The first three wins were enjoyable, as they gave a new team the confidence they desperately needed, after the previous season had derailed.
But they were also needed, as a new coach was working to set his program, instill his philosophy, and start sifting through the stack to see who would help him implement it.
Then things got weird, then things got worse. And while that was happening, it was hard to tell when it was going to end, even though there was an underlying feeling that something bigger was happening.
If this sounds familiar to Panthers fans, it should be, as the 2020 season so far is remarkably similar to how things turned out for the 2002 Panthers.
First-year head coach John Fox inherited a bit of a mess, rebuilt himself and leaned on a competent side of the ball, and knew he should hang on and hope until that time and more people help him fix the other side.
The fact that they started 3-0, then suffered an eight-game losing streak, creates a roadmap for first-year head coach Matt Rhule as he looks at a 3-7 record. and a five-game losing streak.
Rhule can only hope it turns out as well, as a late flurry to close the 2002 season propelled the Panthers to a Super Bowl the following year.
“I think as a player in this dressing room we felt like we were lucky to be a good team, and that we were on the verge of something,” said former Panthers goaltender Kevin Donnalley. “We had some success at the start, then we got lost a bit.
“It’s kind of like what these guys are going through right now. You can tell they are competing, you can tell they have a plan, but the margin of error for us and for them is so small. . “