The Carolina Panthers are not a good football team. Months removed from a 15-1 season and Superbowl appearance, they are a shell of what they were. Last year the Panthers were a team full of excitement, exuberance, and passion. This year seems to be lacking in all three. Instead the Panthers look unprepared, uninspired. and uninterested.
So who is to blame for this strange turn of events? Are the players responsible for not adequately performing? Or are the coaches responsible for the lack of discipline and poor play?
Answer: Sadly, it is both.
The sloppy play by the players is easy enough to identify. We have seen it week in and week out ever since the preseason. From senseless penalties to blown coverages and missed field goals, the Carolina Panthers look more like the Cleveland Browns.
As an example, I submit to you the following play on a crucial 3rd and 1.
From the i-formation, lead blocker Mike Tolbert appears to do what can only be described as a pirouette. Fantastic if this was Dancing with the Stars (which by the way I would love to see Tolbert be a contestant on). But in terms of football and his responsibility, this is a zero. Less than a zero if you consider the lost yardage on the play.
So, this is Tolbert’s fault, right? Well, yes and no. The issue gets cloudy when expectations come into play. Carolina Panthers fans have been talking about Tolbert’s poor blocking all season long. It is common knowledge. One can only assume that the Panthers’ coaching staff realizes this as well.
So the question then becomes “why does Mike Shula expect Tolbert to make this block when he has demonstrated otherwise time and time again?” Isn’t that setting the offense up for failure even before the ball is snapped? Is that fair to Tolbert or the team?
At some point the Carolina Panthers coaching staff has to point their finger back at themselves. Are they calling the plays that best suit the current strengths of their players? Or are they sticking to the same old tired plays and simply hoping for the best. I think the answer here is clear. The Panthers coaching staff is unable to adjust and bring out the best of what their players can offer. Some might call that the very definition of good coaching.
In short, don’t point a finger at either the players or the coaching staff. Instead, raise both hands and point at both. They are equally responsible for this sad state of affairs.