The Carolina Panthers aren’t having the season they imagined they’d have after trading for the first overall pick. With two games left in the 2024 NFL season, it appears as if they will be drafting early in the first round again next year, despite bringing in one of the most highly-rated college quarterbacks in Bryce Young.
The team is nursing an embarrassing 2-13 record ahead of Week 17 and has long been eliminated from playoff contention, with Frank Reich losing his job as a result.
They will be in the market for a top coach and could make a run at Jim Harbaugh, who could be lured away from the University of Michigan given the penalties that could come down once the NCAA concludes its investigation into the program’s alleged sign stealing.
Carolina will need a coach who can get the best out of Young. One season like the one they’ve had might be understandable, but fans will not accept another, especially given what the Panthers had to give up to get him in the draft.
It would be an understatement to claim that things have not gone well for the Panthers in 2024. The season was calamitous and nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
A few games ago, tickets went for as low as 0.45 cents. But the stadium was still mostly empty. Clearly, fans are getting fed up, but they will hope for massive improvement next season, with the North Carolina sports betting scene also anticipating an uptick in activity once things start rolling.
There have been some good signs regarding the rookie QB. He had the best game of his career against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16, though his performance didn’t result in a win. Young completed 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 312 passing yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions in the 33-30 loss.
The outing earned the first-year signal-caller a passer rating of 113, nearly 10 points higher than his previous highest.
“There’s so much more to come,” wide receiver teammate D.J Chark told the team’s official website. “He’s making plays, he’s comfortable, but that’s who we know him to be, at least in this locker room. We do, we believed in him the whole way through. Three, four or five years from now, he’s gonna be definitely at the top, if not one of the top QBs.
“In and out of the huddle, being consistent with the calls and making the reads,” Chark explained. “If things not there, it breaks down, he’s able to save us and get us some yards or do something. So, yeah, I would say he was in control. And he’s continuing to improve every week.”
“He was in complete control,” interim head coach Chris Tabor added. “He knew exactly how the game was being played.”
The first offensive drive of the game for the Panthers nearly resulted in a three-and-out but a penalty kept the play alive. They ended up punting three plays later.
On the second drive, Young was at his own 36 in a second-and-five situation when he thew a pass to tight end Tommy Tremble that saw the latter pick up 32 yards. The drive didn’t end in a touchdown but put Eddy Pineiro in range for a field goal.
Young made several plays that had his teammates confident of what’s to come.
“Man, impressive,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “Really the stuff that I saw and a lot of us saw in OTAs, training camp. Just that confidence, that kind of attitude. And then, you collectively make some plays for him, and watch out, he’s got the hot hand, as we say. So, obviously super impressive and excited to build on that.”
“I think it’s as good as we’ve looked as a unit and, whatever the stats or whatever may say, you point at one person and you say, oh, it’s a good game, I think it’s all of us,” Young noted himself. “I think this was a good building block for us as a unit … we all stepped up.”
He refused to dress it up as a win, though.
“The sting is that we lost,” he added. “You can try to make up any moral victory but we do this to win.”
Carolina Panthers’ 2024 Game Plan: 6 Key Moves Ahead
1. The Hunt for a New Coach
The Carolina Panthers are on the prowl for a new head coach in 2024, aiming to reinvigorate the team. This search comes after a series of disappointments and a need to revamp their offensive strategy.
While it may not be the NFL’s most enticing job, the Panthers will have to sell their vision to potential candidates. The team’s owner, David Tepper, has had a rocky history with coaching staff, having fired three head coaches in just six years.
However, the new coach will enjoy the financial backing of Tepper and a prolonged honeymoon period due to the previous season’s poor performance. With no No. 1 draft pick, the coach’s belief in Bryce Young as the franchise quarterback is paramount.
Ideally, the Panthers are seeking an offensive-minded head coach to address their offensive deficiencies, making them a team to watch in the upcoming coaching carousel.
2. The Quest for a Premier Wide Receiver
In 2024, the Panthers are on a mission to secure a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver. While they have faith in the abilities of Adam Thielen and rookie Jonathan Mingo, they aim to make a splash in free agency.
Bryce Young’s connection with D.J. Chark has fallen short of expectations, necessitating a top-tier addition to the receiving corps. Players like Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins and Jacksonville’s Calvin Ridley are high on the Panthers’ wish list, though franchise tags could complicate their acquisition.
Other potential targets include Gabriel Davis from Buffalo, Darnell Mooney from Chicago, and Marquise Brown from Arizona.
3. The Pursuit of a New Tight End
The Panthers are contemplating using their first draft pick in 2024, the 33rd overall, to bolster their tight end position. Their recent free-agent acquisition, Hayden Hurst, failed to provide the expected threat down the seam, leaving room for improvement.
Carolina has been striving to replace the legendary Greg Olsen for years and is ready to take another shot, either through the draft or free agency.
4. The Reinforcement of Offensive Linemen
In 2024, the Panthers are on the lookout for offensive linemen, prioritizing guards or guard-tackle combinations. Injuries to Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen in 2024 highlighted the team’s need for depth.
While Corbett and Christensen are expected to return, securing additional offensive line talent is a priority to fortify the protection for Bryce Young.
5. The Challenge of New Contracts
Carolina’s offseason focus centers on securing key players on defense. The Panthers are determined to retain standout players like Brian Burns, who may require a franchise tag initially, and linebacker Frankie Luvu, a valuable discovery by the team’s general manager, Scott Fitterer.
Luvu, a former bargain, will demand a more lucrative contract to stay. Negotiations with Burns will need to find common ground between his $30-million-a-year asking price and a long-term deal. Conversely, cornerback C.J. Henderson and underperforming receiver D.J. Chark are likely to seek new homes.
6. The Revamp of Offensive Strategies
The upcoming coaches will need to provide Bryce Young with better support, including improved protection and playmaking options. The Panthers plan to diversify their offensive playbook with more plays under center, bootlegs, and a more potent running game.
Young’s durability behind the offensive line in 2024 has been remarkable, but the primary responsibility of the new coach will be to maximize Young’s potential.
A successful transformation of their young quarterback could pave the way for brighter days ahead, as the Panthers aim to shed their league punchline status and return to prominence.