The Carolina Panthers have been underwhelming since their surprising 3-0 start to the 2021 NFL season. The team peaked way too early, and now the front office is left scrambling. Carolina recently fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady during its bye week. Even though Cam Newton just arrived back in town, he’s not absolving himself of any blame.
Cam Newton feels partially responsible for Joe Brady’s firing
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule tapped Joe Brady to join his coaching staff before the 2020 season. Before arriving in Carolina, Brady served as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at LSU.
The former college coach’s time in the NFL was short-lived, as the Panthers parted ways with him in just his second season.
The front office signed Cam Newton in Week 10 to replace the injured Sam Darnold. Even with the new arrival, Carolina has still struggled offensively. Newton recently admitted that he deserves some blame for the offense’s struggles.
“Do I think I had something to do with it?” Newton said per ESPN. “The competitor in me, absolutely, yes. Because the truth of the matter is you don’t lose your job because of success.”
Obviously, the offensive coordinator is drawing up schemes and calling plays. However, the veteran quarterback knows he plays a vital role in running the show as well.
“Where I’m at now is doing what I can control to make sure that I have a job, too. Let’s just be honest.”
Newton played well in limited action against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10. He wasn’t bad against Washington, either. However, he stunk it up in the loss to Miami in Week 12.
Newton completed 5 of 21 pass attempts for 92 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. He finished with an abysmal 5.8 quarterback rating before Matt Rhule sent him to the bench.
The Panthers’ offense was declining before Newton arrived
Cam Newton must be better than what he was against the Dolphins. However, the offense wasn’t exactly humming before he arrived in Carolina.
The Panthers got off to a hot start, winning the first three games of the season. The defense was playing lights out, and the offense effectively moved the football at times. Sam Darnold was playing surprisingly well, and appeared to turn a corner after a rough three seasons with the New York Jets.
The smooth operation came to an abrupt halt, though. Carolina went on a four-game losing streak, killing all momentum the team built early in the season.
The Panthers averaged just over 19 points and 281 yards of total offense during that stretch.
Before Darnold went down, the offense went three straight games without scoring a touchdown. In reality, the offense was never really that good. The defense was elite and masked the inefficiencies of the offense.
Brady’s background coaching an explosive LSU offense that featured Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson helped him land this gig. However, his inability to adapt and make adjustments caused him to lose the job.
In the wake of Joe Brady’s firing, Matt Rhule promoted senior offensive assistant/running backs coach Jeff Nixon to offensive coordinator.
Carolina must make changes in the offseason
Even with Brady gone and Nixon stepping in, getting back on the winning track won’t be an easy feat for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers have a brutal five-game stretch to close out the 2021 season, including two matchups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They come out of their bye week at 5-7, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Panthers lost the rest of their games. They don’t have Superman Cam Newton under center.
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow’s unit ranks in the top 10 but has fallen off as the season progresses. The defense has suffered some injuries, most notably to rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn. However, the offense’s ineptitude has put more pressure on the defense to keep the Panthers competitive.
Though the Panthers are technically still in playoff contention, the likelihood of them making the postseason seems slim. It’s back to the drawing board in the offseason.
Carolina has plenty of talented pieces on its roster, both sides of the ball included. From D.J. Moore to Christian McCaffrey to Brian Burns, the Panthers have a solid core to build around. Still, the inconsistency from the quarterback position is holding this team back.
Owner David Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer must make a concerted effort to sure up the position in the offseason. If they don’t, the Panthers could waste their budding potential.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference