(On Tuesday afternoon, fellow Carolina Panthers fan Todd Bergman texted me “what the fuck.” I didn’t know what he meant, so I just responded with a series of question marks. That’s when he told me that the Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin. I read the news for myself, I checked the reactions on Twitter, and I continued to text with TBerg. But this trade, and Panthers decisions ever since Super Bowl 50, deserved more attention. So, I emailed back and forth with TBerg. Welcome to our conversation)
Lambert: I’m still trying to process this trade. It makes no sense on the surface. There has to be more to it than “we want to get faster” right?
I still think this was done to appease Mike Shula. He had too many weapons at his disposal and didn’t know how to use them all. So Marty Hurney simplified things by trading Benjamin. Now Shula only has to figure out how to use three weapons instead of four.
That’s how dumb our offensive coordinator is. And instead of bringing in someone smarter, they ship out a player. For once, an idiot coach led to a player being moved instead of the players underperforming getting the coach fired.
Bergman: When I first saw the tweet from Adam Schefter, I thought that he had gotten his information incorrectly like he did with the Luke Kuechly concussion nonsense. However, this was real and my mind was blown.
Kelvin Benjamin is my favorite player and has been since he was a tall, awkward Freshman at Florida State. He was the guy who made the catch against Auburn that finally brought FSU back to the level that they deserved to be at. He is also the guy who for a couple years now has made Cam Newton’s inaccuracy issues disappear.
With the trade official, the thought process of what are the Panthers going to do now becomes very real. The team is sputtering on offense and many of us are calling for Mike Shula’s head because it is painfully obvious, his schemes are no longer original. Teams are loading up for the run game and daring Cam Newton to throw over top or make accurate throws into tight windows. The word from Hurney is that the “team wants to get faster.” The available options for replacements are very small.
Greg Olsen is still out and he can take some of the tougher inside routes that Benjamin ran but the ability to go over top the defense comes down to the following people: Kaelin Clay, Curtis Samuel, Russell Shepard, Damiere Byrd (IR) and of course Christian McCaffrey. I also question the drafting of Curtis Samuel right (I did so on draft night as well) after McCaffrey. Both guys, thus far have been used in the same role as McCaffrey, who has had no success running the ball and also has not been a home run option like they thought. Seriously though, tell me a time this year that he has broke a tackle or run away from people.
I completely understand what he is saying but the execution of this is beyond mind numbing. This is not like when the Panthers cut Josh Norman because they still had the preseason to practice and get used to live without him. This move happens on a Tuesday when the defending NFC Champions are coming to town on Sunday.
Lambert: The theory amongst outsiders is that the Panthers had similar players in Funchess and Benjamin. While that’s true, why make this trade now and why only reach out to Buffalo? That’s the baffling part. They could have rode out the season with Benjamin, who is Cam’s must trusted target, and gotten the same, if not more value out of him in the offseason.
And if you’re making this deal now, why only talk to Buffalo and come away with less than teams are getting for a backup quarterback? If Benjamin is available, make him available to everyone. That’s just your due diligence as general manager. If you’re willing to part with a guy, you don’t limit yourself to trading him to one place. You see what else is out there and take the best offer.
I understand the “more speed” theory. But this could have been done with Benjamin on team. You can replace Funchess with Shepard or Samuel for a few plays. They were running deep shots to Funchess all game against Tampa Bay. Just take him out and run the same route for Shepard, while keeping Benjamin on the field. Or take Benjamin out for the play. There are ways to add speed without sacrificing your length for nothing.
Bergman: You have to think that Hurney is hoping that this shakes up the offense enough to get them going in the right direction. It is hard to say if such a brazen move will work out. Funchess has better stats this year than Benjamin but overall Benjamin has dwarfed Devin’s stats. In fact, opposing defensive players have said in the past that they didn’t even game plan for Funchess. You hope that this changes the way that defense look at Devin but I doubt that they are going to really take him serious until he proves them wrong.
The hope here is that Carolina will utilize Shepherd and McCaffrey underneath with screens and slants and then hit over the top routes with Samuel and Funchess. If you add in Ed Dickson and Greg Olsen (when he returns), you might have some sort of explosive offense. The key here is that the execution has to be here and that has always been the weakness of Cam Newton. When defenses get in his face, he accelerates his progressions and misses all of his check downs and easy reads. He won’t read this but if someone can get this message to Cam Newton, remind him that Christian McCaffrey is open underneath on almost all of the deep shots. Make it happen Cam!
Lambert: On the field, I see reasons for this trade. Off the field is where it gets tough. I know, I know. “Football is a business.” But these are still humans we’re talking about. They make connections as teammates. Benjamin was one of Newton’s best friends on the team. He’s on record as saying he doesn’t understand the trade Based on their tweets, most players weren’t happy. The hope is that everyone can put it behind them and just play football on Sunday. But it doesn’t always work like that.
The trade seemed to blindside the coaching staff, at least Ron Rivera, as well.
Bergman: Maybe Hurney is looking to move into the Bills front office after this season? He seems to be very open to trading talent to them and getting very little in return. I was surprised in how Cam Newton handled this as opposed to his teammates. Cam seemed very poised and calm during his press conference and seemed like he was more focused on the upcoming game then talking about the trade. His teammates on the other hand, were very vocal about this on social media and like you said, you hope that they can bond together and get past what happened on Tuesday. Sunday is a massive game for the Panthers and they cannot afford to fall any further back in the NFC South race.
Lambert: I think the Bills are happy with Beane. And it’s becoming more and more apparent that Hurney will have the “interim” tag removed from his name during the offseason. An interim general manager doesn’t make this move.
I’m worried about Sunday. The defense will need to be lights out again because I can’t see the offense scoring more than a touchdown.