Once the Super Bowl bunting comes down, the last piece of ticker tape is swept up and the final member of the Kelce family is waved out of town, the real business of cleaning up in NFL circles begins.

As one cycle reaches a conclusion, another is immediately opened.

In the ‘what have you done for me lately’ world of modern sport, there is little room for sentiment and reflection when future goals forever overshadow past achievements.

For the vast majority of those in the National Football League, with only so many championship rings to go around, February is a time for throwing things forward.

Forgettable

Unless the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been hoisted aloft during an open-top bus parade, the thawing of a long, cold winter brings with it an opportunity to wipe collective slates clean.

That will be the case for 31 franchises, with some in need of a more severe spring clean than others.

The Carolina Panthers fall into the category of deep scrub, with another forgettable campaign in 2023 reaching a 2-15 conclusion while rooted to the foot of the NFC South.

Six years have come and gone since a playoff berth was secured, with a passionate and loyal fan base being given little to get excited about.

That remains the case on the field, with the Carolina Panthers post-season drought suggesting that times may get even tougher before shoots of recovery are found.

Supporters will, however, have the opportunity to wrestle between emotions driven by heart and head in the 2024-25 season as North Carolina legalizes sports gambling – with an extra layer of intrigue being added to the competitive action any given Sunday.

Maybe the somewhat toothless Panthers will rediscover their bite, with another change in the head coaching department intended to deliver both short and long-term gains.

Owner David Tepper has said when handing the reins to Dave Canales: “I’d like to have a coach here for 20 years or 30 years, you know, if I can do that. I do have patience. My reputation away from this game is one for extreme patience.”

Said patience has been pushed to the breaking point of late, but corners are there to be turned.

The Panthers also have history when it comes to enjoying a reversal in fortune with a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback under center.

Hope

Cam Newton once filled that role and suffered two losing seasons at the start of his NFL career before spreading his Superman cape and soaring into the playoffs.

He did win an Offensive Rookie of the Year award along the way, but also lost a lot more games than he won through his opening 24 months in the big leagues.

The Panthers have trodden a familiar path since then, with another No.1 overall pick falling their way in the 2023 Draft, and Bryce Young can still be polished into something more refined than a rather rugged rough diamond.

Now is the time for hope, with there no opponents on hand to dash those dreams until the autumn, and while the Panthers have been caged for too long, history dictates that they can find a way of fleeing that trap and extending a season beyond the first week of a new calendar year.

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