I have to respect Ryan Kalil. The Panthers’ center, and a three-time Pro Bowler, made the guarantee, with a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s Charlotte Observer, that the Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl this year.
That was a brave statement, and was probably good for a few laughs around the National Football League, but if Kalil and the rest of his teammates actually believe what he said, that’s an improvement over the past several years.
The Panthers do believe it, at least publicly. Head coach Ron Rivera, linebacker Jon Beason and defensive end Charles Johnson all affirmed, to the Associated Press, that they’re behind Kalil taking out the advertisement and, more importantly, they agree with its content, though none of them are quoted explicitly echoing Kalil’s statement: “The Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII.”
The Panthers have had two winning seasons since 2003, the year Carolina lost to New England in the Super Bowl. That time span is an eternity in football years and, aside from acquiring quarterback Cam Newton in the 2011 NFL Draft and ditching the dead weight that was Jake Delhomme, the Panthers haven’t done much to inspire confidence in their fan base. They have been one of the most defensively challenged teams in the league and both the offensive and defensive lines have appeared to crumble under the slightest amount of pressure.
Kalil’s pronouncement may have changed that perception, or it at least got the idea into people’s minds that the Panthers believe they can make the 2012 season worth paying attention to.
Kalil’s advertisement will fade into the background of all discussions about the Panthers rather quickly. To anyone who isn’t a Panthers fan, Kalil probably sounds like a lunatic. He might be, but he had the fortitude to make a promise, but the time is fast approaching to make good on it.
Kalil chose to make his statement just two and a half weeks ahead of the first preseason game against the Houston Texans. The idea that the Panthers will be a contender may set in during that time in the mind of the team, but the real test won’t come until Carolina opens the regular season at Tampa Bay on September 9.
The following two weeks’ games against New Orleans and the New York Giants in Charlotte will be the greatest test in determining if the Panthers are a championship-quality team.
If the Panthers get hosed by both the Saints and the Giants, then the joke is on them.
If they’re able to win one, or both of those games, there is potential for postseason run.
Michael Gebelein is sports editor of the Lincoln Times-News.