In 2020 the Carolina Panthers seem like a team who has underperformed, but have they?
Coming off a very disappointing 2018 and 2019 season where the Panthers won at least 5 of their first 8 games then lost at least 7 of their last 8 games, they had no clear path ahead of them. Their franchise quarterback had been hurt since 2016 and the head coach has just been fired. Not even the owner of the team knew what was in store for the future of this franchise.
On January 7th, 2020, The Panthers hired former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule to a lofty 7 year, 62 million dollar contract. He became the 5th head coach of the team since its birth in 1995. The rest was history. They released lots of veteran players like Mario Addison, James Bradberry, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, and the biggest losses all Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, the two faces of the franchise just a few years before. They brought in free agents like Teddy Bridgewater and Robby Anderson, Drafted players like Derrick Brown and Jeremy Chinn, and Hired Coaches like Phil Snow (DC) and Joe Brady (OC). And In the span of a few months, the Carolina Panthers suddenly have 70% of their roster turned over with 3 college coaches running the show.
If you take a look at Matt Rhules' history, it all makes sense. He had completely flipped the football programs at both Temple and Baylor. Rhule spent 3 years at each organization. In his first year at Temple, he only won 2 of 12 and in his first year at Baylor, he only won 1 of 12. Just 2 years later, he turned both franchises into double-digit winners. The Panthers owner does not care about winning now, he wants to build a program.
So in the unprecedented year of 2020 with one of the youngest teams ever in the last decade and 3 college coaches, the Panthers were projected to win just 2 games and some had them with the number 1 pick. They have already won 4 with 4 games left to play. So with Joe Brady already being called a head coaching candidate, the panthers drafting the highest defensive rookie of the year candidate in safety Jeremy Chinn, and a roster flooded with young talent with players like Derrick Brown, D.J Moore, Curtis Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Brian Burns, Donte Jackson, and Shaq Thompson, It makes you question whether the Panthers really did have a bad season or not. The amount of growth from all these young players becomes more and more severe every year that they compete. Rome was not built in a day, and in a few more years, the Carolina Panthers might just be the next best team.