Carolina Panthers 2017 Season Recap
The road for a past conference champion can take some very difficult twists and turns after playing in front of the Super Bowl audience. Many experience the "hangover" effect, missing the playoffs (often posting a losing record) in the successive campaign. OK, fine, but how would a more recent NFC titlist respond with that accomplishment two years in rear view mirror?
2017 Record: 11-5
2016 Record: 6-10
Win Differential: +5
What Happened: The last thing the Panthers needed was turmoil of any description entering a season that would be important in trying to win another Super Bowl berth. During training camp, a big dose of it came in the form of the sudden dismissal of general manager Dave Gettleman. The architect of 2015 NFC champions was fired due to differences with ownership on personnel management. Gettleman's predecessor, Marty Hurney, came in as an interim GM to handle day to day duties through the course of the season. On the field, Carolina returned to playing to their strengths, playing strong defense and using QB Cam Newton as an offensive facilitator. By doing so, they would turn in an 11 win season, but would only qualify for a wild card in a loaded NFC South. Their biggest weakness, passing offense (the Panthers' leading receiver in receptions and receiving yards was rookie Christian McCaffrey, a running back) would hurt them in a close loss to the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round. It remains to be seen if the Tobacco Road Cats have hit their ceiling, but a sudden change at the top could very well change the trajectory of the Panthers going forward.
What To Expect: In January, Sports Illustrated reported on allegations of sexual harassment by female Panthers employees with team owner & founder Jerry Richardson as the perpetrator. The NFL conducted their own investigation, but Richardson agreed to sell the team he founded in 1995 instead of being publicly shamed with what has already been made public. That would lead hedge fund tycoon David Tepper into purchasing the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion. Change in the world of the NFL is inevitable, but always an enigma. Coaches are changed about every 3 to 5 years on average, GM's go about every six or seven seasons. But ownership? Normally, it doesn't change very often, but due to a few circumstances, many teams have seen turnover at the highest level. New owners, either though acquisition or plan of succession, tend to alter every facet of the franchise. Not only for the product on the field, but in how the organization does business across the board. On the field, the players and coaches can control the result. The best for them to do is keep doing what they've done four out of the last five years: Win more games than they lose.