Bryce Young, Panthers, is filled with regret, despair, and disappointment.
As Carolina’s season winds down, losses pile up and answers become difficult to come by.
For a brief moment — perhaps for the first time all season — the Carolina Panthers clutched a sliver of hope in their palms. Bryce Young, the Panthers’ No. 1 draft pick, had led Carolina on a 17-play, nine-minute touchdown drive that had moved Carolina within a possession of the great Dallas Cowboys. On the drive, the Panthers converted three different fourth downs, culminating in a 4-yard touchdown throw to Tommy Tremble, the tight end with the name of a 1950s pop hero.
It was all fine there for a little moment. It was then that it wasn’t.
Dallas easily plowed through the Panthers defense on the next series — eight plays, 75 yards, 3:01 of game time — and Tony Pollard rolled into the end zone to extend the advantage to 14. Then, on the next play from scrimmage, DaRand Bland stepped right into Young’s passing channel, setting an NFL record with his fourth pick 6 of the season. Carolina’s season was effectively over, and the cheers of the thousands of bandwagon Cowboy fans in attendance were the grim icing on the fetid cupcake.
No one anticipated Carolina to win; the Panthers were 11.5-point underdogs in their home stadium. But the manner in which the Cowboys disposed the Panthers — rushing over the offensive line like a sand castle at high tide and shoving aside the defense like a kid brother in the back yard — that type of humiliation sears and sticks.
Add to that the fact that Panthers head coach Frank Reich has been described as a guy on the hot seat by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, and the vibe in Charlotte is heated indeed. During his Monday media availability, Reich was asked if he was concerned about Glazer’s claim. He attempted to brush it off, but what else could he say?
“No, I’m just focused on getting ready for Tennessee,” he replied. “Focused on today, getting into that film, learn from it, learn how we can coach it better, play it better then quickly get your eyes and ears and everything out towards your next opponent.”
It’s better for Reich to concentrate on Carolina’s next opponent, because dwelling on the last few is a recipe for disaster. Carolina (1-9) is officially guaranteed its sixth consecutive losing season, the most in franchise history. And all six of those seasons have occurred when Carolina was owned by David Tepper, who went to tremendous pains to make Carolina a contender again – not at some indefinite future period, but this season.
The ancient adage goes that boat owners are happiest on the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. First-round draft picks, especially those acquired with large draft capital, fall into the same category. The Panthers aren’t quite ready to let go of Young, but there’s a strong sense that this season hasn’t gone as planned.
Young’s challenges aren’t just game-to-game; they’re ongoing and chronic. Take note of how his early career ranks below the likes of Kenny Pickett, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson:
The idea that C.J. Stroud, whom the Panthers passed on in favor of Young, is rewriting the script for all rookie quarterbacks had to sting in Charlotte like ghost peppers. Add to that the agony of a lost first-round draft pick in 2024 — it now goes to the Bears as a result of the trade Carolina made to acquire Young — and even the most composed owner would be agitated. “Serene” is not a term that would describe Tepper.
The Panthers are making progressively large bets and drawing the same awful cards, much like a poker player whose chips are gradually diminishing. Reich took over as offensive coordinator from Thomas Brown earlier this week, adopting a no-huddle shotgun offense to avoid Young from being hit too fast and too often… Carolina responded with 187 yards of total offense and one touchdown on five punts, a fumble, and an interception. And Young still got six sacks.
“It’s very frustrating,” Reich admitted following the game. “When you work hard and you believe in the guys you’re doing it with, and I believe in our coaches and players, not getting results you want is frustrating.”
The Panthers entered Week 11 ranked 29th in scoring, averaging only 17 points per game. They’ve only scored more than 20 points three times this season and haven’t scored more than 28 since 2023.
Outside of a Week 17 game against Jacksonville, Carolina’s schedule is devoid of truly frightening opponents – Tennessee, Green Bay, and the awful remainder of the NFC South make up the rest of the Panthers’ schedule. A strong run through the chaff may not be enough to restore Carolina’s dignity, but continued losses will almost surely seal the team’s destiny.