When things go wrong for a football team and no light at the end of the tunnel appears in sight, one of two things usually happens: They either dig down deep and find a way to battle back to the high ground, or they simply give up.
The signs of a team that has up and ‘quit’ – on themselves, on their season, perhaps even their head coach – are plain to see. Players don’t prepare for their opponents and lethargically go through the motions. They play well below the level at which they are capable of playing. And in the very ugliest instances where a team quits, certain players begin acting in mutiny trying to get their head coach fired.
It’s something that can happen to any team in the league – And it’s something that Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had better not see from his locker room.
“There is no quit in this team, and as one of the veteran players, I better not see it,” said Davis in a report by Bill Voth of the Panthers. “Not gonna happen around here.”
Although many fans across the Carolinas are down on this current Panthers team, they are far from a team that has absolutely no hope. There have been two completely hopeless teams in franchise history: The 2001 Panthers that lost every game following a season-opening victory to go 1-15, and the 2010 Panthers that went 2-14 and became the worst team in the league.
The 2018 Panthers don’t even remotely resemble the ’01 or ’10 squad – Not even close, given that they are still alive in an NFC Wild Card race that is beginning to look like a race to the bottom seemingly no one wants to win. With that in mind, plus strong leadership from a veteran core, there’s no reason for the team to throw their hands up and declare themselves finished.
“That’s never going to be an issue with this team. Guys are going to play hard regardless of where the situation is with the season,” said linebacker Luke Kuechly, per Max Henson of the Panthers.
“We’re coming in with the same mindset every week to take it right at them,” said tight end Ian Thomas. “Hopefully we’ll come out with the win next weekend.”
“We’re going to play hard and continue to stick together,” said defensive end Julius Peppers. “We are going to keep trying to get it right.”
That isn’t the sound of a team that has given up, or one that has a weak locker room. And for the sake of their pride, the Panthers cannot simply roll over and die given that their next opponent is the New Orleans Saints, who swept them in 2017 and giddily rubbed it in their faces afterwards.
With the Panthers lying on the ground and up against an opponent eager to rub their face in the dirt, the way the Panthers respond on Monday Night Football will define their 2018 season.