Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Decisions, Decisions

Brett Jensen
December 29, 2019 - 7:23 pm

It was a humiliating end to a humiliating season for the Carolina Panthers, as they completed 2019 with a 42-10 loss in front of a mostly bare Bank of America Stadium, to finish with eight straight losses and end the year 5-11.

And now, all the decisions that will be made in the upcoming weeks and months will determine the success of the Panthers for at least the first half of the 2020s.

Who is going to be the new head coach? Who is going to be the new director of football operations? Who is going to be the team’s starting quarterback next season? Who is going to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft?

It all starts Monday, with what is expected to be the removal of Perry Fewell as interim head coach. The interviewing process for his replacement has begun and will be in full swing starting this week as coaches from other teams become eligible to be interviewed.  

Whom Panthers owner David Tepper selects has his next head coach will have an immediate and lasting impact on the direction of the team going forward. 

Tepper has stated time and time again that mediocrity, which this franchise has toiled in for a quarter-century, is unacceptable.

However, if the wrong person is chosen to lead the way as the next coach, repeats of 2019 could be a regular sight just like when George Seifert, who went 16-32 in three years following the firing of Dom Capers. 

This is Tepper’s first big hire on the football side of things in his short tenure as owner. 

Tepper has already moved general manager Marty Hurney away from team decisions to the college scouting side of things. A new position called the Vice President of Football Operations will handle the team decisions going forward. 

But the other major decision Tepper and the front office have to make is who will be lined up behind the center in 2020.

Is it Cam Newton, who has had his throwing shoulder repaired twice and coming off a foot injury that cost him 14 games this season?

It’s also the last year of Newton’s contract. If the Panthers cut Newton, who has never been regarded as an accurate passer, they will save $19 million dollars against the salary cap.

Is it third-round draft pick Will Grier, who never impressed or showed any of the flashes that helped him put up big numbers while in college at West Virginia.

Instead, during the preseason and regular season, Grier looked confused and extremely erratic in his passing. In the team’s last game, Grier got the start and went 1-for-8 for 4 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown. 

Is it Kyle Allen, who started the majority of the season and essentially just finished his rookie season. He started one game in 2018 and then started 12 games this season. He showed flashes of being a reliable and accurate passing quarterback, but that was coupled with poor decision making, which led to him throw 16 interceptions.

Is it going to be a quarterback taken in the first round of this year’s draft? The Panthers pick seventh overall and there are strong odds either Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon signal caller Justin Herbert will be available when it’s Carolina’s turn to pick.

There are also a few key players that must decide what they’re going to do in 2020, with none bigger than star tight end Greg Olsen.

Olsen, who is slated to make $8.1 million next season, which is the last year of his contract, said immediately after the blowout loss to New Orleans that he’s not interested in being part of a rebuilding mode and believes he’s played his last game as a Panther.

He also added he hasn’t decided if he will ask to be traded or retire, instead. There’s also the chance Carolina could release him, which would allow him to sign with any team. 

Tepper has owned the team for 18 months. He bought the team from Jerry Richardson, who was forced to sell the team in disgrace due to misconduct allegations and cash settlement of lawsuits.

In his brief stint as owner, Tepper has changed the business philosophy of the organization. He wants the stadium to be used more than just 13 times a year (10 Panther games, two college football games and a soccer match).  He has also brought more minorities into the fold in the operations of the team.

While all that is well and good, all fans really care about is the performance of the team on the field. 

And the decisions Tepper makes over the next few months will say a lot about him and what PSL owners and the like can expect going forward from a team that has an overall losing record, but also two trips to the Super Bowl in 25 seasons. 

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