CHARLOTTE – In many NFL cities, the backup quarterback is often the most popular guy in town. But in the Carolinas, no one is questioning Cam Newton's role as a starter.
So when things go wrong offensively, like they did Sunday in Chicago, much of the outside criticism shifts to the other popular punching bag of a team's fan base – the offensive coordinator.
But a day after Mike Shula's unit managed only a field goal against the Bears, the Panthers' Pro Bowl tight end came to his coordinator's defense.
"I've think we've shown around here that we've been a very good offense, so I think a lot of that is the typical overreaction to bad games," Greg Olsen said Monday. "That's the easy way out, that's the easy critique for people who watching from a distance don't really have an idea of what's going on. That's the easy solution to everybody who doesn't have much knowledge of what we're actually doing, so I think that's careless."
If you take that as a dig, to be fair, Olsen was also talking about himself.
"I'm watching as a spectator like everybody is right now. I just think it's a slippery slope (when) everyone has their solutions when you really have no idea – and I'm putting myself in that same boat," said Olsen, who's been out the past month with a broken right foot.
"I haven't been part of a game plan and meetings, so it's hard for me to sit up there and say, 'This should've' and 'that should've.' I don't know either, and I know a lot more about this offense than everybody else in the bleachers."
But in his educated opinion, what's going wrong with an offense that as of Monday morning ranks 19th in total yards and 22nd in points per game?
"Watching the tape, knowing what our offense is and what we're trying to get done, we have to play better. We have to stop making mistakes. We have to make plays that are there. We have to block better, run better. It sounds cliché and simple, but that's really what it is," Olsen said.
"You're not going to trick anybody in the NFL. You're not going to surprise anybody in the NFL. We have to play better."
The Panthers will have to do that for at least three more games without Olsen, who's started some underwater treadmill work after shedding his protective boot for sneakers. The earliest he'll be eligible to come off injured reserve to play is the Thanksgiving weekend game against the Jets, but he could be back on the practice field as soon as next Wednesday.
"I'm doing good, starting to move around," Olsen said. "Hopefully I'll start getting on the field and doing some stuff here by next week and just take that next step. Everything's going well.
"We won't really know a lot until you start really getting out there and moving around and running around and see how it responds. So far so good."