Some people are fans of the Carolina Panthers. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Carolina Panthers. This 2014 Deadspin NFL team preview is for those in the latter group.
Your team: Carolina Panthers
Your 2013 record: 12-4. The Panthers won the division and were able to save Ron Rivera's job. OH SHIT THEY SAVED RON RIVERA'S JOB DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?! You know what they say: If you can't spot the obvious candidate for regression in 2014, then YOU are the obvious candidate for regression in 2014.
Your coach: Ron Rivera. You know the story by now: overly conservative coach gets shit on for being overly conservative, then overly conservative makes a big show of actually taking risks like going for it on fourth down (when going for it on fourth down is not actually a large statistical risk), then overly conservative coach dubs himself Riverboat Ron, and then overly conservative coach's team makes the playoffs, and then overly conservative coach INSTANTLY reverts to true form and runs the ball up the gut 50 times from the one-yard line to seal the defeat.
Never trust a man who wears transition lenses. That's Mike Tolbert getting stoned in most of that video, by the way. The Panthers paid $4.2 million for that.
Anyway, with your memory now refreshed, I think we can all agree that Ron Rivera can try to not be Ron Rivera all he likes. But when it really matters, he will go right back to being Ron Rivera. I watched Marty Schottenheimer coach for two decades. I know how this works.
Your quarterback: Cam "Improved Body Language" Newton.
Also, Cam should serve as an eternal reminder to you folks out there to never paint your laptops. You can paint your walls and your flower boxes, but please do not paint your computer. Your computer will not like it. Cam could win 50 Super Bowls and I'll still remember him as the dude who painted a laptop.
By the way, the success of the Panthers defense last season helped mask the fact that Cam Newton turned the ball over more last season than he ever has in his career. Thankfully, the Panthers front office spent this offseason giving Cam all of the weapons and critical pass protection he needs to truly flourish. LOL JK THEY FUCKED HIM GOOD.
What's new that sucks: Ah, that's just it. The Panthers lost Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and the entire right side of the offensive line. But don't worry! Jerricho Cotchery is here to make up for all of that. Smith is the only good wideout Cam Newton has ever had to work with, and he is now gone. And when you cut ties with Steve Smith, you ensure that Steve Smith will spend the rest of his lifetime vowing to pay you back a hundred fold. This team plays Baltimore in Week 4 and I assume that Smith has some sort of Extreme Red Wedding planned for the occasion: mortar fire, arrows, baby-punching, etc.
To make up for Smith's loss, the Panthers drafted wideout Kelvin Benjamin in the first round. And I bet you five million dollars that Roger Goodell is just ACHING to Josh Gordon the shit out of Kelvin Benjamin somewhere down the road. He treats any incoming wideout with a reputation for blowing off meetings like a new Christmas present. You will see Kelvin Benjamin catch 800 yards worth of passes in the first month of this season, and then? POOF! Gone. Suspended for … things.
Here is your boilerplate "this kid will be a trouble maker" dossier on Benjamin:
This year, I've been told of numerous players with 10-15 meetings with teams. Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin apparently decided he'd had enough, electing to blow off a workout with an NFL coach who made "a special trip" to work him out, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt. There are any number of legitimate reasons why Benjamin may have been unable to work out. For a player who admitted at the NFL combine, however, that he'd struggled with work ethic earlier in his career at Florida State, Thursday's news could come as a significant red flag.
I love it when NFL teams force draftees to attend 50,000 interviews and then mark a player down if he dares to express frustration with the process. "How dare you not subject yourself to my interrogation! I MADE A SPECIAL TRIP."
On the defensive side of the ball, pretty much everyone from last year's secondary is gone, which is bad! To help plug the gaps, the Panthers signed Roman Harper, who is 97 years old. Why do teams keep giving Roman Harper work? Does Bill Parcells threaten to sit on GMs if they don't bring Harper in for a workout?
What has always sucked: You just can't stop those gritty Panthers from hurting women and/or killing them outright. Consider the case of defensive end and apparent Toilet Warrior Greg Hardy:
Hardy, Holder said, flung her from the bed, threw her into a bathtub, then tossed her on a futon covered with rifles. Holder said Hardy ripped a necklace he had given her off her neck, threw it into a toilet and slammed the lid on her arm when she tried to fish it out. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Hardy dragged her by the hair room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat.
"He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me," said Holder, 24, who said she used to live with Hardy. "I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, 'Just do it. Kill me.'" Later, as Holder said she was held by her former boyfriend's personal assistant, she said Hardy made the 911 call, showed her the phone, and said, "Run, little girl. You're going to jail."
Hardy has publicly expressed remorse … for being a distraction to the Panthers. The whole "allegedly slamming a toilet on a lady and almost choking her to death" thing went unmentioned. One of Hardy's defense witnesses actually showed up to hang at camp the other day. Hopefully, he'll bring his gun futon into the team clubhouse next week so everyone can chill on it. Nothing relaxes me like a quality gun futon.
You might think that team owner and It's A Wonderful Life villain Jerry Richardson would disapprove of having Hardy on the roster. After all, THIS is what Richardson looks like:
That is the face of an owner who loves nothing more than to treat his employees like welfare recipients. Anyway, I have a theory that Jerry Richardson secretly enjoys having wayward souls like Hardy on the roster. It gives him consistent proof that his players are undisciplined goons that must be controlled at all costs. He's Colonel Montgomery in Glory, the evil guy who has his soldiers burn the village.
By the way, have you seen the Panthers' stadium deal? This team gets $50 million in flash money if they merely consider the idea of not moving the team for an additional four years. The Panthers have said they won't take this bonus money, because they're so gosh darn charitable. But the deadline for that $50 million is still a year away. I wonder if the team's stance might change in that time!
Now comes the part where we make fun of the Carolinas, which tolerate the Panthers only until ACC basketball season begins in earnest. I drove through both Carolinas last fall and you will spend every waking moment in the Carolinas in fear of being murdered at a truck stop. I went to South Carolina—a state that, despite the team's overreaching naming effort, probably houses a grand total of six actual Panthers fans—and that state is the Maine of the American Southeast: pretty on the coasts, HELL INLAND. I swear the highways there are made of gravel. South of the Border remains the strangest roadside attraction I've ever seen, like the USO show the boat stumbles upon in Apocalypse Now. I thought I hallucinated it. I've also been told that Myrtle Beach is just thousands of dads doing thousands of Kenny Powers impersonations, poorly, and a factory outlet.
Also, there are STILL too many overpaid running backs on this roster. Can Tolbert play wideout or something?
What might not suck: Benjamin is a stud and will probably get 250 targets over the course of the season, or as many as he gets until he's suspended for having a general air of insubordination. So if opposing coaches are stupid enough to leave him single-covered, and they don't bother trying to throw on this secondary, and they don't put a spy on Newton running out of the backfield, this team might just stumble into another fluky division title.
Hear it from Panthers fans!
Our best current wide receiver on the roster is Jerricho Cotchery who was the 3rd best receiver on the JETS when he was young, 4 years ago.
We cut the most well liked Panther, Steve Smith, anddddd he still counts against our cap. We are still actually paying him to beat us this year.
A friend bought PSLs a few years ago before we drafted Cam Newton, and in his frustration at the high price of watching a shit team, emailed the Panthers front office to vent. Somehow, someway Ol' Jerry found about the email and called him. Did he call to save "have hope" or "things will get better"? No. He called to tell my friend to stop complaining and be grateful that Charlotte has an NFL team. He then preceded to degrade him for about 2 minutes and threaten to take his PSLs WITHOUT a refund, then abruptly hung up on my friend. I wish I was making this up.
Jerry Richardson is the Mark Emmert of the NFL.
Because our dipshit fans STILL blame John Kasay for "losing the Super Bowl." The Panthers defense was gassed since they were on the field the entire goddamn first half (one first down - because of a defensive holding penalty - in the first quarter) and showed they couldn't stop the Pats in the fourth at all. But these mouthbreathers think "durr, no way Brady and that hall of fame offense score if they don't start from the 40." The Pats trotted off the field once they were in FG range. Took their sweet time to call time out. But nope, it's all the kicker's fault.
Did I mention our fans are stupid? "That Peppers is a bum! He makes too much!" Then when he signed with Chicago "That jerk has no loyalty!"
Remember, before he was Riverboat Ron, he prompted this.
Because my greatest and worst childhood memories involve a Jake Delhomme pass and a John Kasay kickoff.
Marty Hurney misread the NFL running back market so miserably that he gave Costa Rica's GDP to eighteen different running backs. This is the equivalent of investing in Confederate railroad stocks six months before the Civil War. What's worse is that he still has the nerve to go on ESPN and analyze our team like he didn't take a hot shit on our entire salary cap. Marty Hurney, man. I wouldn't let that guy be the GM of a lemonade stand.
Our wide receivers are either 18 or 38.
All you need to know about Carolina is they cut the best player in franchise history in Steve Smith and signed 3 free agent wideouts to replace him. Two of them - Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery - I literally didn't even know were still playing football for a living. At least they drafted a wideout, albeit one whose biggest problem according to draftniks is his hands. At least those aren't important for a wide rec-OH SHIT.
Our fans are the worst. At least a third of them would rather have Matt Moore than Cam. They are so mad that we let go of an over the hill expensive WR, that over half of them will be wearing purple and rooting for Steve Smith to score the game winning touchdown when we face the Ravens in September. And that's probably a good thing, because it's the only way we could possibly fill the stadium. The opposing team's fans come close to outnumbering ours almost every home game.
We also named our stadium after a corrupt bank, and our owner got the city of Charlotte to fork over a ton of money to renovate a basically new stadium anyway.
But all of that pales in comparison to what our front office does for our franchise QB. Every team in the league that drafted a young QB in the last few years immediately starts surrounding them with help. San Francisco got Kaepernick Boldin and Stevie Johnson. Seattle got Wilson Percy Harvin. The Colts surrounded Luck with WRs. The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson. The Bengals gave Dalton AJ Green.
Our front office gave our QB Domenik Hixon, Ted Ginn, Brandon LaFell, and 40% of Steve Smith and said "if you're the franchise QB, this is good enough". He still made the Pro Bowl and got us to the playoffs. We then promptly replaced all of those guys with Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery. When our Pro Bowl LT retired in June, we replaced him with Byron Bell, one of the worst RTs in the league. We replaced Byron Bell with a converted defensive lineman who has never played OT before. Our organization is actively trying to let Cam Newton die on the football field.
We took a dominant spread offense QB, and put him in a scheme built around spending 5 minutes to gain 12 yards. Our offensive game plan is to watch our overpaid 30 year old RBs get tackled for 1 yard gains, then watch Cam somehow avoid 3 sacks and make a huge play, right before getting knocked the fuck out by every defensive lineman.
Our top five players in franchise history include a kicker who choked in the Super Bowl, a LB that spent half his career with the Saints, and Jake Delhomme.
Marty Hurney, the walking zombie of a former GM who had to be high on bath salts when he made 90% of his decisions during his decade long disaster of a tenure, now hosts a local radio show in Charlotte. It's bizarre. He occasionally conducts on-air interviews with current GM Dave Gettleman, and when he asks hard-hitting questions such as, "Dave, what does it take to put a winning team on the field for more than one year?" I seriously think it has nothing to do with the interests of the listening audience but more because he genuinely wants to know the answer. And while Gettleman recites the same canned response every time, there's a 100% chance he wants to say "I dunno, Marty, but it's probably NOT spending a quarter of your cap on two washed-up running backs, giving a $50 million deal to a middle linebacker who has Achilles tendonitis and signing a quarterback who just threw five interceptions in a playoff game to a five-year extension." I applaud Gettleman for not reaching across the table and throttling Hurney for leaving behind this complete abomination of a cap situation as an apparent farewell 'fuck you' to the organization and its fans.
I am a native North Carolinian and in no way a Panthers fan. This puts me in a very large demographic.
Jerry Richardson's team could go 16-0 in the regular season on the way to a decisive Super Bowl victory and he wouldn't wipe that disapproving scowl off his face. The only time he cracks a smile is when he's duping the city and the taxpayers into financing his stadium expansions. And man oh man does this fucking asshole get a lot of credit for being the only owner who has actually played in the league. He played two seasons and then became a fast food tycoon!
A walk through Bank of America Stadium on gameday is like walking through the clubhouse of the greater Charlotte area's lamest country club. Tucked in polo shirts and visors as far as the eye can see.
The franchise has gone out of its way to genericize itself, making it near-impossible for fans to even understand what identity is being marketed. First of all, we're the region-encompassing "Carolina" Panthers, so chosen, I guess, because Charlotte is essentially the "Iron Man 2" of American cities: a whole lot of people have seen it, but nobody remembers anything about it. Charlotte looks like somebody expanded the lobby of a Holiday Inn Express to fill up 300 square miles, dotted it with the occasional Moe's Southwest Grill, and then sold it to Bank of America. Even North Carolinians just sort of ignore Charlotte.
And to worsen the regionalism, the organization blatantly pandered to North Carolina's mouth-breathing, paint-huffing, evolution-denying idiot sister state of South Carolina. It probably means nothing to the rest of the country, but North Carolinians absolutely bristle at the association, because North Carolina CARRIES the Carolinas. North Carolina has rich literary history, awesome topography, and kickass destinations like Asheville and the Outer Banks. South Carolina is a garbage-strewn, flat-chested wasteland of misspelled church signs and abandoned strip malls that owes its entire cultural relevance to an overgrown beach town that started the Civil War.
If Tecmo Bowl had had a create-a-team option, the computer would have auto-defaulted to "Panthers" if the kid playing tried to input a curse word for his team name. And team color? Hell, let's just piggyback on the goodwill of other well-known sports institutions and make it somewhere between Duke's blue and the Tar Heels' blue, and we'll call it a day.
All this combines to make Panther fandom feel sort of amorphous and poserish. You might find a couple other guys in Panthers gear at the bar on game day, but they'll be alone and wearing the same vaguely unconvinced look at their faces. Meanwhile, five boisterous jerkoffs in Steelers jerseys will roaring at their game with self-assured glee.
Mike Shula and his menagerie of punts offense will not be bailed out by the defense as much this year.
BOA Stadium is slam packed only when the Cowboys or Steelers are playing.
UNC is still on probation. Duke plays on what is essentially a high school football field. NC State couldn't win a single conference game this past season (but they sure showed those Central Michigan Chippewas), and the biggest thing to come out of Wake Forest was the introduction of their new helmets. And ACC football is still more popular than the Panthers.
I was hooking up with a girl who told me her claim to fame was sleeping with Cam Newton when he was at Blinn Community College. She claimed to still have his phone number so I stole it when she was wasted and left him a voicemail letting him know we were Eskimo Brothers, I was his biggest fan, and we should be friends....... He never called me back.
According to ESPN's David Newton, "Rivera actually admitted he gets useful information out of the analysts. He particularly likes listening to Jon Gruden."
Because people are legitimately concerned that they lost a receiver with 750 yards last year and Ted fucking Ginn.
Going to Bank of America Stadium is a vapid and empty experience. It's occupied by bored plastic housewives of banking execs that only get excited is when someone stands up in front of them and blocks the jumbotron. They treat the stadium like an IMAX theater. It's not a football game, it's tea time.
Our running tandem's legs are made of pipe cleaners and wet kitty litter. We have an old codger owner that doesn't like "the rap music" so our stadium plays "clean" songs. He looks like fucking Mr. Magoo. Our coach was almost ran out of town before saying "fuck it, all in" and gambled a bit and fell ass backwards into an 8 game winning streak. We FINALLY make the playoffs for the first time since Delhomme shat the bed in 08 and proceed to hand the 9ers the game because no one was disciplined enough to play smart football for 4 quarters. And the first time we make the playoffs in 5 years, 25% of the people there were 9ers fans. If the Steelers come to town BoA becomes Heinz South. Our franchise's greatest past player is a KICKER. Hardy throws women onto mountains of rifles.
The games have all of the excitement of a corporate outing. That is mostly what it is now. The place is packed with people there on corporate tickets. They may be wearing a jersey, but they have a white button down shirt on under it, because they were at some company hospitality tent before the game. They bring their wife and kids. The wife is wearing high heels and carrying a Coach purse, and wipes everyone's seat off, while her husband has that "Not in front of my boys!" look on his face. His "boys" are the other guys in the Credit Fiduciary Risk Analysis Department, so they are there with their uptight wife and bored kids as well. The wives could not want to be there any less. They are miserable, and busy sanitizing everyone's hands after every high-five. Some of the kids are there for the game, but others show up with their iPad, and spend the game with their face buried in it.
You also get the ones who spend the entire time yakking about college football, but it is only the ACC, and it only involves UNC, NCSU, Duke, Wake Forest, and Clemson. They go on for hours, insulting the other teams in the lamest white boy trash talk. Miller Lite is the overwhelming drink of choice. But only 3 of them! Their wives are keeping count.
Of course, the fans leave early, like they do in so many other stadiums. But here, they will do it even if the game is close. They did it during the playoffs. What kind of people do that? Also, the number of people leaving early is now such a rush that you are better off waiting to leave after the game, because traffic is clear then.
At the end of it all, the best you can say is that it was a pleasant day. That is Carolina Panthers Football. Pleasant, polite, moderate, corporate, white. People who think it is a redneck, pickup truck, rebel flag, big hair and mullets, country music, shitstompin, good ol boys crowd have not seen the New South. Why do you think that the cameras always pick up that one African American guy with the Panthers blue wig on? You know you have seen him. It's because he is the only interesting person in the stadium.
The owner cried poor and led the lockout movement in 2011 while pulling in over $50 million per year in profits.
The code of conduct calls the fanbase "Rabid but reasonable". Rabid when the team sucks and the rich PSL holders sell their seats on Stubhub to hardcore fans who make noise, and reasonable when the team does well and the white-collar crew actually shows up to sit on their hands.
Rae Carruth actually tried to murder his own child and then rode to Tennessee in the trunk of a car with bottles of his own urine. I can't imagine making an NFL salary, and then choosing Tennessee as my getaway destination.
We have a legit QB that is fun to watch, but listen to 5 minutes of local sports talk radio and the closet racists will be calling in saying how we should cut Cam Newton to be able to afford to pay Luke Keuchly 50 bazillion dollars. Then we could start Derek Anderson and draft a QB that plays the right way!
The local ABC affiliate has a deal to show another teams preseason games (Redskins), to remind all the old racists of simpler times when this was Redskins country and Cam Newton wouldn't have been allowed to play QB in the league.
The population in Charlotte has literally doubled in size since the Panthers came into existence 20 years ago, and every single one of those people are Cowboys or Steelers or Redskins fans.
Every fucking game is 40% filled with fans of other teams. Nothing is so infuriating as watching some fuck remark on air on "how well those Steeler fans travel!" Those Steeler fans live HERE. ALL OF THEM. I'd bet more Steeler fans travel to Pittsburgh from Charlotte than vice versa. Same thing with the Giants, Patriots, and all those other fans of teams in the Northeast trash heap shitholes that decide to invade our generic city with a decent climate and agreeable economy. Fuck all of you.
We used to have a decent radio play-by-play guy, Bill Rosinski, but Richardson fired him after he made a comment about not getting a NFC Championship ring after the 2004 season. His replacement? The immaculately terrible Mick Mixon. You ever have a buddy who gets halfway through telling a story and forgets how it went? That's Mick describing every play. I'd rather just listen to the crowd, it would be easier to figure out what happened.
The team used city money to make stadium renovations, the most publicized part being the new video boards, which are 2/3 ad space. Every replay is bookended by a perpetually filling Miller Lite glass.
Our irritating fanbase loves John Kasay, our old kicker, mostly because was with the team since the beginning and he's such a GOOD CHRISTIAN.
So what do you do when the third season of your team's franchise player consists of borderline regression and moderately competent game management? Well, if you're the Panthers' front office, you inexplicably chase out of town the hardest-working, toughest, most-loved player in franchise history who is also the only competent wide receiver on the roster. And you get rid of all the other less competent receivers while you're at it, because surely Greg Olsen can singlehandedly carry an aerial offense. On the bright side, we have no room to improve at any position because our terrible previous general manager gave massive extensions to everyone on a 2-14 roster. Did you know it would take a $13.6 mil dead cap hit to cut Jonathan Stewart next year? How that is even possible is beyond me, but people are just now discovering how shortsighted management has been in squeezing cap room and pushing back cap hits well before a title window even started, and that may well lead to the window never starting. We'll probably get 9 or maybe 10 wins, I guess, and a first-round playoff loss, and Cam will show just enough potential to absolutely destroy what little remains of our cap room for the next four years through the imminent $100M+ Flacco-like extension.
And yet it'd be even worse to lose him and have to start over.
Charlotte is the town where a guy got a basketball team and fucking named it after himself. And he still wasn't as awful as Jerry Richardson, who didn't have the decency to die this offseason like we all thought he was going too.
Outside of maybe the Bucs, the Panthers fan base is the worst. No one stands up in the stands for fear of getting kicked out of the stadium.
The Panthers are somewhere around the 7th or 8th most popular football team in the area. If you can pry local radio away from sucking the teat of a some random collegiate lineman, you might get to hear 5 minutes of commentary on whether or not Cam has really got 'it'.
Fuck Marty Hurney. Fuck him in the ear.
At least the Hornets are back.
AFC South: Titans | Jaguars | Texans | Colts
NFC South: Falcons | Buccaneers | Panthers | Saints
AFC West: Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders | Broncos
NFC West: Rams |Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks
AFC North: Steelers | Bengals | Browns | Ravens
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