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Ask The Old Guy: We will mock you


CHARLOTTE — OK, so the Rams won the Super Bowl, which you kind of figured they would since they have all the good players, including the best one in all of football (Aaron Donald).

But you know what serves them right? Since they don't have any draft picks, they don't get to be involved in the offseason, which is often as interesting (and certainly as thoroughly discussed) as anything that actually happens on the field.

So for the rest of the league that's not still nursing a hangover from a parade, this is a time of waiting, and planning for what's going to be a hectic next month.

We're still a little over a week away from the Scouting Combine, which will kick both the draft speculation and the free agency talk into high gear. Teams can't technically talk contracts until March 14, when the two-day window for negotiating begins before the March 16 start of the league year. But somehow, agents always leave Indianapolis with a vague sense of what the market might look like for their clients. Weird.

Anyway, we've got some time to kill before all that cranks up in earnest, so let's dive into the bag to see what's on your mind.


Whoa, now! You and Howard aren't the only ones. I remember turning on the washing machine-sized TV, hopping on the couch as I waited for the tubes to warm up, then back over to the TV to adjust the rabbit ears before Art Linkletter's microphone and raised eyebrows came into focus. Never wrote in before, but I read anything with "old" in the title religiously.

My question is what in the world is Daniel Jeremiah thinking? Isn't he supposed to be the guru of mock drafts? Panthers pick a CB at 6? I think the entire Panther fanbase would KEEP POUNDING Matt Rhule and Scott Fitterer if that were to happen. — Dan, Greenville, SC

Ah yes, mock draft season, when we have to fill months and months of empty space on the internet before the Combine even starts, which may yield results which are not viewed positively in the future. But viewed as talk-show fodder rather than prophecy, they can be a fun way to spend the cold winter months. So everybody in the world does them.

And right off the top, Daniel Jeremiah is smart, and good at his job (and not just because he's a former Appalachian State quarterback). But when he filed his first mock (in January, which is the first danger sign), he gave the Panthers Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner with the sixth overall selection. Gardner's a fine player, and if both Donte Jackson and Stephon Gilmore leave in free agency (and there's a non-zero chance of that), then they'd need another player at that position.

But they ain't taking a corner at six.

If the first five picks fell the way Jeremiah had them falling, my guess would be a race to the podium to take one of the top offensive tackles left behind (Charles Cross in this instance). But putting too much stock into a January mock draft is probably not the best use of our time. Take it for what it is, an entertainment product, designed to generate discussion.

Which it now has. Mission accomplished. And there will be more to come, with varying degrees of sanity. It's a long offseason.


Hey Darin, great move for the Panthers on keeping Frankie Luvu. I will say this whole QB situation is nerve-wracking. But with the market looking pretty bleak on the market for a QB, because even if a trade is bought up anyone and everyone has a high asking price. Its clear we can't and should not give up Christian McCaffrey he is the star for Carolina. With limited cap space, more reason to keep Cam Newton and bring a fresh QB to groom, i.e. Malik Willis? — Fernando, Hope Mills, NC

There's a lot to unpack there, but to begin, yes, keeping Luvu was a good piece of business. He brings a certain juice whenever he's on the field, on defense or on special teams. And they can use that, for sure. Especially with some degree of uncertainty about free agent Haason Reddick, keeping Luvu offers something of a safety net (though they'd need to add a pass-rusher if Reddick leaves).

The quarterback question is a lot more complicated.

I get the temptation to pair Newton with his fellow Westlake High product, and former 7-on-7 mentee Willis. But Newton's an unrestricted free agent, which means he has a choice in the matter as well.

He said late last season he was willing to go to a place and be a backup, provided it was a winning environment. And as popular as he is here, and deservedly so, it's hard to watch his passing performances after the Washington game and think he's a long-term fix for the position. The Panthers aren't faced with a lot of perfect options at the moment, however. Pairing Cam with a young quarterback might be a good idea, and it might be best for Newton himself and that young quarterback. But if the Panthers aren't prepared to use that sixth pick on a quarterback they may or may not be sold on, it becomes a trickier proposition.

What's clear is that the team loved the way Newton led when he arrived midseason. Along with healing some old wounds, it was a positive move on the whole for both sides, even if the on-field product didn't reflect that, and the future remains unclear.


What did you think about that halftime show? That stage saw almost as many hits as Joe Burrow did on Sunday evening. Let's dive deep here. What is the greatest halftime show you have seen in person at any sporting event? While the Panthers may be poised to make a big move this offseason, what interlude to the second half inspired Darin to bust a move? — Kyle, Hendersonville, NC

For starters, seeing 50 Cent hanging from the ceiling made me wonder a few things. Including, "Are those trusses rated for that kind of load?" and "Should the Bengals consider signing him to play tackle?" But absolutely, great show. That was the most talented ensemble since ZZ Top, James Brown, and the (sort-of) Blues Brothers in New Orleans in 1997. Or something. Seriously, I'll have a six-pack of whatever they were serving at the meeting when they came up with that one.

The greatest Super Bowl halftime show ever was Prince in 2007. If you have a different opinion, you are entitled to go be wrong somewhere else. I wasn't on hand for that one personally, something something budget cuts, but come on, he literally made it rain, while playing Purple Rain.

I was on hand for Janet Jackson in 2004, though I didn't see THAT PART until after the game (I was on deadline and super-focused, which is why I watched it a couple dozen times on my VCR when I got home, in the name of thorough journalism). Beyonce and Destiny's Child made the lights go out in New Orleans in 2013, (it wasn't actually their fault), and that was a great show.

And those are all great. But if you're not going to turn it into a musical extravaganza, there's one correct answer for best halftime entertainment ever.

That's right, MONKEYS RIDING DOGS. Saw them in Denver once. Changed my life.


Hi Darin, I found this interesting article on Matt Corral. Maybe you have already seen it, but I thought I would send it to you just in case you haven't. Maybe Matt Corral could be our answer. — Jeff, Cary, NC

Jeff was kind enough to send the body of a story about the Ole Miss quarterback, and it was interesting if full of more football words like "Drop 8 coverage" and "hook zones" than I can handle first thing in the morning before coffee and Wordle. (Although, EIGHT wouldn't be a bad starting word, because you get a couple of vowels and one of the most common consonants, and you might catch lightning in a bottle with that GH construction. But I digress.)

Corral is going to generate a lot of content, particularly in a couple of weeks at the Combine. Mostly, that's because all the other quarterbacks have been pawed at already at the Senior Bowl (though we can expect a fresh wave of Kenny Pickett hand size stories, because it's #handsizeSZN). But he'll be the new one, and the new one always gets the most attention.

Corral's an interesting case on his own right, and could be the top passer in this class eventually. Some people like blondes, some people like brunettes, so when it comes time for the draft, there will be a lot of different orders of the top three quarterbacks (Corral, Pickett, and Willis).

The Panthers have to do a thorough evaluation of all these quarterbacks, because the economics of the league is such that it's a tremendous advantage to have a good one on a rookie contract. That's less important if they don't fulfill the first part of that equation — being good enough to be a difference-maker.

We'll dig deeper into Corral soon. Though I can't promise a deep discussion of hook zones (though ZONES wouldn't be the worst Wordle starter either. I like to mix it up.)

Matt Corral


Why do you think the Panthers are losing coaches to take the same job for other teams? Is this affecting the mindset of the players and remaining coaches negatively? And, will free agents view the 2022 Panthers as a team to avoid because of the coaching turnover? — Mark, Winston-Salem, NC

Some of these deals are more complicated than others, and some of the guys who left linked up with former acquaintances in other places. But the reality of the situation is, this isn't perceived as the most stable situation after they went 10-23 the last couple of years. Like players and every other employee in the world, coaches sometimes like to have a little more security.

But it's also fair to point out that they assembled a solid group, adding some guys with significant NFL experience to the mix. The point of making the change at offensive coordinator was to add NFL play-calling experience to the mix. Ben McAdoo has that. Offensive line coach James Campen and special teams coach Chris Tabor have solid track records, and add to areas that needed a boost. Bringing Steve Wilks back was an excellent addition to the staff, which now has three guys with head coaching experience (including McAdoo in New York and Tabor's one game as a COVID-replacement in Chicago). And with former college head coach Paul Pasqualoni here to coach defensive line, there's certainly a different gravity.

Not sure it will have a huge impact on free agency, as players tend to go where the money is. There will certainly be some players with choices who might prefer a place that's perceived as being closer to contending for a Super Bowl, and that's a bigger factor than some staff turnover.


Hi Darin, I know you are probably quite tired of questions starting with "any chance, ..." but I'll hope you'll make an exception for this one. With the long overdue enshrinement of Sam Mills into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, any chance we see a "51" uniform patch or helmet sticker in honor of "the greatest Carolina Panther to ever put on the uniform" this season? — Eric, Toronto, Ontario

I'll allow it, this time, Eric. Interesting thought, and one I'm sure many people would get behind.

Since it's only been a week, there haven't been too many firm plans made yet about how to honor Mills, though there will be a celebration at a home game this season.

It's a great idea though, I'll pass it along.


Are we planning on adding some more names to the Hall of Honor next season? The organization has been doing a lot of content with past Panthers, feels like a good time to maybe add two to four more names to the Hall. — Elijah, Enfield, NC

Man, y'all are full of big ideas this week. I dig it.

It's certainly a possibility, though again, it's early enough in the offseason there hasn't been a definite plan made.

The team last inducted a class of four (Steve Smith Sr., Jake Delhomme, Jordan Gross, Wesley Walls) in 2019.

Having empty stadiums in 2020 and uncertainty about last year because of COVID-19 made it hard to plan a celebration for fans to enjoy. But it's possible another class could be coming soon. Stay tuned.

When the team made its initial plan to expand the Hall of Honor, the guidelines for induction included playing at least three seasons here (so no Vinny Testaverde), and being retired at least two seasons (so no JJ Jansen, yet).

That opens the door to a lot of interesting names, including players such as Julius Peppers, Muhsin Muhammad, Michael Bates, Ryan Kalil, Luke Kuechly, John Kasay, Charles Johnson, Mike Rucker, Mike Minter, and Kris Jenkins, among others.

With 27 seasons to draw from, the Panthers don't have the kind of history the Packers or other teams might have. But there are certainly a number of players worthy of further discussions. If you have thoughts, drop them here, and we can spend the offseason having debates about it. It beats another mock draft.


One thing I can do better than ask questions is give BBQ advice. I have spent 30 years as a food broker, with one of our specialties being pork. I have also cooked across the Carolinas and Georgia in BBQ events, as well as judging. I have a love of Eastern Carolina Sauce and also like the South Carolina style. I have developed a sauce I call hybrid as it is a blend of NC and SC at the same time.

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup dijon mustard

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine in a saucepan and lightly simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before use. It may or may not be to your liking, but give it a try!

Football, I am still refraining my comments at the moment and allowing time to pass. — Stephen, Columbia, SC

Sometimes letting your sauce cool is a good bit of advice when it comes to football takes as well as barbecue. Otherwise you end up giving Ahmad Gardner to the Panthers in your mock draft (See what I did there?).

Stephen clearly caught last week's barbecue discussion, sparked by a trip to Dreamland. And his recipe has been printed and added to the file. Thanks for adding a new layer to our community. This Mailbag can be all things to all people. And as such, he becomes this week's Friend Of The Mailbag, and will receive the appropriate honorarium as soon as the second shipment comes in.


Well, cool Super Bowl. Now what? — Travis, Gastonia, NC

Now, we offseason. I have two particular traditions to commemorate the end of a football campaign that began in July and seemed about four or five years ago.

First, I take down my Christmas tree. They usually still smell great, but they're starting to get a little crunchy by then. Unfortunately, the NFL, in its eternal quest for revenue, pushed the regular season back a week this year. That stretches the bonds of locally-sourced agricultural products past the point some people are comfortable with keeping in the home. So the wife and I negotiated, and compromised at the Senior Bowl instead (which means when I got home from Mobile, the tree was on the porch [At least it wasn't the rest of my stuff]).

Secondly, I lay around on the couch for an entire day watching The Big Lebowski. It's not the greatest movie ever made (that would be Blazing Saddles), but it does put you in a certain frame of mind that's good for decompressing. Especially with a couple of white Russians.

Speaking of, when I was in Los Angeles last week, I tried to get our videographer/my driver The Tooter to take me to a Ralph's grocery store, so I could write a check for 69 cents for a carton of half and half. But I forgot to pack my checkbook, or my robe. Next time.


And, that's probably as good a place to leave this one as any. Obviously, some of you aren't golfers. But keep dropping your questions here, and we'll keep getting to them on our non-linear offseason schedule (i.e. whenever the spirit moves us).

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