Some people are fans of the Carolina Panthers. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Carolina Panthers. This 2021 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Carolina Panthers.
Your 2020 record: 5-11. You never want to be on the losing end of The Chad Beebe Redemption Game. Bad for both your psyche and your long-term prospects on so many levels.
The Panthers came into the season with a red-hot college coach in the cockpit and a high-priced free agent at QB, then suffered a five-game losing streak midseason that turned 2020 into an accidental rebuilding year. WHO DOESN’T LOVE AN ACCIDENTAL REBUILDING YEAR?! It’s like a regular rebuilding year, except you have nothing to rebuild with! Fanfuckingtastic. Who do I credit with this cunning masterplan?
Your coach: Ah, right.
REMINDER: The Panthers gave Matt Rhule a seven-year deal with all the money guaranteed. Can’t believe a coach from Baylor would turn out to be a diseased fraud, but there you have it. Watch that video and listen to Rhule screaming at his players in the Senior Bowl—which isn’t even a real game—that they need to be “coachable.” I interviewed Marc Ross of NFL Network a while back about how NFL teams scout and develop players. When I said the word “coachable” out loud to Ross, he audibly snickered. He knows what that word really means.
“There’s a lot of coding going on with that ‘coachable player’ term,” Ross told me. “Just look at the types of players they say are coachable more so than not. The guys who are not coachable, they always seem to be guys with strong personalities, right? So that all goes into it. The players where those coaches are like, ‘Hey, just do this,’ and there’s no resistance to it? All coaches kind of want that comfort. The rare coaches that I’ve been around have been like, ‘Just give me whoever y’all got and I’ll work with them. I’ll get them better.’ Those are the rare coaches.”
Matt Rhule is not a rare coach. Like Art Briles at Baylor before him, Rhule made his reputation as a college coach whose offense was so innovative that it was begging to be utilized at the pro level. Never mind that my fucking dad could design a spread offense that averages 50 a game in the Big 12. NFL owners see those gaudy passing stats and get a raging boner that never goes limp. And look what the Panthers got for their trouble: a 5-11 team led by a pud who doesn’t know how to work the fucking clock. When you hire a college coach, you get a college coach. Always and forever. And if you think Rhule is the exception to the… well, you know… please refer to the above video, and to this:
“There was a player last year, and I won’t say who, but was supposed to be drafted pretty highly. And I got in the elevator with him at the Combine, and I was like, by the end of that elevator ride, I was like, ‘There’s no way that guy will be a fit with us.'”
Does that strike you as the words of a man who’s willing to do proper diligence on a player, or just an egomaniacal fuckhead? Let’s hear Rhule out some more:
“We’re looking to find who’s tough, hard-working, and competitive, who’s smart, who loves the game. And who’s a good person. We spend six months a year together, so we want to be around people that we like and fit us.”
Guess who else is looking for that kind of player? EVERY OTHER FUCKING TEAM.
I’m a fan, so I have an excuse to treat my own imaginary coaching philosophy as new and enterprising. Meanwhile, here’s a motherfucker banking nearly $10 million a year to be as finicky as the fucking Bachelorette. “He needs to be tough, but smart! Strong, but caring! Mean, but always in control! And he needs to be a centaur!” Meanwhile, Panthers ex-coach Ron Rivera just took Washington to the playoffs without a quarterback on the roster. Matt Rhule doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
Do they have a Guy on the coaching staff? One of my favorite Guys to Remember, Frisman Jackson, is your wide receivers coach. I’ve seen the Panthers’ wideout depth chart. Frisman has his work cut out for him.
Your quarterback: Are we still doing the meme? Oh fuck it, let’s do the meme:
It’s easy to believe that Darnold was ruined by Adam Gase and the Jets, and that Darnold was never given enough good coaching and enough resources to suck on his own. But I watched him play with my own two eyes. I saw him see the ghosts. He’s a fucking slob. Just a slobby quarterback mouthbreathing his way around the field, going DUHHH HERE’S THE BALL DUHHH. Give Darnold to Andy Reid and he’d still earhole the waterboy a dozen times every practice. Poor Robby Anderson thought he was free of Darnold. It’s like when police returned one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims to him. So why would anyone be optimistic that Rhule could rehabilitate Darnold when the Panthers just handed Rhule Teddy Bridgewater and he kicked him to the curb a year like he’s the reincarnation of early 2000s Gruden? Old GM Marty Hurney is gone but the Panthers are still where money goes to burn.
Speaking of Hurney being gone…
What’s new that sucks: You boys got yerselves a new GM. Would you like to see him? Well, that was your first mistake.
That’s Scott Fitterer. What a name. Bad enough that he looks like the angriest dad at the pool club, he’s also named after a Radiohead track and doesn’t deserve to be. Let’s check out Fitterer’s background! First he was a professional baseball player. Then he got hurt, moved over to football scouting (perfectly natural transition), and learned how to scout by lugging heavy shit around.
The Box was a scouting instrument, with sensors to measure lateral quickness, change-of-direction, and explosive movement. To operate it correctly, it had to be placed on a hard surface (as opposed to a grass football field or a track). It was also extremely unwieldy, and other scouts would make fun of you for carrying it around…
“The Box was a big silver suitcase, and it was about 40 pounds,” Fitterer said with a laugh. “I would have to lug it everywhere I went. And I’d bring it on the airplane. And there’s no chance now this would ever get on an airplane — it had wires, and pads, and a control box. It literally looks likes a bomb.”
When he thinks back on his early days in the scouting business, those first burdened steps bring a smile.
“It was absolutely a rite of passage,” he said.
Absolutely. When I’m scouting GMs, I ask myself, “Did this man learn the ins and outs by running a football team by carrying around a punch card computer in an attache case?” More often than not, the answer is a resounding yes. Then I smile and take a drink from my WORLD’S BEST SCOUT coffee mug, which weighs 50 pounds. Ryan Grigson gave it to me.
Fitterer traded for Darnold and arguably made the Panthers’ QB situation worse in the process. He drafted no one special. His best running back won’t get vaccinated. And he handed $6 million guaranteed to guard Pat Elflein, who was so shitty that the Vikings, who have one of the worst lines in football, cut his ass midseason. Honeymoon’s over. You guys are fucked.
What has always sucked: Welcome back to lasting irrelevance, Carolina. You just saw what life without Cam Newton is like a season ago, so prepare for DECADES of that. It’s like you’re an expansion team all over again! EXCITING! And you now have both the ideal coach and the ideal quarterback to usher you back into lasting irrelevance. I can’t wait to never think about you again. The Panthers are a complete waste of good talent, which is apropos of a state that goes out of its way to waste pleasant beaches and novel barbecue sauces (for real, you don’t have to chop your pork up THAT much). Every time I think of North Carolina, I’m like Now that’s a place I’d wanna live. And then I remember who lives there.
Luke Kuechly retired early from this team twice. North Carolina is where elderly Floridians go when Florida proves to be just too liberal for them.
Ratto says: Sam Darnold has been promoted to the National Football League after having his name besmirched by associations with the New York Jets, but nothing good will happen unless Christian McCaffrey plays 14 more games than he did a year ago and also during the bye week. That’s how not deep the Panthers are. David Tepper seems like the kind of guy who would electrify the spiked iron railing around his property while wishing all his neighbors a good morning. BEST NAME TO HEAR ON TV: Oscar Draguicevich III because of course there are already two others.
What might not suck: Jeremy Chinn is awesome. If we go by Panthers tradition, the team will build its defense around him and then he’ll suffer a full-body concussion.
HEAR IT FROM PANTHERS FANS!
We traded for the guy who sees ghosts. I’m going to be a ghost before this team wins a Super Bowl.
They inexplicably passed on Justin Fields with the eighth pick just to let Sam fucking Darnold not get vaccinated.
Christian McCaffrey is going to go 1.1 in every fantasy league and then suffer another season-ending injury by Week 3.
The new coach was lauded IMMEDIATELY for being the guy who wasn’t Art Briles at Baylor.
It’s this shit every year. Our dump of a franchise didn’t know how good they had it with Cam. Fans bitched and moaned about him every year, and now we get to watch Fucking Sam Darnold turn the ball over 34 times this season.
They were never going to love Cam Newton. You know why.
The left tackle situation is as settled as your stomach after room temperature milk.
Our quarterback is an anti-vaxxer with a psychic link to the spirit realm.
We’ll be forever linked to one of the most abhorrent crimes by an athlete in modern sports history.
Charlotte is Great Value Atlanta.
This team will always spiritually belong to Jerry Richardson.
David Tepper is yet another obnoxious Yankee who’s moved down south to stretch his money.
Two straight 5-11 seasons, the second of which was thought of as an improvement by the people down here for reasons I cannot hope to explain.
I’m in Central North Carolina and I am 10 minutes drive (in any direction) away from a fading, threadbare Trump flag flying from the house of someone on the same government assistance that Trump’s gremlins tried to cut. The entire state of South Carolina matches this description as well, minus Myrtle Beach (which is basically an entire city made of used condoms) and Charleston (which is what you’d get if you could turn an incredibly attractive but incredibly vain person into a town).
The NFL has three franchises in Florida, yet the Panthers will somehow lead the league in viral cases. It will be the only stat in which they finish in the top half of the league.
This team’s brightest spot is its social media team.
Most people seem to like David Tepper because he clears the very high bar of not being Jerry Richardson. However, he’s just another rich asshole who expects people to hand him shit. He’s openly fucking South Carolina and will most likely threaten to move the team there one day because the city of Charlotte won’t build him a new stadium. This infuriates any native North Carolinian, as South Carolina is the fucking worst. The only time it’s ever been relevant was during the Civil War, when South Carolina was the first state to secede because the people of that state thought them not being able to own other people was too radical of an idea.
70% of the fanbase is overjoyed to have Sam Darnold because they know there’s no chance they’ll have to cheer for a Black QB anytime soon. The new regime tossed our franchise’s best-ever player to the curb without a second thought. This was after they destroyed his career by his offensive line giving him less protection than any Palestinian civilian. They then paid a worse QB more money, with said QB having a weaker arm than my dead grandmother.
Fuck being a fan of this anonymous team. NC will always be a college basketball state first, Charlotte will always be a city full of transplants. Dabo would definitely own slaves if it were legal.
This team is a wet fart in a traffic jam. David Tepper somehow proved it’s possible to downgrade from Jerry Richardson. Despite being the richest owner by a good margin, Tepper laid off more employees during the pandemic, almost double the next worst team, and then had the balls to say this, “I decide on these decisions based on what’s good for the organization and what’s good for the individual, It’s not good to have an individual sit there idle for a year or a year and a half or two years with nothing to do inside the organization.”
Matt Rhule continues the proud tradition of college coaches flaming out in the NFL. I think Rhule knows, at least subconsciously, he has the thinnest resume and compensates by having the reddest ass. Rhule is what happens when the psychopathic drive most college coaches use to focus on winning is instead redirected towards maintaining an impotent authority. The dude has the energy of a Subway franchise owner who routinely screams at his employees for throwing out a whole package of bread when there’s only visible mold on a few of the rolls.
Christian McCaffrey is like watching Cam Newton’s career on 2x speed.
Sam Darnold was the 28th best QB in the league last year, and we traded three picks for him. In his three years in the league, Darnold has managed only 50 TDs but was able to rack up 59 turnovers. Darnold is below replacement level for a backup but he’s our starter for seemingly no other reason than he’s white and young enough that Rhule will have no problem bullying him. Darnold is going to be so bad, I’m not even upset he was a COVID truther. If Darnold had a ceiling above 4-13 I would worry he’s being a bad role model for the kids, but even the most optimistic young kid isn’t going to look up to this loser.
As for the rest of the team, I don’t even know them well enough to properly complain about them. Remember when the Panthers went 15-1? Do you know how many players from that year are still with the team? Two. One of those two is the long snapper.
I’m confident our draft board was 100% based on how much deference prospects gave to Rhule. Last year the Panthers were a bad team. They managed to get objectively worse in the off-season in nearly every area. Whatever stars emerge on the team this year, I’m confident they’ll be traded away to make cap space for us to offer Gardner Minshew a 70 million 3-year deal next offseason after we kick Darnold to the curb.
I’ve been a Panthers fan since they entered the league and I was a boy. I’ve never known back-to-back winning seasons, even with generational talents like Cam and Luke Kuechly. We are a dynasty of pain, with a fanbase that’s satisfied with mediocrity so long as the players have a nice smile and kiss babies on the forehead. We have an actual, official fan club called The Roaring Riot who claim they are “Undefeated at Tailgaiting”, like being in your mid 40s and slamming craft beers while playing cornhole and singing Sweet Caroline is some achievement in fandom.
What’s that? You say you would like more? Here, please, take this sprint down Pain Lane…
Our former head coach bragged about winning the division three times in a row, despite winning it once with a losing record. He was given a better sendoff than Cam Newton. Our new coach resembles a gerbil and has the sensibilities to match. We fumbled the release of arguably the most important player in franchise history, but it’s only the first time we bungled a release if you don’t count Steve Smith, Deangelo Williams, Josh Norman, or Greg Olsen. We brought in the backup of the Saints just to watch the fanbase (me included) incinerate him on social media.
Somehow, we still thought that Sam Darnold was an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints have been caught up in cheating scandals and helped the Catholic Church avoid a pedophilia scandal, yet they still somehow come out looking better than our team.
I miss Cam Newton. Fuck the Broncos with Peyton Manning’s fivehead.
I love barbecue. I love fried chicken. I love that the summer is so hot that fall feels like a vacation and snow feels like a miracle. I love that we take college football and basketball way too seriously. I love old-school NASCAR.
For all that though, I just hate so many of the people we have here. The racists and xenophobes (not that they know what that word means) and science-deniers and Trump voters and just truly awful people. My in-laws went from loving the Panthers to hating the NFL because of the kneeling and I think Colin Kapernick deserves the Medal of Freedom for ruining their enjoyment of professional football.
I think Cam Newton (spoiled brat that he could be sometimes) was the most fun football player to watch since ever, and my miserable in-laws still hated him even after he gave them 15 wins in a year and the best football years of his life. Now they’re going to have to watch him go to New England and get three rings and I say good for Cam. We deserve that shit from how we treat players in Charlotte. If you don’t believe me, ask basically anyone who played for us under Gettleman.
I wonder what awful thing we’ll wind up doing to McCaffrey. In my Madden Franchise mode, CMC busted his leg and was out until midway through the next season. If the real-life version is lucky, we’ll just do what we did to Cam, and let him get right up to the edge without him getting a real shot at hardware.
2016 was the worst year of my life (lost my job, house flooded, broke my leg) and that fucking Super Bowl was the beginning of everything shitty. I’m still not convinced that there isn’t some weird magic that screws with my life through this team.
I was reading a few predictions about the season yesterday. Most of them have us either deliberately tanking, or unintentionally tanking and none of them predicted we’d be able to get the #1 pick out of it. We can’t even tank properly in a simulator.
This is all assuming we even get to play football. My fellow citizens are turning both of these states into massive petri dishes and then complaining like three-year-olds when our Governor tells them to put on a fucking mask and not infect their children. We have so few good people trying so hard to save so many terrible people. It’s America in microcosm.
Anyways, when we don’t go 15-1 we either go 9-7 or 7-9.
This is bound to be a 7-10 year and we’ll end up with a linebacker from the SEC and a rookie QB from Alpha Centauri.
Submissions for the NFL previews are already closed, alas. Next up: Denver Broncos.