It's been fun hanging with you Huddlers all season. Even if I often disagreed with some of you we all rooted for a team that fought hard all year. Now, I'm sure a lot of people will refuse to see the positives points I will make but the reality is that this team still has a ceiling to grow into if the right actions are taken this offseason.
- We have built a framework on defense that can carry over into the future. Kuechly, Star, Short, Thomas Davis, and Charles Johnson are all going to return with invaluable experience for young players like Addison, Melvin White, Robert Lester and A.J. Klein. The big question will be about Hardy, Mike Mitchell, and Captain returning, of which I feel the odds are decent for Hardy and very good for Mitchell and Munnerlyn. With some improved talent at corner and the growth of our young players we can continue to ascend defensively.
- Cam refined a lot of raw aspects to his game, ironically with the worst supporting cast he's had in his time here. He made a lot of big plays in big moments, and despite the outcome of this game he wasn't the reason we lost. He now is intimately aware of what it takes to win in this league and will go into his offseason ready to assume the mantle of leading the franchise. The torch has passed from Steve to Cam.
- This team has an identity it can build around. In years past they have been working towards molding them into a particular type of team without knowing if it would ever resemble the plan. Now it's established, and only requires tweaking and preparation rather than a full overhaul.
- I cannot stress this enough: it's a miracle how far this team has come with such a limited offense. I know everyone and their mother criticizes Shula, but we simply lack players that can consistently win one-on-one matchups without a healthy Steve Smith. Olsen is a great player but he's stretched as a downfield threat, LaFell is who he is, and Ginn relies on the threat of his speed to get open, not route running. Tolbert is a jack-of-all-trades but he's still a fullback, DeAngelo can't get through the vanishing running lanes, and Stewart was MIA. Everything depended on Cam having to make plays without trying to make too many. It is an excruciatingly difficult job and he did a fine job for such a young player. Why is this all a positive? Because there is tremendous room for improvement for the offense, and a few good draft picks and free agent signings could make a huge difference productively. Give Cam a go-to wide receiver, get back a bruising left guard in Silatolu, see what we have in Kugbila, get Stewart either healthy or Barner up to speed, and this offense can improve drastically.
- Our division will get tougher next year as Atlanta will be back and Tampa Bay will get a good coach in Lovie Smith. New Orleans is capstrung and will have to figure out how to bring back Jimmy Graham, but they're always a threat.
- We'll have to hope for good fortune in the draft with such low picks.
- This offseason will hurt because of the heart and effort our team showed all season. You want such effort to be rewarded and are disappointed when it is not.
- There's no guarantees in the NFL that we can make it back soon. This league is difficult to win in. It's an unfortunate truth and painful to think about.
Please stop with the Rivera/Shula/Cam/whoever-bashing. This team has clawed it's way back from hell to even be in this position. By any reasonable expectation it's amazing we were in the position to host a playoff game in the first place. That should be commended rather than calling for heads because people couldn't make miracles out of the dearth of pieces available to them. We're not the Broncos with receivers galore, or the Seahawks with corners tumbling out of their back pockets, or the 49ers and their overall roster talent. We got a long ways with heart and smart play and maximizing of the talent available, but we're weren't a juggernaut. But we have the makings of one, with smart drafting, a commitment to the young players we have, and refinement. Don't get down, this team reminds me very much of the young Cowboys squads that just needed seasoning before dominating.
Overall, from 1-3 to NFC South champions when no one could have expected it, for the growth and moxie of the team and the emergence of Riverboat Ron, for all the big wins and comebacks and fight, and for the overall bright future, this season should be considered a success. I'll see you all at the draft.