BY JOHN P. CHANDLER
By the time you read this, the Baker Mayfield era of the Carolina Panthers will be well underway. Having been a Panthers fan, PSL owner, and season ticket holder since the Panthers came to Charlotte in 1995 and having attended opening day against the Cleveland Browns on September 11, I’d like to offer the good folk of Lake Norman a few ideas of “what to watch for” this coming season. I’ll skip the common national story lines: Will Matt Rhule survive to coach another season? Will Christian McCaffrey stay healthy? What will owner David Tepper do after Rock Hill? Instead, here’s a few things to watch for below the surface:
– Will Charlotte get fully on board to cheer on the Panthers? Perhaps it’s because Charlotte is a new home to people from many places, but Bank of America Stadium often sees a sizable contingent of visiting fans. On opening day, Browns fans were numerous, visible, and loud. Perhaps more consistent winning solves this problem ….
– Can the Panthers get to a 9-8 record, contend for the playoffs, and ensure that Matt Rhule coaches into his fourth year? Owner Tepper says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and Coach Rhule says, “Trust the process.” But if the Panthers follow up with a third straight 5-12 season, there will be a new coach in Charlotte next year. Mine is a minority opinion, but I like Rhule – and am betting on the Panthers defying Vegas odds to eke out a 9-8 record. The heartbreaking opening day home loss to Cleveland didn’t help, but ….
– How many of the Carolina Panthers live at Lake Norman? (Asking for a friend. Okay, for my wife!) Christian McCaffrey made headlines with his 2020 purchase on the lake in Troutman. Julius Peppers and other past Panthers’ greats have called Lake Norman home. But who lives here now? If you know, let us know! No stalking/doxxing, and the NFL stands for “Not For Long,” so anyone who lives here today might be traded tomorrow. But we KNOW the Panthers play here, so let’s find out who lives here.
That’s a few things to watch for about the Panthers. Next month: Charlotte FC, the Major League Soccer team whose inaugural season has electrified the city and many Lake Norman residents and friends.