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The 2010 Panthers: Told by an optimist

Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 18:11

 

In 1979, The Clash released “London Calling”, a single detailing a laundry-list of reasons why the world is heading for an apocalypse. At that time, The Clash had every right to be pessimistic following the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown and increased socio-political violence. It is the ultimate “we’re screwed” song.

“London Calling” is perhaps also the theme to the 2010 Carolina Panthers’ season, which has left most of its fans equally cynical. Just look at the numbers: heading into week 9, the Panthers were last in the NFL in points per game (12.1), yards per game (166), first downs (101), turnover ratio (minus-10) and congratulatory butt slaps (2.3). The only stat you really need to know is that the Raiders scored a combined 92 points in two games and the Panthers have scored 85 points ALL SEASON. They are without a doubt the worst team in football.

Okay, so we could go on and on about how crummy our hometown team is, or we can do what Ian Dury and the Blockheads did in 1979. Despite the turmoil going on around The Clash and the rest of England, The Blockheads released the single “Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3.” It reached number 3 in the 1979 UK charts while “London Calling” topped at 11. In times of trouble, people want to hear optimism, even if it’s lines like “Saying ‘okey-dokey’, singalonga Smokey/ Coming out of chokey.” The song doesn’t make sense, but it makes you feel good.

With that in mind, let’s take an optimistic look at the 2010 Carolina Panthers:

Coming into week 9, the Panthers are 5-2 in coin tosses to start the game. That has to be the best record in the league.

Matt Moore ended 2009 with 8 touchdowns and one interception. This year he’s had 5 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. It looks bad on paper, but it’s not all the quarterback’s fault: all he has to throw to is a triple-covered Steve Smith and two rookies. In the first matchup against the Saints, Steve Smith left the game with an injury and the Panthers were marching down the field with a chance to win with a field goal. On 4th and 16, Jimmy Clausen zipped the ball right into Dwayne Jarrett’s hands. Of course Jarrett dropped the pass, was arrested two days later for a DUI and was subsequently released from the team. Now those 5 touchdowns don’t seem so bad after all.

In 2009, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, but this year, Stewart has yet to top 200 yards. “The Daily Show” has, however, been made good use of his time on Twitter. Here’s a sample from Jonathanstewar1: “Stuffy nose in the morning is the best way to wake up!!! Not!!!”

Other Panthers on Twitter: JimmyClasuen (“The dentist might be the worst place to visit ever!”), jonbeason (“For Halloween I’m gonna be a ‘winner'”) and Money_Edwards (“Someone busted open my pumpkin on my porch.. How rude”). Make no mistake about it: Carolina is an entertaining team… just not on the football field.

When they are on the field, the Panthers are the league leaders in unintentional comedy. How about week one when Moore floated a pass into five Giants defenders. It was like in Madden when you accidently tap the pass button and inevitably it’s picked off. Also, fast forward through the Bears-Panthers game with the “Benny Hill Theme” behind it. Classic.

On a serious note, props go out to the Panthers fans who apparently haven’t given up the fight. Despite the team raising ticket prices this season, the Panthers are 6th in the league in attendance per game, at over 72,000. That figure is even more impressive given the fact Carolina has not reached double figures in its four home games and has been out-scored 97-23.

Coming into the season, owner Jerry Richardson decided he was going to cut payroll across the board. He dumped former fan favorites Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme and Damione Lewis. Fans aren’t normally interested in rebuilding or at least this kind of sea change. It’s a hard pill to swallow for Panthers fans when a team like the Patriots routinely dump star players and manage to keep on winning. Richardson, one of the league’s cheapest owners, doesn’t like to bring in free agents and prefers to build the team through the draft. It’s not a preferred way to do business, but here’s how it could work:

First of all, being a terrible team now is rewarded with a top draft pick for next year. If the Panthers land a top 3 draft pick, they have a good shot at a player they’ve waited eight years for: Georgia wide receiver AJ Green. He’s a tall deep threat with great hands that will draw attention away from Steve Smith and force safeties to play off the line of scrimmage. It’s a no-brainer selection.

Also during the offseason, the Panthers will be faced with a host of free agents: Moore, Williams, center Ryan Kalil, defensive linemen Charles Johnson, Ed Johnson and Nick Hayden, linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson and corner Richard Marshall. The Panthers will likely resign most of these key players, but the big question mark is with Williams. The team made it clear they were not trading any running back during the season, but have yet to resign Williams. The Panthers have the cap room to franchise Williams, but releasing him could help them bring in a player at a more dire position, such as defensive line.

Richardson has also been mum about resigning John Fox at the end of the year, a good indication that the Panthers will have a new coach for 2011. While its unlikely Richardson would shell out the cash to pay a high-profile play caller, Carolina’s next coach could be Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher, who lives in Raleigh. That might be enough to completely change the culture of Panthers football.

Rebuilding through draft picks will take time and patience, Panthers fans. The top picks in the 2006 draft were DeAngelo Williams, Richard Marshall and James Anderson and they all took a couple years to develop. Anderson is quietly having a Pro-Bowl caliber season, leading the team in tackles (52) to go along with 2.5 sacks, one interception and 2 recovered fumbles. He was basically a nobody before this season. None of the picks from the last two seasons have materialized into instant stars, but don’t give up on those guys. I have a hunch we haven’t heard the last of Armanti Edwards.

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