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The Panthers are a bad team with a bright future. They showed us that at Pittsburgh and then again at Detroit. Just in case you missed those shows they brought it home and showed their fans just how much they love making Ron Rivera talk about missed opportunities. The loss to Seattle provided the Panthers with a veritable flood of opportunities to score or force overtime. They couldn’t have hit that water if they were standing in a riverboat.This is the part where I say that bright future is the reason to keep watching the Panthers. The offense is on the verge of being something special and the defense can’t help itself if it doesn’t have the personnel. You can’t expect the Panthers to win games Michael Palardy Jersey , but you can enjoy them all the same.The problem with that is I wrote it last week. Cam Newton had one of his most efficient days. Christian McCaffrey rewrote the record books with indelible ink. Curtis Samuel can catch. D.J. Moore is the Panthers number one wide out now. The Panthers have the players to play ball in a pass happy, score heavy league.That argument for optimism may have held water then, but the Panthers keep finding new ways to find old ways to lose. Yesterday featured a host of issues from defensive injuries to offensive play-calling that ultimately led to another game where the Panthers couldn’t get a first down when the need to and lost after playing it safe on fourth down didn’t work. It is frustrating, as a fan, to watch this team be exciting and then fail in their now habitual ways. The Panthers were a team that could have worked around their holes and made some noise in the playoffs. They were 6-2 and they hadn’t even figured out their offense yet. Now they are 6-5, staring at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their best —and maybe only— chance at winning again in 2018.That sucks. When a team sees four of their five losses come by a single possession then they should be hopeful they can turn that around. The Panthers have some cowardly tendencies in close games that have been the difference, but they have also stalled out on offense at weird times in most of those games. They should have had at least ten more points in the first quarter of the Seahawks game. Instead, the story is about a missed field goal in the fourth. Each week sees a litany of mistakes, flukes, and bad calls that all add up to a close game. Each of the Panthers’ losses could have been avoided if any one of those missed opportunities had been seized. None of this seems optimistic until you realize the changes they need to make to seize more opportunities have already been made.This franchise is likely to be saddled with Rivera as its head coach again next year. That isn’t the change I’m talking about. The change was the hiring of Norv Turner. He’s just taking his time proving himself.The players were as exciting yesterday as they were last week, but this game gave me the hope that the Panthers coaching staff can be part of their bright future as well. Turner called a great game if you don’t look at the short yardage situations in the first half. I’ll let those decisions go. He made a mistake and has shown the ability this season to learn.The Panthers have yet to put together a complete offensive performance in 2018, but they are getting closer almost every week. Look at the difference between year one and year two of Kyle Shanahan’s tenure in Atlanta. Tell me the thought of Norv making those kind of strides in Charlotte doesn’t get your hopes up. His continued improvement over the course of this season is why he is poised to be the Cinderella, or at least her fairy godmother https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Sam-Mills-Jersey , in the Panthers locker room next season. Next Thanksgiving could feature a radically different tasting pumpkin pie thanks to Turner’s magic.The defense might still be awful. There is no telling if Eric Reid will stay, let alone Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis. Mike Adams will be another year closer to his centennial. Rivera will still be testing his toe in the water on fourth downs to find out, much to his surprise, that it is wet. The 2019 defense will have depth and talent concerns and Rivera will actively pursue losses. None of that is new. That’s fine. All the Panthers have to do is maintain the status quo everywhere that isn’t the offense —well, maybe not at kicker— and they will still be the team that loses most of its games by one score.A more competent offense makes the difference there. The Panthers could beat good teams by one possession. They could actually build a safe lead against bad teams. The players have been announcing their abilities loudly and clearly this season. Now Turner is giving me hope that those players might have leadership that is capable of taking advantage of their talents. That is going to be fun to watch. The Carolina Panthers’ loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football did more than end their dream of going to the playoffs, it ended their quest to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. While there is technically a less-than-one-percent chance that the Panthers could fall ass backwards into the playoffs, Eric Reid has a better chance of not getting selected for another ‘random’ drug test than the Panthers do of making it in. Falling short of a winning record, on the other hand, is now an absolute certainty. The best record they can hope for on the season is 8-8. That is to say, as middling as it gets.We talk about this ignominious piece of franchise history frequently because it is a hallmark of the only true identity this franchise has ever had: inconsistency. The playoffs are gone and that is news. A once promising season deserves to be mourned. Blame has earned its right to be cast with abandon. But the last thing that Panthers fans can be right now is surprised. This is who their team has always been.Breaking from this tragic see-saw that has only seen the Panthers post winning records in even years twice in franchise history —1996 and 2008— has been on the minds of Panthers fans for years. Ron Rivera has been the best coach in franchise history. Cam Newton has rewritten the record books at quarterback. Neither of them has been able to push the Panthers off their totter towards sustained success.Depending on how the final two games play out, this season will be the Panthers’ third time going 6-10, their second time going 7-9, or their first time going 8-8 under Cam and Rivera. An 8-8 record would be good for their fourth-best season record in eight years. They have also gone 11-5 https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Christian-Mccaffrey-Jersey , 12-4, and 15-1 with a league MVP and two coach of the year awards along the way. These are highly talented people who have seen success at all but the highest heights of their professions. They have also been part, as either actors or witnesses, of the Panthers’ inconsistency.Marty Hurney has also been responsible for much of this legacy. He has overseen twelve years of Panthers’ drafts, free agency strategies, and coaching decisions. This includes four of Rivera’s seasons. Much of today’s talent was drafted by Hurney during his first tenure as Carolina’s General Manager. There is no such thing as a simple picture of competence or ineptitude for any members of this team’s leadership.David Tepper is new to all of this. He has preached the virtue of patience as learned in Pittsburgh. He also isn’t working with people who are new to the job. Maybe he is patient for one more year. Maybe he thinks Rivera has peaked. Maybe he thinks it isn’t a coincidence that the Panthers most successful run —2013-2015, featuring three playoff teams and a Super Bowl appearance— happened when Hurney was no longer in control of the team.Nobody really knows what Tepper is going to do with this team in 2019 or beyond. All we do know is that the Carolina Panthers have been, for 23 seasons, the very definition of inconsistency. Cam’s MVP season and present injury should shield him from any organizational changes. Rivera and Hurney have few such excuses. They have shown who they can be. Tepper’s task this offseason is to determine how those men fit into his vision for this franchise and whether or not they can fit together.Panthers’ fans are thirsty for back-to-back winning seasons. It is a moral victory of the most irrelevant kind. 2020 is now the earliest opportunity they can see that. If change is inevitable then 2019 is the year to do it. Get a better management team to build Rivera a more complete roster. Get a coach that values winning over tradition. If Newton has to sit a year to get his shoulder right then do it now before he damages it further. This is the year to do something to disrupt their hapless flirtations with success. Every year patiently waited is a year wasted on the end of Cam’s career.This team, as built, has been dancing back and forth for years. Just because they step forth next year doesn’t mean we won’t expect them to step back the year after. It is who they are. The nature of their inconsistency means that these Panthers are close to being a good team. The whole building doesn’t have to be burned to the ground to tilt their balance, you just have to add a little weight to one side and let the gravity of their talent do the rest.