Christian McCaffrey To The Niners

A couple of weeks ago when the Carolina Panthers fired coach Matt Rhule, I wondered aloud if that meant the team was going to do a complete teardown and start over sort of thing.  It surely looked as if the team needed help in lots of areas, but there were two question marks that did not make it clear to me what the team direction would be:

  1. The GM that assembled the current iteration of the Carolina Panthers – the roster that has multiple areas of need – is still on the job.  So, is he ego-invested in the current roster to the point that the team would try to resolve its problems with a patchwork approach?
  2. The owner appears to be a well-intentioned and impatient man.  When he hired Rhule, he gave him a 7-year contract and said then that he and the team were embarking on a 5-year plan to become annual contenders.  Nonetheless, that 5-year plan was abandoned in less than two-and-a-half years; so, might an impatient owner be unwilling to watch his team “bottom out” for a year or two on the way to becoming an annual contender?

The decisions to jettison Robbie Anderson and then to trade away Christian McCaffrey indicate that the owner is OK with the idea of a tear-down/rebuild project for the team.  Anderson and the coaches got themselves crosswise during a game and Anderson was sent to the locker room by the head coach.  It is nearly impossible to walk back from that sort of confrontation; and at the same time, whatever happened to cause that situation to obtain diminished Anderson’s trade value significantly.  The Panthers’ brass took what they could get – – a 6th-round pick in 2024 and a 7th-round pick in 2025.  Those are slim pickings.

Then came the “big one”.  Christian McCaffrey is a valuable asset.  If you want to nitpick McCaffrey’s value, you would have to point to the fact that he has had injury issues for the last couple of seasons; but when healthy, he has All-Pro level seasons on the record.  Last week, the Panthers sent McCaffrey to the Niners in exchange for 4 draft picks – – a second, third and fourth round pick is 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024.

That transaction says to me that the “strategy folks” in Carolina are looking to the future and that their vision of the future is not just to take a nip and a tuck on the fabric of the team.  Here is why I think that way:

  • Assuming that the “strategy folks” have some level of faith in their scouts and talent evaluators, the four draft picks they just got for McCaffrey should produce 3 players for the roster.  It would be hugely optimistic to plan for even one of them to be an All-Pro caliber player, but three competent players is not an unrealistic expectation.
  • Also, barring a miraculous finish to the 2022 season, the Panthers will also be in the market for a new head coach in January 2023.  Having all of that extra “draft capital” should make the job in Carolina a bit more attractive to top-shelf candidates once the owner goes on the “interview circuit”.

Before anyone thinks that I see smooth sailing ahead for the Panthers, the team still needs a QB.  Ever since Cam Newton’s body broke down on him, the Panthers have been looking for a competent replacement.  That competent replacement does not appear to be on the current roster so the strategic direction for the team comes to the fore once again.

  • Is there sufficient patience to develop a young QB who can grow into something more than a journeyman status along with a bunch of young teammates?
  • We shall see…

What that trade tells me about the Niners is that their strategic plan is “Super Bowl in Feb 2023 or Bust”.  When I read the teams of the trade, I wondered why the Panthers did not get a first round pick as part of the mix; well, the reason the Niners did not offer up a first round pick is because they have already traded it away for 2023 in the deal that allowed them to move up in the draft to take Trey Lance.

Another aspect of this trade from the Niners’ perspective is that this move prevents the Rams from acquiring McCaffrey.  There were plenty of rumors floating around that the Rams were interested in making a deal with the Panthers and it is plenty clear that the Rams could use an upgrade at RB.  So, perhaps an element of the Niners’ thinking involved making the trade to prevent a division rival from acquiring an asset that it needs.

Trading away – – and therefore also trading for – – an excellent RB who still has mileage on the tires is not commonplace.  I tried to come up with comparable exchanges in recent years and the best I could come up with took me back more than a few years:

  • Jerome Bettis went from the Rams to the Steelers
  • Eric Dickerson went from the Rams to the Colts.
  • Marshall Faulk went from the Colts to the Rams

I am sure there are other examples that I have not dredged up from my memory, but I will note that looking only at that list, every one of those trades worked out well for the “acquiring team”.

Finally, Christian McCaffrey is on his way back to California where he went to college at Stanford.  So, let me close with this comment on “California” from humorist Ian Shoales:

“Most people in California come from somewhere else.  They moved to California so they could name their kids Rainbow or Mailbox, and purchase tubular Swedish furniture without getting laughed at.  It’s a tenet also in California that the fiber of your clothing is equivalent to your moral fiber.  Your ‘lifestyle’ (as they say) is your ethic.  This means that in California you don’t really have to do anything, except look healthy, think good thoughts and pat yourself on the back about what a good person you are.  And waiters in California want to be called by their first name.  I don’t know why.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Christian McCaffrey To The Niners”

    1. Doug:

      I always thought they were addressing me as “Hon” – – short for “Honey” as opposed to “Hun”. I think I prefer “Hun”…

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