So what do the Carolina Panthers need to do this offseason to get back to the playoffs?
If you ask quarterback Jake Delhomme, not a whole lot
"I do think we have some talent on this team," Delhomme said. "I do think we need to add some pieces. I don't think there's any doubt we need to add some pieces here or there. I think we have some young guys who know how to play. I don't think we're that far off."
So what pieces?
"I think we probably need a playmaker (on offense)," Delhomme said. "I think we have a great one (in Steve Smith), but with a little help, he would be even better. I think it was evident the time he had some other help around him."
Although he wouldn't get into specifics, Panthers coach John Fox agreed with Delhomme's assessment and even went a step further.
"Well, I'd like to see more than one," Fox said. "We made decisions last year that, maybe in our minds at that point, thought they were more playmakers, and it didn't turn out that way. I can see why Jake might have said that. I would be interested in that, too."
After the NFL draft, the Panthers cut wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson largely because they felt they'd drafted a couple of playmakers in Dwayne Jarrett and Ryne Robinson. But both were slow to pick up offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson's scheme.
That left the Panthers with veterans Keary Colbert and Drew Carter.
Colbert floundered again, finishing with 32 receptions before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. Carter flashed some big-play ability, but shaky hands.
Jarrett, in particular, was viewed as the guy who would take over for Johnson as the No. 2 receiver.
He finished the season with just six catches for 73 yards and no touchdowns this season as the Panthers went 7-9.
"Well, you draft young players to come into this league -- all 32 teams do, not just us -- and some of them work out better than others," Fox said. "Not that Dwayne was a disappointment by any stretch. I think he's a young player, even young for a rookie. He should have been finishing up his senior year in college. I think the guy has got skills and ability and hopefully he hones those in as we move forward."
As for offensive tackle Jordan Gross, he thinks stability at quarterback is what the Panthers lacked this season.
Delhomme had elbow surgery in October and is slated to be ready to go in training camp in July.
"I think if we can stick with the same guy behind center all year that will (make) a difference," Gross said. "Losing Jake really hurt us. The guys that stepped in did a nice job but you want to go with your starter. I'm excited to see him come back next year with a brand-new elbow and feeling good. We really missed him on the field, but off as well, just his leadership."
Gross said it's hard to put into words just how difficult it is to lose your quarterback and team leader.
"Just the rhythm and timing and cadence, everything," Gross said. "We had a lot of false starts when we had Vinny (Testaverde) in there just because we weren't used to him and connecting with receivers. That's why the quarterback is the most popular guy on the team because he has the most important job. That was evident this year."