I haven't written an article since December of 2009, but in light of what's happened to my beloved Panthers I have no choice but to say something. Back in 2001, the Panthers were coming off their worst season ever. They lost 15 straight games to end the season and had not been to the playoffs since 1996.
In came John Fox and for the next eight seasons, the Panthers were almost always competitive. While they only went to the playoffs three times under Fox, they never finished with fewer than seven wins either, and on top of that from 2003 to 2005 they won five playoff games.
In spite of this, I always wanted more. I wanted to be like the Colts, winning 12 games a year, or the Patriots who always have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. I wanted to be like the Vikings, who despite not reaching a Super Bowl since Tarkenton was in town, still managed to hog up headlines when they made moves for Favre and Moss.
Perhaps I should have been satisfied with the occasional playoff appearance because now we've truly hit rock bottom, and for the life of me I can't understand why.
Two years ago we were 12-4 and in the second round of the playoffs. After the debacle against the Cardinals and the ensuing poor start in 2009, owner Jerry Richardson hit the panic button. Despite having a solid team that finished the 2009 season 4-1, he let everyone go. We went from an experienced team to the youngest in the league.
Richardson was so afraid of an upcoming lockout and having to possibly pay veterans their salaries for a year in which there isn't even football, that he simply let everyone who had a lengthy contract go.
We may have called it a youth movement at the time, but now fans of the Panthers basically have been locked out of football before we even knew there was going to be a lockout. The season was thrown away before the first kickoff and now any intelligent fan of the team should be happy if we win two games this year.
I wish it wasn't like this but it is. And the longer that fans try to deny the problems we have the longer it will continue. If you don't believe me consider this. We just lost to a team that was without Jay Cutler and whose replacement threw four picks and finished with a 6.2 passer rating. On top of that they only scored six points after the first quarter. And even then we lost by 17 points.
Its bad my friends really, really bad. 2001 was a season that I never want to relive but I'm afraid we're a mere 10 losses away from that mark or God forbid, worse.
I have immense respect for Jerry "Big Cat" Richardson, but I've watched this team chase that damned Super Bowl ring for 15 years and now we may have to wait 15 more. Good Lord, why would you throw away a season and set your franchise back on the basis of a possible lockout?
I want to win now. I'm tired of waiting with those other Panthers fans for our ship to come in. I'm tired of watching old films of great moments in NFL history and knowing that we'll rarely ever make one of those shows. I'm sick of watching Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer get inducted into Canton and know that not one of them donned black and blue.
I realize that in today's NFL, teams can rebound quickly from dismal seasons. Note the 2008 Dolphins, the 1999 Rams, and the 1999 Colts. But those teams had owners and management that actually bothered to spend money. Other than Keyshawn Johnson who was the last big name free agent we brought in? Stephen Davis and that was 2003!
This philosophy of never wanting to sign any player with a troubled past is getting me more furious than I can explain. With all the players we let go we easily could have brought in Michael Vick, and Terrell Owens. And if you're worried about there attitudes then sign them to one-year deals and extend it if they behave. We could have sign.ed T.J Houshmandzadeh or Dunta Robinson or anyone for that matter.
But apparently we don't want to bring any "characters" to our franchise. Well, guess what I'd rather win! I could care less what these guys did years ago. If they win games and stay quiet then so be it. Good God, fans don't come to the games to watch a bunch of choir boys drop passes, and muff punts. Fans fill those seats to watch their team win.
When Vick was almost a free agent over the summer I begged and pleaded for the Panthers to sign him—but no. We'd rather start Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. Not to say Clausen can't develop into a good player but why not let him develop behind a veteran who can win for a while. Now we're stuck in #@!$ville and Richardson is the mayor.
So, you guys remember that dark cave this franchise was stuck in from 1997-2001? Well, we're very quickly headed back there. And if the fans don't speak up we may never get out.
There's a storm coming Panther fans. And there's not an umbrella in sight.