Huge Task Ahead For Panthers

On January 10, 1979, Bill Walsh accepted the most thankless job in the NFL at the time — by agreeing to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Not only did the 49ers finish 2-14 in 1978, which was the worst record in the entire NFL by two full games that year (Kansas City and Cincinnati were both 4-12 in 1978), but San Francisco did not have a first-round pick in the 1979 draft, having traded it away for an obviously washed-up O.J. Simpson.

No team has both finished worst overall by two games and lacked a first-round pick in the ensuing draft since then until this year — when both apply to the Carolina Panthers.

The reason that Carolina does not have a first-round pick this spring is because the Panthers traded it to the Bears so that they could draft Alabama quarterback Bryce Young — who, at 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, has become one of the smallest quarterbacks to start in the NFL in literally decades.

According to the highly-regarded Walter Football site, Young is:

* Short

* Thinner-framed

* Underweight for typical quarterbacks

* Could have durability issues in the NFL

* Height could be a problem to execute three-step-drop passing in the NFL

Given the circumstances, it can be said that the 1979 49ers actually overachieved by repeating their 2-14 finish of 1978, but entered their 1980 campaign having lost 18 consecutive games on the road. Carolina was 0-9 on the road in 2023 — and it is not advisable to bet against the Panthers going winless on the road again in 2024.

Worse yet, but at this writing the Panthers have neither a head coach nor a general manager. Can you blame any prospective candidates for either job who do not want to sign on to this dumpster fire?

But what about the "good" Panthers defense, you ask, which ranked fourth in the league in total defense and third against the pass in the just-concluded season?

Carolina finished 23rd against the run — and their offense was dead last in both total yards and passing yards — and tied with New England for fewest points scored.

As the late Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly pointed out, if a team feels they can beat you by scoring 20 points, they are more likely to run the ball than if they felt that 30 points were necessary. So Carolina's "good" defense is more apparent than real (and the Panthers allowed 416 points in 2023 — the fourth most in the league).

And making hasty, quick-fix trades seems to be a habit with this team: in 1998, they gave up two first-round picks to Washington for defensive tackle Sean Gilbert — a move for which they paid dearly when they finished 1-15 in 2001 — and after having won their opener no less (Jacksonville would do the same thing 19 years later).

While many quarterbacks, including even Peyton Manning (who threw more interceptions than touchdowns and was 0-8 on the road in his rookie year of 1998), have struggled during their rookie season, Young finished last in the NFL among quarterbacks who had enough attempts to qualify in 2023, with a passer rating of 73.7 — and no amount of experience figures to mask his glaring deficiencies.

Suffice it to say that the oddsmakers are going to have a lot of fun when the time comes to release Carolina's opening odds to win Super Bowl XLIX — after the draft and after the dust has more or less settled as regards free agency.

Patience is the Carolina watchword for 2024.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site