The run has ended. Superman flies no more. And with a new head honcho calling the shots, the Carolina Panthers have reached DEFCON 1. It’s time to blow the whole thing up.
Crazy thing is, it actually wouldn’t be too hard.
Since going 15-1 in the regular season and making the Super Bowl in 2015 (where they were thoroughly outplayed by the Denver Broncos), the Panthers have gone 24-26 since, making the playoffs once and losing in the first round that year. Cam Newton has never returned to his MVP form (though he has shown flashes), and head coach Ron Rivera has not been able to steer the ship to Ws without Newton playing his role of Superman on a weekly basis.
Now, following an embarrassing home loss against the Buccaneers, where the Panthers failed to convert a fourth-and-1 on the Bucs two-yard line with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game and fell to 0-2 on the season, the Panthers need to face reality. It’s time to move on from the Newton-Rivera era in Charlotte and start fresh.
When David Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018, it really was only a matter of time before this happened. He was going to want to bring in his own people eventually. These are Jerry Richardson’s guys, not his.
Even if the Panthers win the Super Bowl this year, which they certainly are not going to do after losing their first two games at home, the writing is on the wall that Newton’s time in Charlotte, and in the NFL in general, is waining not waxing.
He’s simply too roughed up to take the kind of beating he needs to in order to be efficient in this league. The fact that they didn’t run a QB sneak with the game on the line last night speaks to that reality. And if the Panthers want to cut Newton after this season, they can, easily. According to Spotrac, the Panthers could cut Newton this offseason and suffer just a $2 million dead cap hit while saving $19.1 million in cash and cap space in 2020. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
As for Rivera, they gave him a two-year extension that runs through 2020, but let’s be honest, eating a few million isn’t that big of a deal when you’re worth billions like Tepper. It’s also easier when the fanbase is restless follow four years (including the start of this season) of sub-par results. And if Newton goes, Rivera has to as well.
There are a lot of other players who have been part of this Panthers run — Luke Kuechly and Greg Olsen at the forefront of that. But this was always the Newton-Rivera era because that’s how the NFL is. Coaches and quarterbacks get the credit and the blame. They are the ones who play the largest role in how teams perform and what their record is. And after looking at both of those factors recently, the reality has settled in that it’s time for a total makeover in Charlotte.