What are the Panthers’ biggest strengths and weaknesses midway through the 2023 season?

The Carolina Panthers sit with a 1-9 record through the first 11 weeks of the 2023 NFL season, the worst margin in the entire league. For a team that seemed to be on the upswing after going 7-10 despite glaring issues last season — and later added first overall pick and former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young to the mix, almost nothing has gone right this season.

The offensive line has been terrible, Young’s play has been disappointing, and the team’s defense is absolutely abhorrent. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel right now. Even if Young could develop into a strong quarterback someday, the cards are stacked against him with an inept general manager building the team and a poor head coach calling the shots.

In an absolutely miserable season where there are plenty of options to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down what the root causes of failure are. Here’s a look at what plagues the Panthers most.

General Manager Scott Fitterer

It all begins with the front office, and general manager Scott Fitterer is likely on the hot seat given his team’s putrid performance. The most damning moment of Fitterer’s career with the Panthers came at last season’s trade deadline, when he turned down a pair of first round picks that the Los Angeles Rams offered in return for linebacker Brian Burns.

Burns is a strong player, even if he’s had a slow start to the 2023 season: he racked up 12.5 sacks last year, behind just seven other players. To be a top ten player in your position is a lofty achievement, but that doesn’t mean he’s good enough to turn your nose up at two first round picks from a floundering team. 

To compound matters, Fitterer missed a significant opportunity to capitalize on Burns’ value when he rejected the Rams’ offer. The fifth-year player has struggled this season, recording only five sacks in ten games—well below his previous year’s production rate. Adding to the challenge, Burns’ cost-effective rookie contract is set to expire this offseason. This puts the Panthers in a precarious position; not only can they no longer command a substantial return for him via trade, but there’s also the looming risk of losing him in free agency without any compensation in return.

In the cutthroat world of NFL management, lesser offenses have cost general managers their jobs in the past. Considering the overall state of the roster and the critical decisions at play, it comes as no surprise that Fitterer faces elevated odds of receiving a pink slip, a situation that enthusiasts may find intriguing when exploring North Carolina sports betting options. The uncertainty surrounding key personnel decisions adds an extra layer of anticipation for those engaging with North Carolina sports betting platforms, making the Panthers’ front-office drama a storyline worth monitoring closely in the coming weeks.

Head Coach Frank Reich

Frank Reich looked to be a rising star when the Indianapolis Colts hired him as their head man in 2018. Fresh off a Super Bowl championship earned as offensive coordinator of the Eagles, Reich was a trendy pick for coach of the year when he aided Andrew Luck’s late career resurgence. His first year as a head coach ended up being the high water mark of his career, though, as he never attained that same level of success again. 

The Panthers hired him this offseason as a retread after the Colts let him go, but given how his teams have struggled since 2018, it seems more and more like Luck caused his success rather than him helping Luck rebound. In hiring an offensive-minded head coach to tutor a talented young quarterback, the Panthers should’ve expected more than 16.3 points per game out of the unit — only three teams in the entire league score less than Carolina does.

If Reich isn’t able to unlock Young’s talent, the Panthers are going to turn to another coach to try it.

Bryce Young

That brings us to what is, perhaps, the most troubling of all the Panthers’ woes. It goes without saying that most of the Panthers roster has struggled this year: they’re 1-9 for a reason. In spending the first overall pick on a quarterback, though, you expect to get a player who can change the fortunes of your franchise immediately… not one who will throw almost as many interceptions (8) as he does touchdowns (9).

Young hasn’t had much help from the rest of his roster, but quarterbacks are expected to be the face of the franchise for a reason: especially ones selected first overall. If he doesn’t have what it takes at the game’s most important position, the Panthers are going to be stuck in neutral for quite a while as they try to find a suitable replacement. I’m not ready to call Young a bust just yet, but his play is poor enough to cue alarm bells.