In 2015, the Carolina Panthers went 15-1 and had the best record in the NFL. In 2016, they went 6-10 and had the worst record in the NFC South.
“I think it’s a complicated answer,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “If it was just one thing, we would fix it in a second. I think it was complicated. I think it was we didn’t play well. I think it was we didn’t stay healthy. I think it was we didn’t play well at the end of the games to win close games. We didn’t make the critical deciding play at the key moment. It’s a litany of things that, when you add all those things up and you’re coming off the Super Bowl and you’re feeling like you got all the answers and you’re just going to pick up where you left off, it’s a bad recipe. The thing about us, though, is we have good guys. We have good guys on our team. We got great leadership from Ron all the way down, and it’s been addressed. It’s continuing to be addressed, and it’s things that we’re aware of that have been discussed, and we got to make sure we do them better this offseason.”
In 2015, the Panthers started 14-0, and Cam Newton was the feel-good story of the NFL. This year, however, he was not. He didn’t seem to be having much fun. At all.
“It’s really fun when you’re winning,” Olsen said. “It’s really fun when you’re the highest-scoring offense in the league. I think it’s hard to have fun when you’re 6-10. I think it’s hard to have fun when you feel like you’re not playing up to your capabilities as a team, as an offense. So yeah, I would say none of us had as much fun. That’s probably an understatement.”
The loss of Josh Norman didn’t help, but his absence alone doesn’t explain a nine-game regression.
“Listen, Josh was a great player, don’t get me wrong,” Olsen said. “He did a lot for us. He was a big part of our Super Bowl defense. But we still had a lot of good guys on that defense. We had a lot of our prominent guys. It’s never easy losing a guy, especially in the back end. We had a lot of turnover in that back secondary.”
The good news? The Panthers started 1-5 before winning five of their next eight games.
“When those young guys got healthy (midseason) and kind of got their feet wet a little bit, they really started playing well for us as the season went on,” Olsen said. “I think we feel good about those guys moving forward. I think that’s finally a position we can settle a little bit. I think now we can finally put to rest (the questions about Josh) and we can move on a little bit.”