A week ago this Carolina Panther’s season was bad, today it’s a disaster. The Seattle Seahawks were supposed to be the “get back on track” opponent. Shaky offense, rookie quarterback, traveling cross country. All reasons the Panthers SHOULD have won that game. Now when the Panthers look in the mirror, they are the Seattle Seahawks. That sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief from every team who sees the Carolina Panthers on their schedule. They are the confidence builder, the exhale game, the hone-the-fundamentals opponent. How’s that for reality? It’s harsh and this week many are clamoring for a change-up in Rob Chudzinski’s offense. I’m not…necessarily.
We knew the Carolina Panther defense was relying on a plethora of “what-ifs” coming into the season. We knew that, at best, it would be middle of the road. It wasn’t supposed to matter. The offense was wielding the best known secret in the league. The silver bullet to bad defenses everywhere. Cam Newton. He and he alone would facilitate the incorporation of mostly collegiate concepts into the pro game. Towards the end of 2011 it started coming together as the Panthers reeled off 4 wins in their last 5 games. Everyone loved it. Fans and pundits loved that defenses had no idea who or what to defend. Run, pass, pitch, keep. The options (no pun intended) were infinite. Fast forward to 2012’s dismal 1-4 start and suddenly the bandwagon has become a 10 meter springboard. Panther fans aren’t just falling off, they’re summersault tucking into the pool of change.
I’m not pretending the Panthers aren’t 1-4 or that 12 isn’t the most points they’ve scored in 3 of their 5 games. I’m also not suggesting that changes are unnecessary. What I am suggesting, is that the offense that made them successful in the stretch run of 2011, the read option and running game, hasn’t garnered the commitment I think it deserves.
From my view, the Panthers have relied heavily on a passing game that simply isn’t there. Cam Newton is young, but he has not proven he can be a reliable passer. He cannot throw from under center, he has accuracy issues, he lacks touch at times, and he does not manipulate defensive backs. The cry for a pro-style system is ridiculous when you consider these deficiencies. Furthermore, Jerry Richardson declined any efforts that would elicit such a commitment to the passing game. Instead, he re-invested in the running game and added more.
Today, an 80 million dollar backfield is being ignored. In the Panthers three definitive losses the run to pass ratios are as follows: 13/33 @ TB, 20/33 vs NYG, and 19/29 vs SEA.
In the win against the Saints it was 41/20, and in their near win against the Falcons, 35/25.
Now, circumstances matter and passing numbers get inflated when you’re down late in games. My problem is that the Panthers have gotten off the bus passing. The running game is there. The read option is there. The yardage is there. Debate all you want about Cam’s inability or unwillingness to make the correct decision. At this point deductive reasoning tells me he’s able, because i’ve seen him do it. Is he unwilling because he’s hurt or because he’s worried about longevity? Maybe. However, he’s going to have to realize that taking hits will ultimately reduce hits. For the read option to work, he has to sell his weapons and so does Chudzinski. In the end, hits will be less impactful and the passing game will be more effective.
Am I asking Chud to change? Yes. Change back to what he was doing at the end of last year. Emphasize the rushing attack. Mix in the read option with straight runs. Hopefully that sound you’re hearing will dissipate.