Tom Sorensen

Charlotte has a new urban myth involving the Panthers

The idea that the Carolina Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton underachieved? Psssh.
The idea that the Carolina Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton underachieved? Psssh. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

We collect urban myths in Charlotte. One of them is that Kobe Bryant was a Charlotte Hornet. The deal to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers was cut before the NBA draft. One is that the city cared when the Hornets left for New Orleans. Nobody cared, although 12 to 15 fans took time to wave goodbye. One is that Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson is cheap. Check the contracts of the players whose contracts he’s extended.

The latest urban myth: The Panthers underachieved this season. What are you looking at? They got as much out of their talent as they should have. The idea that they’d be in the playoffs if they won their close games is ludicrous. Everybody would be in he playoffs if they won their close games. The Cleveland Browns might be.

Carolina is not a good team. And the culprit is neither injuries nor coaching. Despite the adults who (need to) believe that officials wake up on game day planning to cheat the Panthers, officials also are not to blame for Charlotte’s 6-10 record.

The Panthers rode the players they had, a talented and well-coached core of players, to the top of the NFC South and, last season, to the Super Bowl. The Panthers were talented, no question. But, like a knee, like a pair of jeans, like a tire, teams wear out. Core players wear out. The Panthers wore out.

They need help. And yes, their quarterback needs to improve. But I’m not sufficiently cynical to believe that Cam Newton can’t again become the player he was in 2015.

For those of you who call for the dismissal of general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera, I’ll shocked if they don’t return. They deserve to return. They should return. If fans held themselves to the same standards they hold coaches and general managers, our unemployment rate would hover at about 90 percent.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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