Case Keenum

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe some good can some from the Panthers embarrassing blowout loss to the Dolphins. This could be the shot of reality that this team needed to really rebuild moving forward.

The Panthers stink. That’s obvious to anyone and it honestly can’t be that surprising that they’re at this point after how Matt Rhule and David Tepper have handled their first two seasons together at the top of the organization. It’s no secret that Tepper wants a competitive team — and to be fair, who doesn’t?

However, it doesn’t seem like Tepper and Rhule have had a good grasp on exactly where the Panthers are in their organizational journey over the past two seasons. This was a team that needed a long-term rebuild. They had ousted Newton and slapped the Teddy Bridgewater band-aid on their offense to attempt to stay competitive while they tinkered with the team.

That was their first mistake, a mistake the Panthers haven’t quite recovered from. They got stuck in the dreaded no man’s land of roster construction where they weren’t bad enough to get a top three pick and also not good enough to compete for the playoffs. They still had a chance to rectify that with the 2021 quarterback class, which is already featuring moments of strong play from Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.

Nope. They opted to trade for Sam Darnold, who, well, played like Sam Darnold. An injury to Darnold and Darnold’s own play fueled the decision to sign Cam Newton. Newton is still a better player than Darnold, but now Rhule and Tepper should be seeing the full scope of where this team is.

And it’s bleak.

It’s easy to understand the desire to be competitive right away, especially since football careers tend to be short. However, the Panthers’ run over the past two years is just a clear sign that they haven’t been honest with themselves about how good this roster is.

The defense was able to turn around rather quickly under the tutelage of Phil Snow, adding players like Haason Reddick and Stephon Gilmore and spending premium draft capital on that side of the ball. The defense is certainly good enough to compete in the playoffs.

The offense is where they have essentially done total malpractice. They’ve been unfortunate to suffer through injuries to offensive linemen like Matt Paradis and Cam Erving, but this wasn’t an offensive line that was going to be productive even with them. This group required a major overhaul and all they did was tweak a couple spots — just to still be left with a bad offensive line.

It’s an offensive line that just got steamrolled by the Dolphins, giving up seven tackles for loss and five sacks (some of which were on P.J. Walker). No offense to Dennis Daley and Michael Jordan, but they shouldn’t be starters on any NFL team with serious playoff aspirations.

A papier-mâché offensive line and their quarterback mismanagement put pressure on the Panthers skill players to carry the offense. Christian McCaffery has been hurt and just got put on injured reserve and the wide receiver play has been up and down as the team just tries to find an identity on offense.

All of that brings a whole load of crap. A whole load of crap is how a team can go from starting the season 3-0 to going 2-7 over their next nine games.

After two years of the Rhule era, the Panthers look like they need to enter another rebuild — a true tear-down. That will be hard as they deal with the salary cap of a competitive team and the quarterback landscape in the coming years appears to be bleak in the college and the NFL.

Still, the Panthers don’t really need to waste another year trying to slap tape on areas that need full construction. It’s time to rebuild, as it really has been for two seasons now.

Source : https://ftw.usatoday.com/lists/nfl-week-13-browns-baker-mayfield-colts-wentz

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