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Panthers Facing New Questions

September 25, 2014

After getting off to an impressive 2-0 start, a great deal came crashing down on the Carolina Panthers Sunday night as they fell at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a 37-19 count. The Panthers are known around the league as a team that wins games by running the ball on offense and holding opponents under 20 points a game. None of that happened Sunday. The Steelers amassed over 250 rushing yards as Le’Veon ran for 147 yards on 21 carries while his backup, LaGarrette Blount, accumulated 118 yards on the ground on just 10 carries. 

Meanwhile, Carolina never did establish a running game. You would have thought the Panthers would have success on the ground as Pittsburgh came into the contest giving up an average of 174 yards a game, a mark that ranked 29th among the NFL’s 32 teams. Yet, at halftime, Carolina had 10 yards on just five carries. 

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was quoted at halftime he wanted to make sure his team stuck with its running attack, and on Carolina’s first play in the second half, Jonathan Stewart ripped off a 15-yard gain. But he suffered a knee bruise later in the quarter, and once the Steelers took a big lead, Carolina, which finished with 42 rushing yards, had to go with its passing game. 

Still, it was the defense’s lack of performance that was surprising. After all, Pittsburgh came into the game without scoring a touchdown over their previous six quarters. Numbers wise, everything favored the Panthers. But as the cliche goes, that is why they play the game on the field and not on paper. 

So, was the setback an aberration? Does Carolina have to find new ways to win games? Or will the Panthers return to the formula that won 12 games a year ago?  

Does Winston Get It? 

The name Jameis Winston burst onto the college football scene early last fall. The first-year starter at Florida State led the Seminoles to a national championship from his quarterback position. While doing so, he won the prestigious Heisman Trophy. 

At first, all we learned about Winston came from his actions on the playing field. Since late last fall, we have been hearing more and more about his activities off the field.

Actually, his activities off the field may end up taking him off the field once his college eligibility is used up. If Winston keeps imploding off the field, NFL franchises may shy away from the talented quarterback. If so, he will join the list super talents who fade into obscurity based entirely on the dubious nature of his own choices. Last week, Winston was suspended for Saturday’s Clemson game, as punishment for standing up on a table and reciting a very crude Internet meme about fornicating with a woman in front of hundreds of witnesses. Yes, similar behaviors are exhibited around the nation on college campuses. But not by Heisman Trophy winners. 

Besides, one would think that Winston would be on damage control. After all, he was accused of sexual assault in December 2012, though he was never charged; soon after that, The New York Times and other media outlets reported that the investigation into the case had been severely botched by local police. 

Jameis Winston needs help

After the case was dropped, Winston became the poster boy for those who feel that there are college athletes who consider themselves above the law. After his brush with local police, one would think Winston would work on establishing a new image. Or at least show a certain amount of self-awareness. Instead, it is starting to look like Winston is choosing to embrace the stereotype that he is a spoiled athlete. Remember last spring when Winston walked out of a Publix supermarket with an armful of crab legs, having neglected to complete the purchase by actually paying for them. This might have been an amusing display of brashness. But it further secured his image as an athlete who gets away with whatever he wants, especially in Tallahassee. 

Then came the report in July at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana. While at the camp, Winston told a group of teenagers that the perk of playing quarterback was that “we get all the women.” And now this: A quarterback who had been accused of sexual assault shouts a crude sexual meme in a public space, without any apparent recognition of how this might appear to reflect on his own recent history. 

Yes, Winston made a public apology last week. One that referred to overcoming adversity. The only adversity in his athletic life has been decisions he has made and behavior he has displayed. Yes, I have to wonder if Winston gets it. 

Winston’s most recent transgression almost cost his team a win. But a late comeback at home against Clemson enabled top-ranked Florida State to remain unbeaten. So, Winston likely feels like he got away with his behavior again. Of course, I am not sure if he believes his actions are morally wrong at this point. 

One thing you can count on is Winston and his agent will spend months attempting to convince NFL teams that his character problems have been overblown. Perhaps they will even succeed. More importantly, I hope Winston can be successful in changing his behavior.






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