There are a lot more problems with the Panthers than the head coach
Meet the new Carolina Panthers; like the old Carolina Panthers, though they keep throwing coins as they go down the road.
After sacking Matt Rhule on Monday, the Panthers put on a performance that looked almost identical to the Rhule era on Sunday in a deflating 24-10 road loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Compounding the problems and generating another small firestorm: wide receiver Robbie Anderson threw a tantrum on Sunday, upset at being taken out of the game, and the Panthers (1-5) quickly traded him on Monday.
The Panthers said Monday they traded Anderson to Arizona for an undisclosed draft fee. ESPN reported that Carolina received a 2024 sixth-round pick and a 2025 seventh-round pick for Anderson.
In other words, the Panthers didn’t get much – but it was better than having to release Anderson for nothing, which was probably the other option for an interim head coach trying to gain control. of his new team.
While wearing his helmet on Sunday, Anderson came face-to-face on the Carolina sideline with wide receivers coach Joe Dailey after being taken out of the game, and screams followed.
Anderson was sometimes on the field the rest of the game, even if you didn’t know it. He had zero targets and zero captures in 23 shots. He also sat on a cooler, away from the attack, for a few timeouts while the coaches talked to the other attacking players. Then Fox cameras showed him being kicked off the field and sent to the locker room early after another conversation with interim head coach Steve Wilks, following a second brief spat with Dailey.
When you try to establish that you have control of the locker room, like Wilks is, that’s the kind of thing that’s hard to digest, and so he’s not going to take it.
“No one is bigger than the team,” Wilks said of the Anderson incident afterwards.
At his own post-match press conference, Anderson said he was “confused and upset” at being sent off the field early by Wilks, but did not apologize for his actions. When the trade was first reported Monday by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Anderson responded on Twitter with a series of emojis that included praying hands and a rocket ship.
The Anderson fallout was unfortunately the most interesting thing to happen to the Panthers on Sunday. Their offense, as usual, was ridiculously weak – Carolina’s only touchdown came on a Donte Jackson pick-6 interception. Their game plan was much more conservative than usual – run, run, move on screen was the general theme – but that didn’t work after the first series either.
Carolina had five first downs in the first quarter and led 10-7 at halftime, then didn’t get another first down until the fourth. Once again, the Panthers defense wore out and the offense got nothing when it counted. The Rams beat Carolina 17-0 in the second half, as Carolina’s offense gained just 203 total yards, made just 44 offensive plays and went 2-for-10 on third downs.
Of those 203 total yards, Christian McCaffrey tallied 158 while rushing and catching passes. Everyone else had a bad 45.
In the end, quarterback PJ Walker had been eliminated from the game (neck injury, although he cleared concussion protocol) and the Panthers were reduced to playing the team’s former quarterback Coach Jacob Eason, who threw an interception in the end zone to stifle Carolina. last chance for an offensive touchdown.
In other words, apart from Anderson’s petulance, it was like before.
And it’s not surprising.
Rhule was the highly paid scapegoat who got fired on Monday just before a team meeting. But the Panthers’ problems go much deeper than a head coach and the two assistants who were fired with him – or Anderson for that matter, who played for Rhule at Temple and was widely considered one of the “guys of Rhole”.
The team is now 23-48 since Dave Tepper has owned the team, and it could all get worse before it gets better. The Panthers suffered several more significant injuries on Sunday, including Walker’s.
Walker was the fourth Carolina quarterback to be injured so far this season, joining Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral. Walker or Eason will have to start against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday in Charlotte, and that, my friends, is another mismatch.
Then again, the Panthers seem off-suit against everyone these days. After dropping by a few points per game early, they’ve lost by 22 and 14 points over the past two weeks. They can’t score, which is the surest way for fans to turn off the TV or sell their tickets to someone cheering on the opposing team.
Going back for a second to Anderson’s sideline altercation: It’s nothing like the one Panthers star linebacker Kevin Greene and linebackers coach Kevin Steele had in 1998.
In that one, as Steele was addressing the linebackers, Greene suddenly lost his temper, grabbed Steele’s jacket with both hands, and pushed him backward about 10 feet. It was one of the darkest moments of Hall of Famer Greene’s career, and he would repeatedly apologize for it (Greene was not kicked from the team and coach Dom Capers allowed him to continue to play in that game – certainly a mistake – although Capers then suspended Greene without pay for the next game).
Anderson never touched Dailey based on Fox reruns, but the two didn’t mince words. It had already been reported in the pre-game, notably by The Charlotte Observer, that the Panthers would like to trade Anderson if they could get a decent price. Anderson, who played for Rhule at Temple, has been an inconsistent player for the past two seasons since getting a massive contract extension after a strong year in 2020. He caught less than half of the passes thrown to him in 2021 and therefore far in 2022.
It was just another problem for a team full of problems, and Anderson’s departure, like Rhule’s, won’t solve much immediately.
But at least there’s one thing that every loss makes clearer, if you completely lose hope, Panthers fans: this desperate team just might have the first pick in the 2023 draft and be able to pick the quarterback of his choice. So at least there is that.
This story was originally published October 16, 2022 8:01 p.m.
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