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Panthers Are The Talk Of The NFL

November 14, 2013

The Carolina Panthers went out West last Sunday and gained some national ink by beating the San Francisco 49ers, 10-9. The victory raised Carolina’s record to 6-3 and it answered most of the critics questions. 

How big was the win? Let me start with this. This was the first time the Panthers, winners of five straight and six of their past seven, have beaten a team with a .500-or-better record this season. That dealt with the statements out there that Carolina has not beaten a credible team in 2013. It was the first time they have won a game decided by three or fewer points since Week 7 of the 2010 season, which happened to be a 23-20 home victory over San Francisco. That dealt with the recurring theme in recent times that the Panthers cannot win a close game. The success has to increase quarterback Cam Newton’s confidence in close games. Did you know that Newton had been 0-5 in games decided by a field goal or less, which was the worst record for any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2011?

As the score indicated, most of the credit needs to go to Carolina’s defense. The 151 yards allowed was the fewest San Francisco has gained since Week 9 of 2006. And it is not like the 49ers do not have an offense. San Francisco had scored 30-plus points in five straight games and in all six of their wins. Defensively, it was complete domination. Next up for the Panthers. New England comes to town on Monday night. Charlotte should be rocking. And I think Carolina will be slight favorites to win the contest. Who would have thought that just a few weeks ago?

Locker Room Talk 

I have heard so much locker room talk this past week. And I am getting tired of it. Just in case you were hibernating from sports these past two weeks, I am talking about the Miami Dolphins and two of their offensive linemen, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Martin left the Dolphins a few weeks back citing that he was being harassed by Incognito. His departure and the subsequent suspension of Incognito has put behavior in NFL locker rooms in the national limelight. 

After listening to countless statements by players and coaches, I think it is safe to say that not every locker room in the National Football League is like the one in Miami. It sounds like Incognito ran the Dolphins locker room. Judging from all the transgressions we have learned this week about his past, it is safe to say that this guy is not who should be viewed as a leader in a locker room. I now believe we know another reason there has been little success in Miami in recent years. Leaders are not guys who think that belittling and demeaning a teammate, as opposed to supporting them, is acceptable behavior. 

I believe there are true professionals populating many of the locker rooms around the NFL. Can you imagine something like this happening in Denver with Peyton Manning in the locker room? How about in New England with Tom Brady? And I could go on and on with many other team leaders within the league. 

Incognito...bully

Still, the mess in Miami has shown that the NFL must do a better job defining the workplace and establishing what constitutes acceptable and appropriate behavior, because there was a massive failure of leadership within the Dolphins franchise. In the locker room. In the front office. And in the coaching ranks. 

I played multiple sports up to the college level. I understand that the locker room is a place for bonding and ribbing and joking, but it is also a place for business. That means it is part of the workplace. By the sound of things in Miami, the Dolphins players, and not management, defined the workplace. The players set the rules for the locker room. They allowed an environment to exist where Incognito could demean, belittle and insult Martin. In their minds, the locker room is their domain to be policed however they deem fit. Workplaces are supposed to be safe. It is clear that Martin did not feel safe in the Dolphins locker room. He sure did not feel comfortable. After a season and a half with Miami, Martin felt it was safer to flee the city, leave the team and jeopardize his career than it was to keep enduring the abuse. What I find appalling is that he is being vilified for that decision and labeled soft while Dolphins players have clearly chose to support Incognito. 

That is horribly wrong. No wonder I found myself rooting against Miami on Monday Night Football and found justice in the Dolphins losing to previously winless Tampa Bay.  

Saban To Texas? 

Rumors are flying throughout Alabama that Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban may pick up and move again. Word has it that he has an interest in taking over at Texas. It seems like current Longhorn coach Mack Brown already has retirement thoughts. These thoughts coincide with the recent downslide of the Texas program. 

Martin...bullied

Why would Saban make seemingly a lateral move? Here are some quick reasons I came up with. 

Saban has already spoiled Alabama fans. What is the challenge? Three BCS national championships in four seasons will do that. Now Sabas is under the type of pressure where anything less than an undefeated season and BCS national title is considered a failure. Saban will always be second fiddle to Bear Bryant at Alabama. Despite a 77–13 record at Bama and three BCS trophies, Saban will never be considered better than Bear Bryant as long as he is coaching the Crimson Tide. But were Saban to go to Texas and win it all again he would have national titles at LSU, Alabama and Texas. Saban would be as legendary as the Bear. 

One cannot leave money out of the equation. I read where Texas has an endowment of $6 billion. Alabama has an endowment of $630 million. Saban is losing his quarterback, AJ McCarron, at Alabama. McCarron has a 34-2 record with the Crimson Tide. He will have to build a new relationship with a new starting QB, whether he’s at Bama or Texas. Even with the reasons I came up with, I do not see it happening. But it could.

 


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