Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich told reporters on Friday that the team has been practicing a silent count this week in practice in the event they need it to drown out Dallas Cowboys fans. The only issue is…the game will be played at Bank of America Stadium. The Cowboys didn’t get the nickname of “America’s Team” for nothing. They have been known to travel well and when you couple that with the Panthers struggles this season, it makes for a unique situation on Sunday.
It could be argued that the Panthers have not truly had a home field advantage since Cam Newton suited up at quarterback. His return on the back end of the 2021 season brought back fleeting hope that was quickly dashed. From 2019-2021, Carolina could only muster 5 wins per season. They seemed headed that way – or worse – last season before Matt Rhule was relieved of his head coaching duties after starting the season 1-4. Steve Wilks took over as interim coach, finishing 6-6 and on the doorstep of the postseason for the franchise’s first time since the 2017 season.
Wilks’ short tenure brought back some intensity, excitement, and culture to a fanbase left in disarray as the team struggled to find their next answer at quarterback. The season finished on somewhat of a high note with shades of promise for the season to come. Although Wilks was not hired, another decision that split the fan base, morale was high after the team traded up to take Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick and assembled what many thought to be a powerhouse staff headed by the franchise’s first quarterback Frank Reich.
Instead, a rash of injuries and questionable coaching and lineup moves have the team limping into Week 11 sitting at 1-8 on the season and no 2024 first round pick. Fans are fed up, frustrating, and simply not looking to pack out Bank of America Stadium due to the product on the field. To say morale is down would be an understatement. Reich’s former boss, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay posted a video to his social media accounts dancing to “Dreams and Nightmares” in the Panthers’ visitor locker room following his team’s win. The next week, the Chicago Bears, who own the Panthers 2024 first round pick, beat Carolina and further solidified a No. 1 draft position. Reich reclaimed play calling duties from first-year offensive coordinator Thomas Brown after only three games and it’s clear that desperation is setting in as owner David Tepper grows more and more impatient.
When Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera in his second year as team owner, he said his vision for the franchise was “sustained excellence” but he has been met with mediocrity. It took a San Francisco 46ers takeover on top of a blowout to get Rhule out the paint last season and this upcoming Dallas game shares some of the same components. Nothing screams “dire straits” like a team with no identity, diminishing pride, and a fan base who’d rather watch paint dry than shuffle into the Bank painted blue and silver by Cowboys fans. Last season, Wilks implored the fans and players alike to “Protect the Bank” while Reich and Co.’s silent count preparations all but wave the white flag on a season we’d all soon forget.