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NFL: MAR 02 Scouting Combline

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After an 0-3 start to the 2023 season for the Panthers, there is a lot of vitriol from the Panthers fan base, and they are seeking to find someone to blame. After firing Matt Rhule, and hiring Frank Reich, the belief was that the losing the franchise had endured since 2017 was going to come to an end, and the winning football that Dave Tepper promised when he bought the team, was on the horizon. While that still may be true, it is hard to see that with the current brand of football we’ve seen so far in 2023, and the schedule is not going to do them any favors with a strip to Miami looming before the bye.

Trying to find someone to blame can be an exhausting thing to do in sports, but that is exactly what Wes & Walker did earlier today on WFNZ, after asking Panther fans who they think is most responsible for the current state of the Panthers. The overwhelming answer was General Manager Scott Fitterer, who has been with Carolina since 2021. Since being the GM, the Panthers have made over 15 trades, involving either players or draft picks, which is among the highest in the NFL. Noteworthy trades include trading away a third-round pick for CJ Henderson, a sixth-round pick for Stephon Gilmore, whom they wouldn’t resign, and of course, trading up to draft Bryce Young. But it isn’t just the trades that have the fan base after his job, not paying Hassan Reddick and D’Onta Foreman are also moves that haven’t sat well with the Panthers faithful. Add to the list, that Fitterer opted not to trade away Brian Burns last season, for multiple first-round picks, and a second-round pick, and hasn’t signed him to a long-term contract, it’s easy to see why the blame falls largely on his shoulders.

There is an apparent lack of depth on the Panthers roster, and when you look at the amount of draft capital Fitterer has given up, combined with misses in the draft, it’s easy to understand why. The injuries this team is currently facing would hinder just about any team in the NFL, but it’s Fitterer’s job to build a roster to navigate a 17-game schedule. So far he hasn’t been able to do that.

For the first two years that Fitterer was with the team, he was handicapped by Matt Rhule having 51% say of the roster, and in many situations, having the final say on roster decisions. So it’s hard to determine what guys Fitterer is responsible for, and what players are Rhule’s guys, but nonetheless, this roster isn’t talented enough, or deep enough to compete in the NFC South. And you could argue, with the way his 2023 draft class and the free agents have performed so far, that he may have missed on more guys than he could afford.

Only time will tell if this roster will be able to fulfill the vision that Fitterer had when he put it together over the off-season, but if he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be back with the organization in 2024.

You can catch the Wes & Walker Show, every weekday from 12- PM, on Sports Radio 92.7 WFNZ, and the WFNZ app.