An open letter to myself: A Panthers ‘hater’
Hi my name is Dan, and I am a Panthers hater. I’ll be the first to admit it. I never gave Carolina a chance this season, writing them off for dead the second Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL. I was wrong. Wrong about the team, the coaching staff, and most importantly Cam Newton.
Let me preface this, I was never a fan of Cam, I didn’t think he deserved the Heisman Trophy in college (Andrew Luck was 1st in my eyes), and I didn’t believe he was worthy of the No.1 overall pick coming out of Auburn in the 2011 NFL Draft. I had bust written all over Newton. I always saw the talent, from his cannon arm to his powerful running style, but his mental makeup is what I thought would destroy his NFL career. I was wrong.
Cam’s nonchalant demeanor hasn’t been the downfall of his playing career, or shown lack of leadership, it has done the exact opposite. His ability to say, “it’s just another game” and play that way speaks volumes, not only to myself, but his Panthers teammates as a whole. His team plays loose, not afraid to make mistakes, but confident they are the better team and they execute that way on the football field.
I was always confident in the Panthers defense, believing their linebacker trio of Keuchly, Davis and Thompson are the best in the league hands down. The emergence of Josh Norman came as a surprise, but I am confident saying he is the new Darrelle Revis; QB’s don’t even look his way anymore and when they do, it’s usually never a good thing. Kawann Short is nearly unblockable and reminds me a lot of Warren Sapp with his play. While I believe the Broncos defense could be even better, the Panthers defense will have an easier time slowing down Peyton Manning than the Broncos with Cam.
Coaching has a lot to do with the success of Cam and the Panthers this season. I was not a believer in “Riverboat Ron” and thought OC Mike Shula was the worst assistant in the league. I witnessed Shula’s debacle as the HC of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and thought he would help ruin Newton’s career when he started as his QB coach and then promoted to OC in 2013. Well, Shula’s offensive system is perfect for his quarterback and he puts Cam in the position to make plays. Shula’s system perfectly molds Newton’s abilities as a runner and a passer, evolving every year he has been in the league. Hence the reason Shula was voted as Pro Football Focus’ Offensive Coordinator of the Year, an award he most definitely deserved.
Before the start of the 2014 season, I wrote an article on how the Panthers offensive line could be the worst in the NFL, and to be honest, they were not that good last season, but all that changed in 2015. Center Ryan Kalil is a proven commodity and the addition of LT Michael Oher helped shore-up Newton’s blind-side, but the other three lineman have played better than their name-pedigree makes you believe. LG Andrew Norwell, RG Trai Turner and RT Mike Remmers began to see action late in 2014, accruing 23 starts between the three of them. Those starts helped build the continuity needed for an offensive line to succeed, and that has shown on the football field in 2015. Newton has been given plenty of time, and running lanes have been paved all season long by this group. They will have their hands full against the Broncos, but they are definitely up for the challenge, more so than they were in 2014.
With Super Bowl 50 pitting the Broncos against these Panthers, I will be silently rooting for a perfect farewell to one of the game’s greats in Peyton Manning. But I firmly believe, the Panthers led by Cam Newton, are the better team and will end up victorious on Feb. 7th. I have “hated” on the Panthers long enough, it only took me 20 weeks of the 2015 NFL season to figure it out.
Dan Schalk is the Editor-in-Chief for My Fantasy Sports Talk, you can follow him on Twitter @FFSportsTalk
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