NFL AM: Panthers Proving Last Year Was A Fluke


This Is Who The Panthers Are

It’s getting late early for the Carolina Panthers.

With the team’s last-second 17-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, Carolina dropped to 1-4 and are now tied with Chicago and San Francisco for the worst record in the NFC.

“It’s still early in the season,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said when asked about what he told his players. “We have started the second quarter but the truth in the matter is we have to start getting things rolling. We have the Saints coming up pretty soon. We have a short week so we just have to start getting prepared and move forward. You can’t look behind. There is nothing we can do about it. That’s pretty much what I told them. I said I’m going forward and I expect them to go forward as well.”

But it’s really not that early in the season anymore.  Sure, the team’s losses to Denver and Minnesota were certainly excusable.  Those are two very good teams.  Getting blown out by the Atlanta Falcons and now losing a home game to the perennial last-place Buccaneers is not what good teams, much less what playoff teams do.

“It wasn’t good enough. Plain and simple. You know, we had a chance to win in the end and we didn’t execute properly and unfortunately, turnovers got us today,” quarterback Derek Anderson said.

Sure, Carolina was playing without quarterback and league MVP Cam Newton.  This game gave us a peek inside the Panthers actual roster without the NFL’s most valuable player bailing them out, and it didn’t look all that pretty.

The Panthers secondary wasn’t quite as terrorized as it was a week ago when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 515 yards and wide receiver Julio Jones went for 300, but they did look overmatched.  To put it simply, rescinding the franchise tag and letting Josh Norman go was an enormous mistake for general manager Dave Gettleman.

What’s worse is that Tampa Bay running back Jacquizz Rodgers, a third-string player who was picked up just a few weeks earlier ran up the middle 30 times for 101 yards against a Carolina defensive line that is loaded with high draft picks.

“My path crossed with his a couple times,” Panthers cornerback Robert McClain said of Rodgers. “He has a low center of gravity. Good running back. I played with him when we were with the Falcons. I know his style of run. I know his game style. He’s a tough runner. He’s a tough tackle. Defensively, we have to be able to get in our gaps and make those tackles.”

While the Panthers general manager and front office were lauded for last year’s success, and rightfully so, it was mostly a case of smoke and mirrors.  Carolina had been mostly a .500 team the two previous seasons and they were playing with great confidence and behind Newton having a legendary 2015 campaign leading to a 15-1 season.

Although nobody expected a 1-4 start, this is more indicative of the actual talent level on the roster.  There’s a great quarterback, a good interior offensive line with bad tackles, an average defensive line (without a high draft pick at defensive end), one all-world middle linebacker and one of the league’s worst secondaries.

Folks, these are your 2016 Carolina Panthers, not the defending NFC champions.

Ravens Pull Plug On OC Trestman

After starting the season off with three consecutive wins, followed by two straight losses, the Baltimore Ravens have fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

Trestman took over last season and navigated the Ravens offense to a No. 25 ranking, spending a good portion of the season without the services of quarterback Joe Flacco.  This year, Baltimore’s offense seems to be ordinary at best, despite having their signal caller back.

“After very careful consideration, I have decided to make a change to our offensive coaching staff and have replaced Marc Trestman with Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator for the rest of the season,” coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “My obligations are to the team, the organization and the fans to be the very best team we can be. Today we find ourselves one game out of the division and conference lead after experiencing two tough losses at home. We will work to be better in every aspect of our football team. Our expectations are high, and we look forward to fulfilling them.

“I appreciate and respect the efforts and contributions Marc has made to the team since his arrival. Marc is a good person and an excellent football coach.”

Did Trestman squeeze every ounce of production possible out of the Baltimore offense?  Probably not, but how much was he really working with?

Flacco is a very good quarterback who plays his best football in pressurized situations.  That doesn’t mean he’s one of the best in the league.  He often has mediocre stretches during games and during weeks and at times the team needs to win in spite of him.

Who is Flacco handing the ball to?  Justin Forsett, a 1000-yard rusher two years ago was a journeyman prior to his arrival in Baltimore and basically “just a guy.”  He was cut in favor of Terrance West, who was so good that the Cleveland Browns gave up on him.

On the outside, there’s Steve Smith, a potential Hall of Famer, but at 37 years old is clearly not the player he once was.  They spent a first round pick in 2015 on Breshad Perriman, but after missing all of his rookie season he really hasn’t contributed.

Trestman’s schemes weren’t working, but let’s not pretend that there’s a plethora of elite weapons he had to work with.

The last time the Ravens fired offensive coordinators in the middle of the season they won the Super Bowl (back in 2012), when they opted for Jim Caldwell over Cam Cameron.  Although it didn’t seem likely then that they would hoist the Lombardi Trophy, it really seems unlikely now, just with the temperature of the AFC as a whole with many teams that appear to be considerably better.

If something is broken then fix it.  The Ravens offense was broken, and Trestman fell on the sword.  We’ll see if the problem was the “X’s and the O’s” and not the “Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.”

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.