Panthers 2021 wrapup: Notes and observations on the recently-completed season

By Richard Walker

As the NFL Wild Card weekend comes to a close, here’s some notes and observations from the Carolina Panthers’ recent 5-11 season and a look ahead to what the future holds for the team:

… For the first time in team history – and fifth time in the NFL in the Super Bowl era – four players surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in a season – receivers D.J. Moore (1,215 yards), Robby Anderson (1,111), Curtis Samuel (1,051) and running back Mike Davis (1,015).

… Even with that production, the offense had its lowest NFL finish in points (24th) since 2010, its lowest NFL finish in total offense (21st) since 2013 and its lowest finish in rushing offense (21st) since 2006.

… Carolina set a franchise record for fourth-down tries (27) and converted 15 of them (55.6 percent).

… Teddy Bridgewater’s 67.1 completion percentage was highest in franchise history.

… Bridgewater is one of 20 starting quarterbacks in franchise history. And with this season’s 4-11 record, he’s only the third to lose 10 or more games in a season; Chris Weinke (1-14 in 2001) and Cam Newton (6-10 in 2011) were the others.

… Samuel’s 79.4 percentage of catching 77 of his 97 targets was the highest among qualifiers in the NFL this season.

… Tackle Taylor Moton played 100 percent of the team’s offensive snaps to make him the 13th Panthers to play all of its unit’s snaps since 2000. Moton also was rated third in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency by Pro Football Focus.

… The unit improved its NFL ranking from 31 to 18 in scoring defense, from 23 to 18 in total defense and its rushing defense from 29 to 20.

… The Panthers led the NFL with most fumble recoveries (15) and tied for the NFL lead in fumbles returned for touchdowns (3). That fumble recoveries for touchdowns tied a team record set first in 1996.

… Carolina had the worst third down defense in the NFL (49.2 percent) and fewest pass interceptions (7).

… Jeremy Chinn led all NFL rookies with 116 tackles.

… Long snapper J.J. Jansen played in all 16 games this season and now ranks second in most games played in team history with 192; Kicker John Kasay is first with 221 games.

… Eleven games were decided by one score (3-8 record), which finished second in the league behind the Los Angeles Chargers (12) and also second in franchise history behind 1998’s 3-9 mark in one-score games.

… Carolina hasn’t swept a NFC South rival since sweeping Tampa Bay in 2017. And the Panthers’ 1-5 divisional record is tied for third-worst against division opponents in the team’s 26-year history.

… The Panthers had their 11th losing record after losing a season-opener.

… Carolina had two blown fourth-quarter leads this season and no fourth-quarter comebacks. They’ve had 52 blown fourth-quarter leads in team history and 40 fourth-quarter comebacks. Former quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Cam Newton are the leaders in both categories; Delhomme and Newton each had 14 comebacks and Newton had 19 blown leads and Delhomme 11.

… First-year head coach Matt Rhule had the worst first-year record of any Panthers head coach; Others were Dom Capers (7-9 in 1995), George Seifert (8-8 in 1999), John Fox (7-9 in 2002) and Ron Rivera (6-10 in 2011).

… Carolina ended the season with a 200-215-1 all-time regular season and 9-8 all-time playoff record. The 48.2 regular season winning percentage ranks 22nd of the current 32 NFL teams, while the Panthers’ 52.9 playoff winning percentage is 10th.

… The all-time winningest Panthers executives and coaches are as follows (record includes playoffs):
Owner – Jerry Richardson 192-192-1
General manager – Marty Hurney 114-120
Head coach – Ron Rivera 79-67-1
Offensive coordinator – Mike Shula 54-32-1
Defensive coordinator – Mike Trgovac 61-43

… Lots of uncertainty remains for the Panthers’ 2021 season. Not only does the team have to hire a general manager after Marty Hurney was fired with two games left in the season, but there are 17 unrestricted free agents (fullback Alex Armah, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, running back Mike Davis, cornerback Rasul Douglas, cornerback Corn Elder, long snapper J.J. Jansen, center Tyler Larsen, tight end Chris Manhertz, guard John Miller, tackle Taylor Moton, tackle Russell Okung, guard Chris Reed, wide receiver Curtis Samuel, offensive lineman Michael Schofield, linebacker Julian Stanford, linebacker Adarius Taylor and linebacker Tahir Whitehead) and four restricted free agents (wide receiver Keith Kirkwood, defensive end Efe Obada, tackle Trent Scott and wide receiver Brandon Zylstra).

… The Panthers are slated to pick eighth overall in the first round of the April 29 to May 1 NFL Draft in Cleveland. According to early draft projections, Carolina’s intentions aren’t clear; Bleacher Report and NBCSports.com has the Panthers choosing cornerback Patrick Surtain II of Alabama, while SBnation has them choosing tight end Kyle Pitts of Florida and CBSSports.com has them choosing quarterback Trey Lance of North Dakota State.

… Carolina knows 16 of its opponents for next season as it will host Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, New England, the New York Jets and Minnesota and will travel to play at Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, the New York Giants, Buffalo, Miami and Arizona. If the NFL approves a 17th regular season game, the Panthers are slated to play Houston at a location to be determined.