At some point during the team evaluation process, fans and media have labeled the Carolina Panthers a team rebuilding the last couple years. But if you take a closer look at all the variables involved, the Panthers don't fit the criteria of a team that is actually rebuilding.
In fact, the exact opposite should be taking place. The Carolina Panthers are a team that should be considered in their prime and winning football games.
The problem with losing records is most fans classify their team as in a rebuilding mode automatically, when a lot of the time their team is just not living up to the potential.
The Carolina Panthers lead the league in starters' salaries across the board (including kicker and punter). Carolina's 24 opening day starters average $4.963 million per player. That is almost $400,000 more than the second-highest paid team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How does that compare to the other teams in the NFC South? The Atlanta Falcons starters average $4.074 million (No. 9), the New Orleans Saints average $3.9 million (No. 17) and the Tampa Bay Bucs average $3.114 million (No. 27).
When looking at the roster itself, the rebuilding theory makes even less sense. Three years ago the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South and finished with a 12-4 overall regular season record. There are still 18 players on the 2011 Panthers squad that were members of that championship team.
Of those 18 players, 11 of those are starters today or get plenty of action (Jonathan Stewart). The players that have left have been replaced by 11 players who are considered veterans with an average of 7.09 years of NFL experience.
The other roster spots vacated by the 2008 team include a total of 33 players who have three years or less of NFL experience, 11 of which are rookies.
What does that translate into? An NFL roster that is clearly underachieving when it comes to contracts and potential individual talent.
Now, there are many variables involved of course. One involves bringing in an entirely different coaching staff, restructuring your offensive and defensive philosophies, and getting all of this done during a lockout year in which training camp was shortened.
Another contributing factor is bringing in a rookie quarterback and handing the reins to him from day one. Although this shouldn't matter much considering that a rookie quarterback is outplaying the quarterback of 2008, Jake Delhomme.
Yet another factor is the loss of starting defensive end Julius Peppers who is widely considered one of the best defensive players in the NFL. But many would argue that the impact of losing Peppers was softened by the explosion of defensive end Charles Johnson.
But probably the most damaging factor is the number of players on the injured reserve list, and the impact of the talent that is not available to the Panthers.
Carolina has a league-leading 12 players on IR, including stud linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, as well as OT Jeff Otah and potential starters David Gettis (WR) and Ron Edwards (DT).
This is clearly a team that is under performing as they sit in the cellar with a 2-7 record. At the very worst, the Panthers should be competing for a wild-card spot.
The Carolina Panthers are in a precarious position the next three years or so. If the majority of starting talent remains on the Panthers roster this team will be considered old and used up.
Time is not on their side, so it is past time for the talent of this team to find some pride and win some big games as we enter the second half of the season. It should start in Detroit.
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