After another horribly frustrating and disappointing close loss on Sunday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told the media in the postgame press conference that he was going to bring out a "suggestion box" in hopes that someone would have an idea on how to get the team offensively on track and start winning ballgames.
At 1-5, the Panthers have lost four games by a combined score of 17 points. In three of those losses, Carolina has scored 14 or fewer points and just three total offensive touchdowns.
The source of Newton's remarks was his frustration over the offensive play-calling, labeling it "the same script" and "boring". In Sunday's 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Newton and the Panthers ran for over 112 yards; problem is, Newton had 64 of those yards himself.
DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert combined for 48-yard rushing on 15 attempts, which equals out to a little over 3.2 yards a rush.
The Panthers offense was stagnant, predictable, flat and horribly boring. Six drives ended in less than five plays, including four three-and-outs.
Cam Newton's "suggestion box" would most likely include a couple of ideas, most of which would side with Newton's "boring" offensive play-calling. Carolina over and over ran the same run-option play, giving Cam the choice between handing off to the running back or keeping the ball himself.
It never worked.
Another idea would be that Cam and the Panthers lack depth at the receiver spot. And whoever made that suggestion wouldn't be far off base in their idea. Outside of Steve Smith, Carolina has no real reliable threat.
Prior to Sunday, receiver Brandon LaFell's last three games included four catches for 71 yards. He was held without a catch against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4. And Louis Murphy's last three games? Try three grabs for 20 yards. On Sunday, Murphy dropped a beautiful 3rd-and-long pass that would have given the Panthers a first down.
A final suggestion, and probably the easiest would be to can head coach Ron Rivera. And why not? He's the captain of the ship, and if running a "boring" offense is his idea of winning, which it clearly isn't, then he's the obvious problem right?
What's amazing about the NFL is that the difference between a 5-1 team and a 1-5 team isn't talent or even play-calling—plain and simple, it's mental errors.
Go back to Week 4 when the Panthers are playing the undefeated Atlanta Falcons on the road. Up 28-27 late in the fourth quarter and facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Falcon 46-yard line, Newton called his own number on a run up the middle.
Newton was hit as he dove for what would have been a first down and the ballgame; instead Newton fumbled, Carolina recovered and lost the first down and eventually the game.
The following week, the Panthers were in the midst of an ugly slug-fest with the Seattle Seahawks. Down 16-10 in the fourth quarter, Carolina drove down to the Seahawks' 6-yard line with less than six minutes to go.
Two runs and a short pass later and Carolina had the ball 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and chose to go for it. Instead of Newton simply diving over the top, the Panthers called a roll-out pass in which Newton threw a one-hopper into the ground just a few feet short of wide open tight-end Ben Hartsock. Carolina wound up losing 16-12.
On Sunday against the Cowboys, the big mistake didn't wait until the fourth quarter; no, this one happened in the second quarter when Cam was trying to get rid of a pass under heavy pressure at the Dallas 6-yard line. The softball floater ended up in the hands of the Cowboys, killing a Panthers scoring drive. In the end, Carolina fell 19-14.
All of this was just in the last three weeks, which have been the source of Newton's frustration. Carolina has a solid defense, and their play-calling, although boring, does put the Panthers in position to win football games. Unfortunately, the play-calling does include room for error, which Carolina has done plenty of.
It's amazing how a 5-1 team in the NFL can just as easily be 1-5. The suggestion box may have some great ideas, but execution of the play-calling and eliminating mental errors may be the simplest and most honest idea of all.