(Image Credit: Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
What a heartbreaker as there was a lot of fans that wanted the Carolina Panthers to make the playoffs and win the NFC South. Well with their latest loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 it is now official. I got to say this has been a very strange season for the Carolina Panthers as there have been high moments and low moments. So as I usually do I will go through 3 main reasons why the Carolina Panthers did not make the playoffs this year.
1. The Ending of the Matt Rhule Tenure
I am not going to go too long here as it is an obvious one. Matt Rhule is a horrible head coach
and is the worst coach in the franchises history. He was fired in week 5 and many wrote of the Panthers.
Carolina was heavily involved in the Trade Deadline by moving WR Robby Anderson and RB Christian McCaffery. They did promote Steve Wilks, but imagine if Carolina decided to move on from Matt Rhule in the 2021 NFL Season. Maybe they would have beaten the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals earlier in the season. A big what if to knowing how bad the NFC South division is.
2. Inconsistent QB Play
I think it is clear that the Panthers don’t have a franchise QB on their team. I had hoped Sam Darnold would play well in Carolina, but he has not been able to stay healthy or perform consistently. Which sucks because I was a big Sam Darnold fan not because he played with the New York Jets, but I was a fan of his during his USC days in college. PJ Walker is terrible and he also is injured with his ankle. The Panthers threw Baker Mayfield under the bus and released him. With how well he played as a Ram, it showcased that Baker was not properly utilized or coached well. Matt Corral did not step on the field due to his Lisfranc injury. On a side note his development is going to take a hit with the change of coaches he had his rookie season. I hope he can overcome it, but I don’t know. This team needs a franchise QB and they clearly don’t have one now. It definitely is a big reason why.
3. Excluding CB Jaycee Horn the Panthers secondary is terrible.
The main strength with the Panthers is clearly shown on defense. However when looking at their secondary, they have a ton of issues. It was especially shown when Jaycee Horn was injured. Horn is the best cornerback they have on this team and even when he was healthy the secondary struggled, but it was apparent once he had that wrist injury. Dontae Jackson was also injured during the season as well and he was solid this season. CJ Henderson stinks and Yes I know he had a pick 6 this season, but he has had more bad moments then good. Besides that the Panthers CB crew have not been consistent. Jeremy Chin and Xavier Woods have done great tackling,but regressed in coverage. If Carolina wants to improve on defense, they need to get better at cornerback.
On The Bright Side - It Could Have Been A Lot Worse
The beginning of the season was just a disaster for Carolina. With coaches being fired and players being traded, nobody expected the Panthers to win another game. Well turns out that they were super close to winning the NFC South and they showed more fire once Rhule was gone. It was super impressive because nobody expected that they would win as many games as they have. It is clear that Steve Wilks is a better NFL Head Coach than Matt Rhule is. One thing I got to say is that I hope Steve Wilks gets the full time job in Carolina as this team played for him this season. This could have been so much worse and no matter who you're a fan of you don’t want another terrible season. As a Jets fan I just want my team to win football games. For Carolina they are super lucky as this season could have been a lot worse, heck look at the Colts who fired their coach mid season.