Setting expectations for the 2019 Carolina Panthers is no easy feat. The team is coming off of a lackluster 2018 in which they missed the playoffs with a 1-7 record in the second half of the season. Some years, the Panthers are Super Bowl contenders. Others, they’re not even playoff hopefuls. How will success be measured in 2019, then?
Carolina Panthers Expectations for the 2019 Season
Setting expectations for the Carolina Panthers starts with the leaders. Ever since Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera joined forces in 2011, the Panthers have been a model of inconsistency. They may not shoulder all responsibility for their rocky ride, but they have been the two constants in the experiment. They have never posted back-to-back winning seasons together, yet they’ve made a Super Bowl appearance. This causes serious issues when evaluating potential expectations.
Last season, the inconsistencies were at an all-time high. The team started 6-2 and then completely disengaged with a horrendous 1-7 finish. That is absolutely unacceptable. Mark up excuses for injury and inexperience and the result is still a failure of a season.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Panthers organization must level out for this era to be considered a success. Three division titles and an NFC Championship led by an MVP are great accomplishments, but when that level of success comes with playoff absences in-between, real questions of success will be raised.
This year will answer a lot of those questions.
Instead of setting goals in terms of wins and losses, this team should set them on being consistent. It should never be too much to ask for a team to play their best for more than half of a season. There will be some off games and low moments, but when they range from a 21-point fourth quarter comeback on the road against the defending champions to a 31-point blowout loss, there are serious issues.
Making the Playoffs
Setting sights on the Super Bowl immediately after losing seven of eight to end the year is setting up for failure. Of course, the Super Bowl is always the ultimate goal, and perhaps the Panthers have the right pieces to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy. But don’t measure the season based on making it to the final game.
This is a team that has no excuse not to make the playoffs, though.
The Panthers have not missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since Newton’s rookie and sophomore seasons. To miss back-to-back in his prime is nothing more than a failure. The additions made in the offseason through free agency and the draft paired with the development of young talents such as D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey leave plenty of room for optimism. The talent is there. The right skill sets are there. The hard part will be putting it all together and making it work.
Newton’s health will play a big role in the Panthers’ push for the playoffs. It seems possible that he could miss some time at the start of the season, opening the door for rookie Will Grier to take the helm right out of the gate. However, a healthy Newton is the undoubted starter going forward. If his revamped offensive line is able to protect him and keep him healthy, the Panthers have more than enough pieces around him to duplicate the offensive success of the 2015 campaign.
Newton has yet to throw a pass in OTA’s, coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery, but Rivera insists it’s no big deal. Newton notably missed OTA’s twice before in his career. Both years, the Panthers brought home the NFC South crown. Coincidence? Most likely.
No Cam Newton at OTAs today. They aren’t mandatory. Heinicke, Allen and Grier running the QB show today. pic.twitter.com/72PFSPTHfS
— WFNZ-AM/FM (@wfnz) May 28, 2019
Last Word on the Carolina Panthers
This is a make-or-break season in Charlotte. With questions surrounding the jobs of both Newton and Rivera, success is virtually the only option. A team with as much talent as the Panthers has no business sitting at home in January.
The Super Bowl is, of course, the ultimate measure of success, but that cannot be the only goal. For this team, performing at a high level consistently and reaching the playoffs is the place to start. During the Newton/Rivera era, the ceiling has been the Super Bowl, but the floor has been lower than mediocrity.
This season will reveal a lot about the Carolina Panthers.
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