The Carolina Panthers have no idea what they're doing. They were 5-7 heading into Sunday afternoon and left the day at 5-8 after a 29-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, who are also not a good team. Cam Newton started the game, was benched for P.J. Walker, and then was re-inserted after Matt Rhule realized Walker isn't any good. Then Newton got pulled and Walker was put back in. Round and round we go. That's what it was like all afternoon.
It is entirely unclear what Rhule's grand plan is after he fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Rhule loves to run the ball and thinks the key to victory is running it 30 times for 200 yards, which seems to indicate he would love having Newton back there full-time. But after the former MVP was bullied by the Miami Dolphins defense last week, Rhule clearly had second thoughts. But those second thoughts were not strong enough to bench Newton entirely, apparently. He let Newton start the Falcons game, watched him lead a touchdown drive, and then benched him after throwing an interception. But the interception was not enough to merit a full-time benching, and Newton kept making spot appearances all day.
It's just bizarre! If Rhule was going to turn Newton into a glorified goal-line and short-yardage running back who takes the snap, as he did when Newton first joined the team, then he should do that. Instead, Rhule is opting for a QB rotation, which has literally never worked in the history of football, with extremely unclear guidelines for when each guy is supposed to play. There's no rhyme or reason.
The worst part is that the Panthers could've won this game. They were down by eight with just over two minutes left and had the Falcons in a third-and-13 situation. Defense is supposed to be Rhule's speciality. And they completely blew it. Kyle Pitts was left completely alone on the left side of the field and jogged to a first down to end the game.
This is how the entire season has been, regardless of who's been under center. Ineffectual offense paired with bad defense and shockingly poor situational execution. Rhule is bringing nothing to the table and tried to disguise the foundational issues with his team by firing his offensive coordinator.
Carolina is lost with no direction forward. They have talent on defense but don't have the schemes to get that talent performing at a high level. They have some decent skill-position guys but no future under center, which is the only position that really matters at the end of the day. Their best and highest-paid player has barely been on the field for two straight seasons. And Rhule still has five years left on his deal after this campaign!
There are no easy answers in football, but it's abundantly clear that the Panthers have no clue what they're doing each week.