Thanks for suggestions and edits provided.
To Whom It May Concern…If anyone on Mint St has a concern left…
I have followed the Panthers for a while, (95), and I've invested a pretty significant amount of time and money over the years supporting the team. Never in the past 20+ years have I been as downtrodden as a fan as I am now. Mr. Richardson once said “The energy has been sucked out of the franchise” I hope he realizes it’s happening again and this time it’s worse.
Everyone has hobbies. I have several, but the one I likely put the most effort into is following the Panthers and the NFL in general. So when events happen with the team I try to understand them, I try to gain knowledge past what the talking head on ESPN tell me. As such the year before the lock-out I mostly understood the business decisions behind the moves the Panthers made in John Fox’s last season with the team.
Going young, clearing out high dollar/low production contracts made sense to me. Obviously the savings the franchise made for itself during a time with no revenue (reportedly) made sense too. As such, watching what was essentially a wasted season did not sting as much as it could have from a fan perspective. I knew better times were coming.
In 2011 the Panthers found a spark when they drafted Cam Newton, a fitting reward to the fan base for what 2010 gave us. They hired Ron Rivera and his staff and for a season we were ok. The offense put up points but the defense struggled. In 2012 some things started to become apparent. The mass spending of 2011 had massive consequences and poorly thought-out (20/20 hindsight and all that). Thus long standing GM Marty Hurney was let go, an appropriate move in my opinion. At the end of 2011, from a fan perspective (at least one who pays attention), is where things have started down a dark spiral of hopelessness.
First, Ron Rivera was kept before a new GM was brought in. Much was made of his strong finish and the players backing him. Even commentary that keeping the staff intact would benefit Cam Newton (the latter I would agree with). The issue is, Rivera didn't keep his staff intact. The Offensive Coordinator left for the Browns head coaching job, Mike Shula was promoted from within, which on the outside appears to have been simply the “cheap” way out. As a fan I have to ask? What is more important to the Panthers franchise here? Keeping a “word”, saving operational money? Or winning football games?
Second, and this is more a long standing issue than anything, why do I see so many other teams (Seattle, Indy, Miami, etc) doing everything in their power build up their young quarterbacks when the Panthers seem to have done so little? Granted players have been drafted and some brought in this season, but what has that equated to? Little, sadly.
I could go on and on breaking down things that the Panthers front office already realizes (at least I pray they do) but I seriously doubt it’s going to do any good.
I’m past the point of letting myself get too high or too low based on the results of a football game. The part that truly breaks my heart is when I look at my son, who when he was born 20 months ago filled me with dreams of Dad and Kid trips to Mint Street to watch their Panthers take another squad to task. Dreams of Sundays with friends and family watching the team at least CONTEND for a Playoff spot. I even have picture right now on my desk of me and my lil buddy watching his first game a year ago. I had hoped it would be something we could do with the Panthers, but I have to ask myself “How can I convince him to care when signs point to the very people in charge of the team not having a similar emotional investment?”
How do the Panthers expect the next generation of fans to grow if they can’t even put together more than 4 winning (that’s above 500) seasons in 20+ years? Through my network of fans I have had the pleasure of seeing a baker’s dozen of would be new Panthers fans born this very offseason. Kids that could grow up wearing little Cam Newton jerseys, going to their first game with Dad, taking part in the Play60 days, going to training camp, whatever for the first time. A generation of fans in the wings! Yet the product on the field right now isn't worthy of their time…I’m not sure if it’s worth mine anymore.
So this is my plea. As a fan, as a father. Fix it
Help me show my son the excitement and joy following your favorite team as they climb the ranks of the NFL to the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. Show me that the Front Office cares more about winning than pinching pennies, show me that the masses of fans have some fraction of importance over “protecting the shield”, show me that it’s worth owning a PSL, show me it’s worth stepping foot into that stadium in Charlotte.
Fix it, show us all you actually have some care left about success outside of money and that the glory of a dominant winning franchise is still the #1 goal of the team I have cheered for the past 20 years.