Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty)

Some people are fans of the Carolina Panthers. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Carolina Panthers. This 2019 Deadspin NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Carolina Panthers.

Your 2018 record: 7-9. This is how it works. This is how it has always worked. The Panthers consistently alternate, on annual basis, between being a legitimate contender and being a heap of ground-up otter meat. 2018 represented the latter brand of modern Panthers. They started 6-2 and subsequently dropped seven in a row. They needed a miracle field goal from two states away to beat a hilariously dysfunctional Giants outfit. They got a new owner but the old grope-happy plantation master who USED to own the team still gets to keep his statue right outside the stadium forever and ever. They had to play Taylor Heinicke, whose name sounds like someone put two NASCAR sponsors together, at QB for a stretch. They lost to a pathetic Skins team when their rookie wideout contracted Stage 5 fumblitis. They lost to Pittsburgh when Cam did his best Jameis Winston impression. Oh, and Rae Carruth got released from prison. No way I can watch that man pop a car trunk without my neck breaking out in hives.

This is all so strange because this is a Cam Newton Production. The Panthers should be exciting more often than not. And yet, every other year, they break out a playbook seemingly drawn up by a Pentecostal televangelist and act like they’re still a first-year expansion club. Why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!

Your coach: Oh. Oh right. This is why.

“What do you mean, ‘go for it’?”

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As always, never trust a man wearing transition lenses. This will be Ron Rivera’s final year as head coach here. I know this team’s win-loss EKG suggests you’re in for another boom season where the Panthers win the South despite their coaching staff, but I think it’s safe to say Ron Rivera will find a way to break that pattern and suck shit through a straw for two seasons straight.

Yes, new owner and Tobias-Funke-sans-mustache David Tepper held off on firing Rivera when he walked through the door. But I know how this shit works. You get bought. Your new owners let everyone stick around for a bit, and talk about how they don’t wanna rock the boat. They bought you for a reason, you know! They feel great about the pieces already in place, and they just wanna sit back for a bit and figure out how everything WORKS. They wanna evaluate shit so that they can learn how to help you do your jobs better! A year later, they fire fucking everyone. So enjoy the farewell tour of Ron (and Norv!) before Tepper replaces them all with a bunch of dudes who worked for him at Appaloosa Management.

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Your special teams coach is Chase Blackburn, who looks like the world’s happiest weed dealer:

“This is really great shit!”

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Absolutely no difference between head and neck thickness there. Just a perfect football headshot. I want Chase to walk around practice in a Maaco uniform with his first name stitched in cursive on the breast.

Your quarterback: It’s Cam! Still not dead yet, no matter how hard the Panthers try to make it so. Let’s check in on one of his designated pass protectors!

Seems promising. Always a good sign when one of your linemen not only gets into a random street fight, but then gets obliterated in it. I wanna believe Cam will last a full season in 2019, but his line is iffy, his shoulder is currently going through its Andrew Luck period, the best available wideout the Panthers can likely provide for him just walked out of prison for murder, and 95 percent of all Panthers-related ads in Charlotte use Luke Kuechly’s face, even though Kuechly is just Sean Lee with an extra two years of life expectancy. Just another year of swing passes to Christian McEdelman and endless sacks for poor Cam.

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This man’s career has been largely wasted and will continue to be. For all the Superman celebrations and all the bullet out-routes that Cam does, the man still has a worse résumé than Matt Ryan. Go look for yourself. His completion percentage is worse. His yards per attempt are worse. His winning percentage is worse. His touchdown percentage is worse. His interception percentage is higher. Do you know how fucking depressing it is to consider this? Matt Ryan is a nice player who’s roughly as exciting as a bus ride to school. Cam Newton should not be stuck on the same mezzanine as that wet saltine, but the numbers say that is EXACTLY where he belongs. Tepper could hire the next Sean McVay stubble clone he sees to run this ship and it wouldn’t significantly alter Cam’s production, nor his destiny. He is quarterback Herschel Walker now.

Your backup is Will Grier, best known for being the older brother of a former Vine star.

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What’s new that sucks: Guys, I know it’s gonna BLOW YOUR SKULL, but it turns out that David Tepper, a man already awash in fresh tax breaks, wants a new stadium.

“At some point I would make a big investment if I could get the state and others on board in a new stadium that would be great for soccer and great for football,” Tepper said. “People here in Charlotte have to realize: This is a really major, growing, important city, and it needs that sort of presence.”

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Definitely. Such a shame that city doesn’t already have a perfectly usable football stadium, one built uncomfortably on top of the state’s first lynching site but still retrofitted with nearly $100 million in renovations this decade alone, all to prevent the LAST son-of-a-bitch owner from skipping town. I know Tepper is almost certainly better than Jerry Richardson on a basic human level (the bar Richardson set for that is planted firmly in the Earth’s core), but otherwise he’s just another billionaire working the same angles, brandspeaking everyone into going along with the idea of citizens gifting him more and more baubles and sacks of gold krugerrands. The nicer he sounds, the more he thinks he’s entitled to.

These are the new owners who are in the stands for a few games to be amongst the fans before they drop the charade and retreat back to their airport lounge of a skybox for the rest of their respective tenures. The fuck does Charlotte need a roofed stadium for? Buy a couple fans, you cheap prick. And do people in North Carolina REALLY have a modesty problem? I don’t meet a lot of Southern bank drones who are like AH DON’T TELL Y’ALL ENOUGH ABOUT HOW RICH AND BIG AH AM. Never forget that Tepper was once a minority Steelers owner, just like Jimmy Haslam. In fact, Tepper was part of the crew that supposedly wanted to fire Mike Tomlin after the playoff loss to the Jags two years ago. Sooner or later, there WILL be a gif of Tapper cackling in the luxury box that I’ll be able to use again and again when I have no other creative insults at my disposal. Just a pebbled scrotum of a man. His last name reminds me of ’80s singer Robert Tepper:

While Tepper greases every palm he can find with gold-binded copies of his hedge fund propectus, he’ll be overseeing an NFC South team that, like the Falcons, believes that making a few tweaks here and there any given season might result in some kind of miracle leap. They grabbed Bucs mainstay Gerald McCoy. They got rid of open line wound Matt Kalil. They brought in linebacker Bruce Irvin after Irvin spent a cup of coffee with, you guessed it, the Falcons. Honestly, just merge the two teams and get it over with. I don’t need any of teams in the NFL’s South divisions to exist, to be honest with you. Oh, and they signed Chris Hogan, the kind of wideout whose whiteness powers can only be properly activated by Bill Belichick. The most exciting Panther remains Steve Smith and he doesn’t even like the Panthers anymore.

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What has always sucked: Uh, have you MET North Carolina?

While Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia are out there desperately trying to live up to every possible Deep South stereotype, North Carolina is content to quietly operate as the chief laboratory for every horrible and corrupt idea that every horrible and corrupt lawmaker has ever had.

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It’s a gorgeous place. I’ve been there more than a few times and enjoyed myself plenty. It is also the wellspring from which all backwaters flow. You can be a shitty racist asshole in North Carolina and freely bend the law to your will without worrying about people noticing because Arkansas is busy distracting everyone by playing the fiddle off-key and eating its own feces. It’s a barn of a state, and it very much deserves the kind of NFL team that pretends to be legitimate in short bursts before reverting back to their true identity as a laughingstock worthy of being shunned and ignored.

You need a letter from your local sheriff to get permission to learn to read in North Carolina. Though that’s a less restrictive policy than the one its neighbor to the south has. WHATEVER. If you’re not a living pickup truck doing racism in this state, then you’re some biotech sales rep in boat shoes sitting in some glorified comfort food gastropub sorting out ways to suck municipal funding dry so that everyone ELSE in the state can’t benefit from it. You are only beginning to witness efforts to North Carolina–ify the rest of this hopeless country. Knowing North Cackalacky, they’ll build Tepper his stadium and they’ll build it directly on top of the last Planned Parenthood standing. You gotta pay a fucking poll tax to submit a Pro Bowl ballot here.

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No one here can catch the ball. Luke Kuechly shouldn’t be on a football field anymore but he’ll play until he’s 37 anyway and die when he’s 52.

What might not suck: Last year I said Christian McCaffrey was worthless. Norv Turner, of all people, quickly proved me wrong.

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HEAR IT FROM PANTHERS FANS!

Will:

Cam’s shoulder is being held together by shoestrings and Elmer’s Glue.

Steve:

I can already hear the calls to start Will Grier over Cam and we’re still two weeks away from training camp. Jerry Richardson should be fisted by his own grotesque statue.

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Jeffrey:

The franchise has still never logged back to back winning seasons, despite three consecutive division titles earlier this decade — try topping that for bizarre and frustrating sports trivia minutia!

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Doug:

Year after year after year, dumb rednecks from all over the Charlotte area try to show you how much they love their team while also figuring out ways to insult Cam Newton without dropping the words “uppity” or “boy”.

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Austin:

We’ve never had back-to-back winning seasons. We just had to finish last year 3-5 to make it happen. Too tall of an order. Fuck us with Jerry Richardson’s ashy dick.

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Rob:

My wife loves theme parties, so when we made Super Bowl 50, she made some sort of drink with a shitload of Blue Curacao (Panthers blue!). Fast forward to the end of the game, and I’m laying on the floor in front of all our friends on the verge of drunk tears. An hour later I puked blue all over the bed and the floor next to the bed.

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Matt:

I was heckled by an old-fashioned Boston racist on my DC street for wearing a Panthers Starter jacket. All I could respond with was “Why are you shit-talking us, we suck!” That’s a good feeling!

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Cam (not Newton):

Cam Newton’s right shoulder, which I now presume looks like the ground beef from your local Save-a-Lot.

The worst part of it? The small but vocal section of the Panthers fanbase who will be glad if Cam can’t throw… despite his Super Bowl berth, an MVP, and literally giving his body to this franchise with next to nothing in return.

Jerry Richardson can go sit on a cactus.

Pete:

Getting cheap tickets to see the Panthers has never been easier thanks to all these red-state PSL owners who think boycotting the team by not using the seats they’ve already paid for will put a real hurting on the team’s bottom line.

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Jeffrey:

I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, the son of a Giants fan. The Giants have won four Super Bowls since I was born in 1986, the in-state Steelers are playoff contenders every year, and the Eagles won the most unexpected, cathartic title of all time two years ago, but I’m an idiot and hitched my wagon to this abominable franchise 600 miles from my childhood home because in 1995, nine-year-old me thought Kerry Collins was IT, baby.

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Dominik:

We kicked our old racist owner to the curb but the sale of the team included a clause preventing his horrifying statue from ever being moved from outside the stadium.

Charlotte’s official tourism slogan is “Charlotte’s Got a Lot!” They have 4 different billboard designs featuring hip youth doing cool things in the city. Only one of these designs has a black man in it (in the background).

Cam Newton will have another great start only for his shoulder to explode into dust again halfway through the season. We drafted a white QB in the 3rd round, so the calls to bench Newton will start the first sundown after Week 1.

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Jake:

It’s time to come to grips with the fact that the Panthers are now firmly in the twilight years of wasting Cam Newton and Luke Keuchly’s primes. At least we can take solace in the fact that the Saints and Falcons have suffered the worst losses in three consecutive seasons. Those losses are collectively as close as we’ll get to another Super Bowl.

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Miles:

The Panthers actively murder their best players. They turned Dan Morgan’s brain into pulled pork 15 years ago and haven’t looked back. Starting left tackle Michael Oher hasn’t played since 2016 because he’s on a dozen different brain medications and can’t come out of a dark room. In the 2016 season opener, the Broncos spent the entire game launching themselves into Cam Newton’s head (just one penalty!), and the team only held Cam out for a play. Later that season, he took a helmet-to-helmet shot on the goal line. The next season, it was the Falcons again with the cheap shot, but - again - Cam wasn’t pulled. Passing the Panthers’ concussion test is apparently as easy as getting into NC State.

Cam accounted for 50 total touchdowns during their 2015 run to the Super Bowl. He hasn’t come within 20 touchdowns of that number in any season since. If you believe that repeated brain injuries haven’t been a contributing factor, I’ve got a case of Nanobubbles to sell you.

They’re about to ruin the best middle linebacker since Ray Lewis. The image of Luke Kuechly dazed and sobbing on the medical cart was seared into the minds of everyone watching Sunday Night Football in 2016. Last year was the first full season he played in 4 years, missing games in each of the others with concussion problems.

The Packers have their cheesehead hats. The Bills have the Anchor Bar chicken wing hats. The Panthers should be selling giant foam Scrambled Eggs hats, because that’s what they’ve done to their players’ brains.

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Andrew:

My team the Carolina Panthers, are one of only two teams in the league named after an area. No one ever says “I’m from Carolina.” It’s not a place. It’s a stupid name.

Two States One Team is the motto and this is evidenced by the move of the team’s headquarters 15 minutes south of the border. I hate, hate that this team and the richest and newest owner in the NFL got the state of South Carolina, a dirty version of North Carolina, to pony up a ridiculous amount of tax breaks. I hate that they did it as quickly as they did.

The new owner David Tepper seems to have the “I want it, gimme it now!” thing down pretty well for a billionaire. The newest demand which is likely to be given to this petulant man-child is an MLS team. About 2 years ago, child of billionaire and NASCAR/actual North Carolinian, Marcus Smith and his team couldn’t even get traction for an MLS team. Tepper, just over a year in, gets MLS and a headquarters in SC.

I haven’t mentioned anything on the field because, get this, this team has what could be the most dynamic quarterback but somehow is incredibly milquetoast on offense. Luke Keuchly leads a less than exciting defense that no longer gets turnovers and no longer holds teams to less than three TDs.

The Panthers lost to a scarecrow in a Peyton Manning uniform in the Super Bowl. My team sucks.

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Michael:

They are going to go 7-9, that wet fart of a record. It’s going to happen the same way it always does: they’ll start off hot, looking like a legit Super Bowl contender, then in week 9 some mutant DE will shatter Cam’s shoulder and the team will be lucky if they manage 2 wins in the back half of the season.

Cam is a phenomenal athlete who’s a lot of fun to watch. He is built like a Space Marine and dresses like Andre 3000; Because of this, the NFL has marked him for death. An Alabama deputy caught on camera shooting an unarmed black teenager and planting drugs on him is more likely to be penalized than a DE who delivers a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cam after the play has ended. Every single time this shit happens the announcers go, “Well as you can see Cam Newton is bigger than most Linebackers, so it’s only fair they get to try and rip his head off.”

When Cam inevitably goes out in week 14 and whatever lily-white backup QB we have comes in and manages to throw two consecutive passes, our racist ass fans will spend the next 6 months screaming that he should have Cam’s job.

Our offensive line is perpetually one guy away from being able to ensure Cam will be able to remember his own name when he is 45. Luke Kuechly is going to have his 8th concussion by week 3 and will have to retire. I honestly almost wish he would retire now, he is a great player who is incredibly entertaining to watch, but goddamn is it depressing watching him get brain damage for a team whose ceiling is 8-7-1.

We finally decided that the strategy of having big slow wideouts who can’t catch a ball wasn’t working, so we decided to switch to having small wideouts who are injury-prone. D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are each going to break both legs in training camp.

I’m still not entirely sure if Christian McCaffrey is any good or if he is just considered good because Norv Turner has him run it 90 times a game. Norv Turner treats McCaffrey like a drunken frat boy treats a rental car. Riverboat Ron is more conservative than the NYT Opinion page and almost as dumb. If we don’t have a 27-point lead going into the 4th quarter I assume we’re gonna lose.

In closing, Drew Brees will be the first player to win MVP in his 50's. Meanwhile Cam will retire in three years after having his arm re-built for the 5th time, then it’s a decade of 4-12/5-11 seasons until eventually the mid-first round pick of QB, who everyone else projected as a 3rd rounder, shits the bed and delivers us a 1-15 season and the glorious first round pick where we draft a once in a generation talent and proceed to do to him what we did to Cam.

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