Nothing the Panthers have done this year has inspired confidence.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’s seen nothing to shake his belief that quarterback Cam Newton is the future of the franchise.
Via David Newton of ESPN.com, Rivera said it would be “difficult” and “very unfair” to judge Newton on this trainwreck of a 3-8-1 season.
In fairness to Newton, he wasn’t the one to decide to let a franchise left tackle retire without replacing him, or cost the team cap space by firing his one proven franchise wide receiver without replacing him. So Rivera probably has a point.
It didn’t help that Newton was slow to recover from offseason ankle surgery, which limited his mobility, and then suffered broken ribs in the preseason.
Coupled with a regularly shuffled offensive line and injuries that took away most of their run game, and it’s been a struggle for Newton.
“You go back and look at some of the teams that have struggled in the past that had great years [before],” Rivera said. “One that pops to mind right away was what happened at Atlanta last year.
“A couple of years ago they go to the NFC Championship Game and the next thing you know they’re struggling because they had a lot of things happen.”
Of course, there was more bad luck and less deliberate rebuilding involved in that collapse.
The Panthers have already picked up the 2015 option on Newton’s rookie deal, and the team has said throughout that doing a long-term deal was the priority. Given the collection of refuse around him on offense, it’s hard to gauge how that value might or might not have changed.