All offseason, Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his cast of older, wiser players talked about the importance of forgetting last year.
As they reported to training camp, tight end Greg Olsen even warned of the danger of not focusing week-to-week, and said: “This is too hard to come out and just half-ass and find ourselves 1-4 asking, ‘What’s going on?’
As it turns out, Olsen was a prophet, and the Panthers are 1-4, and a lot of people are wondering “What’s going on?”
The Panthers went from 15-1 to 1-4 in a hurry, losing to the Buccaneers last night in embarrassing fashion — turning the ball over four times, letting an unheralded third-string runner (Jacquizz Rodgers) go for 101 rushing yards and a kicker who doesn’t make kicks (Roberto Aguayo) to hit the game-winner as time expired.
“We told you guys what happened the year before has nothing to do with this year,” Olsen said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve been saying that since the day after the Super Bowl. That’s the reality of it. It’s unfortunate we had to learn it by being 1-4, but that’s the way this league goes.
“You’re not promised anything in this league. No one’s going to roll over because of what you’ve done in the past. You’ve got to earn everything. And right now we’re not earning anything.”
The Panthers were trying to right themselves without MVP Cam Newton, who was out with a concussion. Backup Derek Anderson threw two picks and fumbled, ruining the fact he found Olsen nine times for 181 yards. But trying to force one to him on a first-and-goal in the fourth quarter resulted in an interception, and their defense couldn’t stop the Bucs from driving.
Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson said it was “very shocking” to be 1-4 heading into New Orleans, but said the onus was on them.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. A lot of people are going to have to have a gut check,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to put some wins together.”
Of course, there’s also a case of regression to the mean at work, as the 15-1 record last year only got them to 166-169-1 as a franchise, so swinging from a good year to seven wins is something Panthers fans are fairly accustomed to after 21 years in business.