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Carolina Panthers

Ask The Old Guy: "A sense of urgency" after three weeks

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CHARLOTTE — There are things this Mailbag can do, and there are things this Mailbag cannot do.

We can attempt to inform, educate, and entertain, as best we can. As the legendary Mick Mixon liked to say, the goal is to "eliminate more ignorance than we create."

What we can't do is make everything OK for you. Or for them.

The Panthers are 0-3. Not great, Bob. But also not final.

It's been a rough three weeks, but, . . . checks notes, . . .there are also 14 more of them this year. Plus a bye. And things beyond this year that matter an awful lot around here.

If you're the kind of person who is convinced the world is going to hell because of the results of three ball games, be my guest. Chances are, nothing I'd say would change your mind anyway. But there's a difference between a result and a trend, and not enough people are appreciating the difference right now.

The Panthers threw a brand new coaching staff, a brand new cast of quarterbacks, and a brand new lot of skill position players together this offseason. If it's not operating as if all these guys knew each other well and have for years, it's probably only because it shouldn't. Trust me, this is not what Frank Reich wants this thing to look like. But he's also been through this enough times to know that some of this is the natural process of learning. We've already talked a lot about how he took a 1-5 team to the playoffs in his first year in Indy. Brian Burns appreciated the sentiment and agreed with taking the long view. But he also said, "yeah, I don't plan to let it get to that."

But it might. Even though they walked in this week talking about urgency, there's no guarantee that fixes it. The Vikings have problems of their own; that's why they're also 0-3. They've also got Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson. Against a beat-up secondary, that could be a problem for the Panthers.

At any rate, there's mail. Some of it hysterical. Some of it less so. Some of it justified, some of it just cranky at the world and determined to yell. That doesn't mean I'm compelled to participate in the hysteria. Or the yelling.


Hey Darin! I am very excited for my comp gov test this week as I just had a very successful week in my math studies at Providence Day. All the problems and formulas made sense on my Unit 2 Test!

In the sports world, Frank Reich said that the Panthers used the wrong formula on Sunday: "You don't come into Seattle and throw 58 times and win the game. That's not the formula." If he said that the Panthers cannot win the game with this formula, why did we use it? — Zach, Charlotte

Trust me, I get all the questions about Reich's hand in this. When you're the play-caller, and the play-calling is out of whack, then you're a little bit like the guy in the hot dog suit saying, "we're all trying to find the guy who did this." That's why we asked him Monday about how he tries to go about checking himself during a game when he's calling the plays, and his answer was interesting. (down arrow emoji.)

There's a trick to being a play-caller. It's hard to be philosophical and pragmatic at the same time.

Frank understands better than anyone that THEY need to call more runs which means HE needs to call more runs. But you can't call thematic runs in the fourth quarter just so you have an amount to point to. As he mentioned Monday, there were 40 plays in the second half in which the Panthers were down two scores. Those aren't running downs.

The challenge is establishing some kind of rhythm earlier. But again, all this new stuff complicates that. The physical running style of last year was built on a good and healthy offensive line, and a coach that was trying to clutch and grab and steal any win in any way he could. This year, the line's not as healthy, and the personnel is different, and they're trying to build around a new quarterback. So the transitive property doesn't work the same, and since you're killing it in math, you know that already.

Still, it's time to GET BACK TO CLASS, ZACH. Frank's been in study hall for the last couple of days working on this one himself.


Hello from Canada, Darin! (I had to pick a state on the submission form, so I put Vermont; it didn't seem like there was an option for non-Americans). I really enjoy reading you, yet this is my first time actually writing to the Mailbag. After reading a lot of the comments some fans had on social media, I felt like I just had to vent somewhere, so here I am.

It is beyond me how so many people are ready to call Bryce Young a bust and burn everything to the ground after literally TWO GAMES. I swear this fanbase is so negative I'm ashamed to be a part of it sometimes. This kid is our future, and we're supposed to have his back and cheer for him, yet people aren't even willing to give him a chance. OK, rant over. Anyway, here's my question: If reading some comments like this on social media makes me so mad, how do you deal with reading submissions weekly that are probably just as bad, if not worse? You must have some type of superpower, right? — Anthony, Montreal, Canada

There's a lot to unpack in this one. Beginning with, you had the opportunity to pick any state, and you picked Vermont? What's that about? Some kind of weird maple leaf flag/maple syrup synergy? Do you just really dig on covered bridges? I've got a lot of questions about you and your subversive Canadian rabble-rousing, Anthony.

The only honest answer is, "hell, I don't know." Had an old sociology professor who liked to say, "people are funny; we don't know why." So, spending all day trying to figure them out might be an unwise expenditure of time.

I don't understand the trend toward declaring doom every day. It's easy to blame on social media, but old Twitter wasn't nearly as bad as this version. Today, every play-call is a referendum, much less an entire series, much less a game, much less a season. And it's not just that every play is a signal of something; it's that every play's a signal of something bad. It's like if you're not burning something down, you're not doing it right. Your other option would be, and this is my plan lately, spend less time on social media. If something enriches your life, give everything you have to it. If it makes you angry or anxious, you can choose to not participate. You have agency. Use it.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you everything's cool here. It's clearly not. Reich walked in talking about a "sense of urgency" the other day, and when coaches say that, you know it's on the front of their mind, not the back.

But to Anthony's larger point, Young's progress this season is the single biggest thing to monitor, bigger than the results of any two or three games or 17. None of us know whether it's going to work out, nor do any of us know enough to confidently declare that it's absolutely not going to work out, either.

So we wait. Maybe that's my superpower, being willing to watch a thing for more than a few seconds before making up my mind. Patience, I suppose. It's either that or my devilish good looks. Or sarcasm, maybe. Who can really know?

Anyway, because I'm a sucker for Canadians in general (especially Joey Votto), but Anthony's perspective in particular, I'm making him this week's Friend Of The Mailbag, and sending the appropriate honorarium to him soon. He can pick it up in Vermont.

Josh McCown, Bryce Young


OK Darin, we're now winless in our first four games. So far, I have resisted the urge to panic. I mean, we knew we were going to lose some ball games, and I felt like we'd lose more than four - so we've still got room to lose a few more and still be what we expected to be for this season. But it sure would be nice to notch a "W" before too much longer. I know we have some injuries, so we need to play through those in order to be back at full strength. My question is - who's it gonna be, win #1? Could it be the Lions? Or maybe get on a roll with consecutive wins versus the Texans, Colts, and Bears? Like I said - no panic here. But we need to pull one off soon, don't you think? Surely, we're not headed for a disaster, like a 3- or 4-win season. I think the number should be at least 6, but I'm having trouble seeing who those might be. Your thoughts? — Jeff, Concord, NC

Four? You know something I don't, Jeff?

I mean, it might turn into four; who knows? If it does, all that stuff above still applies.

This is why I stay out of the business of predicting individual ball games. It's easy to look at that post-bye stretch of Texans, Colts, and Bears and think it's pretty hospitable. But guess what the Texans, Colts, and Bears are saying about the Panthers when they look at theirs?

I mean, that looks friendlier than Vikings, Lions, and Dolphins, but then again, I didn't see the Dolphins scoring 70 last week any more than I saw the Cardinals beating the Cowboys. Anything can happen in any game, in either direction.

That's why the only prudent answer is to do what me, Frank Reich, and every coach and dad in the world will tell you to do: Worry about the thing right in front of you. Do it as well as you can. Control the part you can control. If your process is good, your product will take care of itself.

I mean, unless you're Jeff, and can see the future. I'm still wondering how he ended up finding the crystal ball in Ben McAdoo's other pants, but I guess that makes me the first questioner in the new Ask The Good Jeff mailbag. Can't wait to see what the merch looks like.


Is it time to punt away the season and admit it's a lost year? Nothing seems to be going right. The run game can't get going, Ikem Ekwonu looks more like a rookie this year than he did last year, and our heavily invested in QB of the future already got hurt; even if it is just for one to two games it still leads to questions if it was the right call when looking at CJ Stroud (three games is a small sample size, but still), every time you turn around more starters continue to get hurt, the team can't seem to stop a run. Worst of all, with how the season is looking now, I know there are 14 games still left; it's looking like a top 5 pick would be a lock, but since they gave up that first-round pick to get Young, that's gone too. I know I've said before how it's a whole new coaching staff, but it's also been "a work in progress" for too many years now. I see enough of that going down the Jersey Turnpike for years. So again, I ask, is it worth feeling optimistic about this year at all despite it only being three games in given how everything is going wrong, or is it already time to once again turn the mindset towards a future season? (Sorry to be a downer here, it's just depressing.) — Eric, Brick Township, NJ

One of the benefits of being old is I've pretty much always seen worse. The 2010 season came up the other day since that was the last time the Panthers started 0-3.

I was there. It was a full-on mutiny, in addition to being a lot of bad football. It was the football equivalent of my personal life in the '90s. Mistakes were made. There was property damage. Occasional fire. Perhaps a few scars. But every scar has a story behind it, too. In addition to the scars, I also have my notes from Brian St. Pierre's first Panthers' start, which included an 88-yard touchdown pass to David Gettis which traveled about 35 yards in the air, and as it turns out, that was pretty much all St. Pierre had left in that arm since he never played another NFL game.

_UPDATE 5:51 p.m. ET Editor's note: I owe Brian St. Pierre an apology. [I went back and looked at video_, after initially relying on the foggy bank of memory. That ball traveled at least 43 yards in the air.]

That was a story about Brian St. Pierre and David Gettis and how this ain't anything like 2010. There's a future here since you at least have a quarterback you know is going to be here a week from now, a month from now, and years from now. And a coach who just got here, as opposed to one on his way out the door.

That, in and of itself, ought to be enough to keep you watching, if you're so inclined.

Also, quit being a mope, Eric. Nobody likes a mope. Oh, wait, you're in New Jersey. That explains it. Never mind.

David Gettis


Great work, Darin, for keeping us "crazies" informed and entertained. I think with all the emotions everywhere with a zero-win season, we're basically the same team as last year. We are guilty of expecting too much too soon from this coaching staff! They're good, but everyone needs time to come together.

We need a spark, and that brings me to my question. When do we get to see that dynamo of a player, Tarik Cohen? Please tell me soon! Really! I think we all need the kind of excitement he can give. — Don, Trinity, NC

Nah, this team isn't like last year. This year's coaching staff has 200 years of NFL coaching experience and another 75 years as players in the league. That's the first big difference. And the aforementioned potential answer at quarterback, provided you give him time and help (which might take time).

As for Cohen, maybe soon. He's looked good in practice, and it was going to take time for him to knock the rust off. When he was healthy, he was the kind of shot-of-adrenaline back that could change a game in a moment. They could clearly use that. Not sure it's this week, but it should be soon.

Tarik Cohen


Hi Darin. First time submitting a question. I'll keep it simple. How many games do we have to lose before we should feel panic? Gotta admit I'm feeling pretty close. — LeeAnne, Lincolnton, NC

I mean, have at it; panic now if you want. Free country. I'd probably wait more than three, but I'm a conservative investor that way.

The thing about panicking too soon is it leads to overcorrections. And when you overcorrect, you can end up in the ditch in worse shape than if you had stayed on your side of the road (I'm telling y'all, we were all lucky to survive the '90s).

Resist the temptation, LeeAnne. You are a wise woman. And we depend on women to keep the rest of us in line, so we can't have you going off the deep end in September. We're all counting on you and following your lead. Choose wisely.


I am more confused now than earlier in the season. I spent a lot of time at the Atlanta game watching this offense and having questions. Today I still have them. We have short-yardage situation issues, and we kept four tight ends to have an H-back/fullback when needed. Through three games he has played zero snaps. We have seldom-used two-TE sets which would greatly help our rookie QB. We could use these roster spots in other areas of need, why not cut back to two TEs? I do, however, believe if utilized, they could be an asset.

My hat is off to Andy Dalton, very nice showing in Seattle. Hopefully a few more WRs will step up now. The run game has certainly been diminished since last season, I believe it is a combination of things, not just the OL who are given most of the blame. Play calling and personnel groups are also part of this issue, maybe a larger part. — Stephen, Columbia, SC

Well, which is it, Stephen? Should they use tight ends or not?

This is what I'm saying about overcorrecting. I still think they're in the process of finding themselves as an offense, so having as many options as possible seems smart until they reach that moment of clarity.


Let's go with a Twitter question from Sunday because I feel like it:

Usually, yes.

The official explanation was that it was a judgment call. It sure looked to me (and Reich and Sam Franklin Jr., which is why they were upset), that the Seahawks returner DeeJay Dallas was trying to pull a fast one there. But in the judgment of the officials, I guess not.

Then again, this isn't the Ask Ron Torbert Mailbag, which is just as well because very few people look good in vertical stripes.


I'm really enjoying "Cardiac," the podcast reminiscing on the 2003 Panther Super Bowl run. It brought back lots of memories of that special season. It also made me reflect on other fun, unique moments throughout the Panthers history in Bank of America stadium. One that jumped out at me was Sir Purr getting penalized in the first Pittsburgh game. Do you remember why that happened? — Omer, Wilkesboro, NC

Amen, Omer. Cardiac is definitely good stuff.

As for Sir Purr against the Steelers, he got a little excited and jumped on a live ball in the end zone after a punt.

Chalk it up to youthful enthusiasm since it was his first year here in his new home.

I guess you could say he was feline it.


Let's go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.

How many weeks of the same stuff do we have to see before you're the one who's dumber than a bag of hammers? Or can that title only apply to others and never to you? — Jarod, Indianapolis, IN

Not me. I was feeling pretty good about myself after reaching Genius (again) on the New York Times Spelling Bee. Then I read your email, and now I can't find my keys.

If Andy Dalton plays well enough, will there any chance he could become the starting QB with Bryce Young as a backup? I just would like the better quarterback to lead you to a winning season. — Frank, Dunn, NC


Andy Dalton

Don't you think we are amazingly lucky to have our shiny new QB sit back for a game or two and learn at the feet of the Ancient Ginger One? — Spencer, Greensboro, NC


Fun fact. Dalton has now thrown 246 career touchdown passes. Only 26 quarterbacks in the history of the game have thrown more, and he's only one behind Boomer Esiason for a share of the 26th spot on the list. More importantly, he gets it. He's an adult and understands that Young's development is the most important thing this year. Also, he has amazing hair.

How many seats are in the stadium? — Kamdyn, Mooresville, NC

There are 74,867 seats at Bank of America Stadium, or roughly one for every rehash of the same crazy idea I've read this week.

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Marty Hurney. — Allan, Raleigh, NC

Welp, there you go. There's a new one for this week. That's probably a sign that it's time to sign off. You've been a lovely audience.

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