial signing of Darnold, but he’ll be essential in continuing to bring in possibilities. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/

Coaches are hired to be fired, and the NFL landscape is littered with unsuccessful college transitions. If Rhule still has any reason to be thankful the last Thursday in November, so will a lot of Panther fans. Tepper’s new futbol team, Charlotte FC, came out of the gate with a record-breaking home crowd of over 75,000. https://www.charlottefootballclub.com/video/miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win#miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win. Success there doesn’t mean he’d be at all happy with a Panthers team that puts up less than a serious playoff-level season.

The Panthers Defense is up to Snuff

Two drafts ago the Panthers used all seven picks on defense, and Phil Snow came in with Rhule from Baylor as Defensive Coordinator. Last year their #1 pick was Jaycee Horn, who didn’t play after week three with a broken foot. Chinn-Horn could become a bona fide lock-down duo, the D moved to middle of pack, and while early raves for doing well against three weak teams to start weren’t reality, the Panther defense finished strong (36 sacks) by many metrics. https://www.catscratchreader.com/2022/1/19/22888030/final-2021-ratings-for-the-panthers-defense-per-pro-football-focus.

In all the messaging from Houston about Watson, it seemed like draft picks, help for the Texan defense, and even McCaffrey, were thought possibilities to go in the pot, so losing defensive progress would’ve replaced QB as a challenge.

Burns is an actual stud, this could well be his blossom year. Will speed rusher be the greatest necessity in draft? Highly doubtful.

McCaffrey Silences the Doubters

To say “It is what it is” about Christian McCaffrey’s two year holding pattern is almost legitimate, but if Kaepernick would be well motivated, CMC is a documented over-achiever https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/panthers-restructure-christian-mccaffreys-contract-reportedly-clear-up-5-5-million-in-cap-space/ Charlotte has paid for the best of what comes next, McCaffrey restructured that $21.5 MM bonus contract so many talk about, so you’ll see how he feels about being sidelined for most of two years.

At NO point should anyone be linking his name as trade bait. He might have made the offensive line look better than it was up until then, but great players elevate the play of those around them. Believing a block held an extra part of a second might mean McCaffrey breaks a big one fires a team up. The Buccaneers have Tom Brady back, you KNOW the belief he instills as The GOAT. Don’t sweat that the Panthers have worn CMC out by overuse, he is coming loaded for payback.

#6 – The McAdoo Offense

Perhaps there are doubts about getting anything from the Giants, but if the Panthers new offensive coordinator gets the benefit of salary cap funds (about $29MM, as noted) going into the offensive line instead of switching parts around every time someone gets injured, that would be progress. Fitterer doing anything except trading down a couple spots while still getting that stud OLT isn’t going to happen.

Just WHO is going to run *any* offense will be the primary question. Kaep is 34 now, he hasn’t taken a beating in a while, so it’s not a hard thirty-four, and he’s as worthy of being talked about as anyone. The NFL has mostly given up the RPO (run-pass option) that Cam, Russ, RPG III, and several others did well with early, because defensive coordinators quickly decided whacking the QB on every play would make teams leery of putting high value QBs health on the line.

Offensive line play WILL improve, and not getting Watson to Charlotte means lots of other people get paid. DJ Moore is on track to game-breaker status, but only if Panthers QB (Kaepernick?) has time, with ability to move around when necessary. Giants O-lines always had a reputation for grinding power game, Chubba and CMC will be able to work with that, and yes, long balls to Moore/Anderson should be expected.

Using tight ends for blocking may be necessary, more satisfying would be Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas evolving into ninja-level receivers, if watching Greg Olsen tape can be converted to productive pattern running.

#7 – Year 3 of Rhule doesn’t make us Detroit

Detroit allowed Matt Millen to single-handedly wreck the franchise (31-97) over eight years as CEO/team president, a job his linebacking career didn’t prepare him for at all. GM Scott Fitterer doesn’t have such limitations, and he’s at the controls. The necessary help is mostly on the way. Colin Kaepernick, we’ll see how that rolls.

With all due respect to Matt Stafford for escaping 12 years of servitude in Detroit and using his super arm to take Rams to a winning Super Bowl – or the end of the Baker Mayfield run in Cleveland with Watson’s arrival – four years of sub-standard football is enough for Tepper (and fans). Yes, a $62MM coach should do better than 10-23, even if not having an inspirational QB or stud running back sounds legitimate.

That delay with new headquarters in Rock Hill aside, Mr. Tepper has staked out quite a few successful operations in his time as an owner. If Coach Rhule’s leadership of 2022 team is regarded as a serious mistake at Thanksgiving, that would be cause for specific change.

Still plenty of room on Darnold-Panthers bandwagon, Fitterer and 11-6 a franchise reset

I *guarantee* any of the faithful watching practice tried to find shelter fast in Spartanburg. If you’ve been there, you know the deal.

Nobody seems to doubt the Panthers will have plenty of offensive firepower in 2021. The “and if” part in many projections for their season was getting a high caliber QB to run it. Fans will get more solid evidence that GM Scott Fitterer did pretty good with his first real important job, on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Sam Darnold, former NY Jet – I won’t use that term often any more, he’s the Panthers QB, no ifs, ands, or buts now – was said to look good in practice last week, so here we go! Its certainly nothing like the fanfare that accompanied #1 pick Cam Newton’s arrival in Charlotte in 2011, off a national championship at Auburn for him and a 1-15 season in Charlotte.

Former Panther coach Ron Rivera always said things became more real once the pads went on, and there you have it in a nutshell. Unloved where he was, Darnold is a talented player getting a muuuccch better second opportunity to prove his worth to us fannies will be the train to ride. He can’t nail a 300-yard night during two practices with Colts, and will probably only see a half of game action, so any attaboys! finally being uttered now, I’m sure he’ll accept them.

Any bigger picture decision about Fitterer’s genius will have to wait a little longer, https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/ but $30 million in cap space has plugged quite a few holes with free agents.

Consider 11-6 season a Panthers reboot

This will be an absolute turnaround season for the franchise, and opposing defenses should buckle it on tight after a highly movitated Christian McCaffrey (C-MC, some say CeeMac) comes out of the gate with maybe 150 yds./2 TDs on the Jets. Receivers Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore were the #3 production duo in NFL, and while two of FOUR Panthers not named McCaffrey who gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage are gone (RB M.Davis, WR C.Samuel), there will be plenty of #22 jerseys in the stands cheering his return.

Valuable Replacements

Valuable replacement for Curtis Samuel (to Washington, 3 yr/$34.5M) NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund pegged Terrance Marshall, Jr. as Top 5 pick to lead rookie receivers this year.

At 6’2″, 200 lbs., he’s the same size as Panther great Mushin Muhammad, as a #3 receiver, he’ll get 1-1 coverage because of Moore and Anderson.

For those who haven’t already forgotten Greg Olsen and his ‘ninja skills,’ suddenly appearing downfield to catch a clutch first down pass, management has signed 6’6″ Dan Arnold (Arizona) to a 2 year/$6M contract. That’s just in case Darnold can’t find a receiver anywhere else, there should a large security blanket-level target pretty much in front of his eyes.

Ask ex-Panther Jimmy Clausen why they couldn’t find a good pass-catching tight end when he was blitzed mercilessly the year before Cam Newton got a pair of stud TEs (Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen), or just accept they saw a need and took care of it.

The ‘Madden’ version of McCaffrey is redonkulous, his reality and quality equally so. Offensive lines LOVE working for someone with the ability to go house if you hold your block another fraction of a second.

Defense – Another Big Leap?

In Year Two of Phil Snow as the Panthers Defensive Coordinator, expectations for another rise in the rankings – from bottom three in all categories to 18th overall in points and total yardage in 2020 – are legitimate. It’s taken three seasons of iffy improvement to get here, and last year was still the worst defense in franchise history on 3rd down (allowed 49.2% conversion) and INTs with 7.

With #1 pick Jaycee Horn a large, very physical cornerback, getting off the field on 3rd down will be enhanced.

The all-defensive draft last year looks like gold now, especially trading up to have a second-second round pick that became Jeremy Chinn. https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/4043169/jeremy-chinn The Panthers defense led the league in recovered fumbles (15) and scored 3 touchdowns, two by Chinn on back-back plays. As for the mere 29 total sacks, Brian Burns (9) is looking to blow up at whatever they’ll call his position – speed rusher is accurate – and is the epitome of ‘Mobile, Agile, Hostile’.

The all-defensive draft last year looks like gold now, especially trading up to have a second-second round pick that became Jeremy Chinn.

Top factors to assess 2021 defense will be sacks, and turnovers will be emphasized. A couple times off the field with a stop on 3rd down becoming more opportunities for a potent offense will obviously make a difference. Turnovers always follow aggressive play calling, and adding a number of free agents (DT DaQuan Jones, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Haason Reddick) with that element is a real boost.

Reddick had 12.5 sacks for Arizona last year, plus 16 QB hits, 6 forced fumbles, 15 tackles for loss, and THAT will get a defense off the field sooner. He’ll play the opposite side from Burns, and Phil Snow must be licking his chops to have such a major upgrade. Jones played all 16 games 5 of 6 years for the Titans, and if not a big sack guy, Perryman is a documented run stuffer, and his range is clearly better than Tahir Whitehead, even if nobody will be going sideline-sideline like Luuuuuke!

DIVISION – NFC South

That Tom Brady took the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in his first year away from New England isn’t lost on anyone in the division, where Panthers will see The GOAT twice a year. Drew Brees is gone, and while fans have waited a long time to see ‘Swiss Army Knife’ QB Taysom Hill – who has done everything for the Saints while Brees continued amazing – “we’ll see” is legitimate. If there’s a QB battle with Jameis Winston, something is wrong in the Dome.

Atlanta remains an arch-rival, and they picked up another stud receiver (TE Kyle Pitts, Florida), whose 4 yr./$32.9M contract is fully guaranteed. Matt Ryan is still slinging it there, and all division games count extra, so whether the secondary is good enough to hold up while the D-line goes after him will be the key, he’s never been called elusive.

There probably isn’t a defensive scheme Brady hasn’t seen, Ryan still has skills and blazing fast receivers, but any post-Brees letdown in New Orleans would be appreciated.

Wrap it up, we’ll take it

While Robbie Anderson isn’t a fan of the new turf in BOA stadium (‘its fake’), the stadium allows far too many other events to keep regular grass viable, so while it will be very different here, its not a totally strange surface either. Expecting someone like McCaffrey and Moore, who can turn on a dime, to take advantage of always good footing is not to be underestimated.

Joey Slye had a 120 point season (29 FGs, 33 PATs), his only drawback being 1-6 from over 50 yards.

Everyone loved Jeremy Chinn‘s contributions last year, switching between OLB and safety. Adding Denzel Perryman will probably allow Snow to keep Chinn at safety, but there will certainly be sneak attacks from the versatile Chinn to keep Ryan and Brady aware of his presence. (The rest of the NFL will learn about it too.)

There was an idea that Panthers would lose a couple shootouts in 2020, that possibility has gone down with an improved QB and a strong off-season of plugging holes with free agency as a result of $30 million in cap space.

Panthers play the NFC East and most of AFC East (total 8 games), with Eagles, Vikes, Pats, and Washington at home, the Bills and Miami on the road, and finish the season with Bucs-Saints-Bucs. They should be in contention for winning the conference all the way to the end – their strength of schedule is rated as 26th (of 32 teams, 5th easiest), which helps me stick with an 11-6 prediction.

Panthers take care of business – GM Fitterer lands QB Darnold to get rolling

Without burying the lead, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer made an impression with his first major move, delivering pretty much the arch-typical Hollywood story of a QB unloved getting moved to a new place, where he flourishes as The Guy We Needed.

That would be Signal Caller and Arm version, CMC will be back on Ground Attack. It could be a video game-type stats year when a highly motivatd McCaffrey gets paired with a quarterback that can make all the throws.

Newton threw nothing but fastballs, Kyle Allen and Teddy B. knew how to lead receivers, putting DJ Moore in elite company and making Curtis Samuel kind of rich.

It was the obvious need and Fitterer put up a mission accomplished sign.

Fuggidaboudit, Charlotte & Darnold Works

Good young QBs traditionally get torn up, because they often went to the worst teams to start careers. The Jets continue as an NFL franchise.

  • Vinny Testeverde, Heisman winner, to Tampa Bay Bucs. He said he threw so many picks because he was color blind – Tampa had orange jerseys, the same as his collegiate team, UMiami.
  • You can get more local – Chris Weinke, 2000 Heisman winner, Carolina Panthers. https://www.heisman.com/heisman-winners/chris-weinke/ The only thing he couldn’t do was lift the Panther from a shipwreck win-loss season. He wound up with stats that triggered incentives for yards, TDs, total snaps, and they hadn’t invented the $5MM Backup then.

The bigger problem was, he’d played six years of minor league baseball before going back to college at 26! Those were glory years at FSU, but on the calendar, Weineke was almost thirty quickly. Terrific passer, but Panthers gave the keys to a caretaker, Rodney Peete, instead.

I didn’t care about Sam Darnold with the Jets. “Everybody” knows he was #3 overall pick three years ago out of USC, and sorry to say, high pick QBs often go to ungood teams. Major points, has to be said: His former Jets coach, Adam Gase, has been kind of a talent killer with quarterbacks, and Robbie Anderson coming to Panthers last year meant Darnold couldn’t throw to him in New York.

Darnold wasn’t wanted where he was, the Panthers definitely wanted more from the role than 15 TD/11 INT production Teddy Bridgewater put out as a $21MM caretaker. The price in draft picks was nominal, Panthers problem (theoretically) solved.

It has to be said: His former Jets coach, Adam Gase, has been kind of a talent killer with quarterbacks, and Robbie Anderson contributing to Panthers last year https://www.panthers.com/team/players-roster/robby-anderson/ meant Darnold couldn’t throw to him in New York.

Just so happens the Panthers have a resident genius with quarterbacks – Sam, Joe Brady; Joe, Sam.

Mr. Tepper took care of business

Having seen something by sportswriter Ian Rapaport about New York taking the new guy in Carolina to the shed on his first deal – Sam Darnold ain’t a busted down mule. The asking price – a #6 in upcoming draft, a #2 and #4 next year – isn’t anywhere near the mother lode Minnesota gave Dallas for Herschel Walker in October, 1989.

Heck, the Rams and Lions recently moved a bunch of #1 draft picks around, and the Panthers wanted/needed a #1 thrower so bad, they were in the sweepstakes for DeShaun Watson, but his $177MM contract cooled most potential takers. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/02/05/watson-would-work-wonders-for-panthers-25-free-agents-a-concern/

Fact about Mr. Tepper, he’s already analyzed factors relative to what he expects the Panthers to be as a product, and there’s no reason to change his tactics. He invested in facilities, and absolutely, bought some REALLY good football minds in Head Coach Rhule, Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, and Defensive Coordinator, Phil Snow. He gave Christian McCaffrey a contract like his production rated.

A season after having iconic players like Newton, Kuechly, and Olsen depart, the Panthers had three-1,000 yard gainers – none of them named McCaffrey – and the defense moved from bottom three in almost every category to 18th overall, with a secondary that was right on the league average in yardage. Without Watson’s contract, the offensive line will get paid – four were part of 25 Panther free agents.

In 2021, Darnold is set to get $4.775MM, and team will have to decide about picking up a 5th year option in May for another $18MM, making him marginally more expensive than Bridgewater. It’s a two-for (years) that’s not tough math for Tepper or Fitterer.

Give the Panthers very high marks for respecting Teddy Bridgewater, who they’ll allow to possibly make his own deal elsewhere.

Resurrection on the Cheap

In a season-year that will be more memorable for playing before empty seats, the Panthers were an entertaining 5-11 bunch that let at least two games slip away late (Minnesota was the worst). On a team where playoffs would have been on the line, the injuries McCaffrey suffered, and mostly recovered from, might have pushed them to use their $21.3MM man late, but there was no reason to test ‘the franchise.’

Most Panther fans have moved on from Cam Newton thoughts, and I thought Bridgewater did a decent job distributing most of the year, but 15/11 are numbers that don’t lie. Kyle Allen had 17/15 the year before (yeah, and those fumbles) and didn’t get invited back. We’ll see if Mr. Samuel finds someplace to use his special skills, he was fun to watch.

So the business of the Carolina Panthers is moving forward. Mr. Fitterer appears to have put a satisfactory conclusion to the question of who’s going to run this team, on and off the field. As for that New York thing, heck, LOT of us will probably say, “Gawd bless ‘im, he must feel like he’s made it to the promised land,” and leave it at that.