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The Carolina Panthers are a Professional American football team based in Charlotte, North Carolinamarker, representing North Carolinamarker and South Carolinamarker in the National Football League. They are currently members of the South Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Panthers, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, joined the NFL as expansion teams in 1995. In their 14 years of existence, the Panthers have compiled a record of 115–121, and appeared in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houstonmarker, Texasmarker.

Franchise history

Origins: 1987–1994

In 1987, shortly after it was decided that Charlotte would receive an expansion National Basketball Association franchise (the Charlotte Hornets, now known as the New Orleans Hornets), former Baltimore Colts player Jerry Richardson met with a group of potential backers to discuss the possibility of bringing an NFL expansion team to the Carolina region. Richardson Sports decided upon a spot in the uptown section of Charlotte to build a privately financed stadium seating more than 70,000 fans.

Richardson's announcement created a buzz in the region, as politicians, businessmen, and citizens all joined together to show the NFL that a team could be supported in the area. United States Senators Jesse Helms of North Carolinamarker and Ernest Hollings of South Carolinamarker put aside their partisan differences to lobby NFL owners to support the expansion. Meanwhile, North Carolina Governor James G. Martin and South Carolina Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. created a committee of citizens from North and South Carolina to help the cause. Preseason games were held in the region in 1989, 1990, and 1991; all of the games were sold out as part of the fans' efforts to show their support.

In 1992, the NFL released the list of five areas open to a potential NFL team: Baltimoremarker, Marylandmarker; St. Louis, Missourimarker; Memphis, Tennesseemarker; Jacksonville, Floridamarker; and the Carolinas, represented by Charlottemarker. After the vote was delayed because of a dispute between the players and the league, the race began again in 1993. In June of that year, Richardson Sports announced that they would finance the stadium through the sale of Permanent Seat Licenses, club seats, and luxury boxes. In a stunning show of fan support, all seats were sold out by the end of the first day.

The feasibility of the team was no longer a question, but it was still up to the league to decide where the team would go. On October 26, 1993, the league announced that the owners had unanimously voted for the Carolinas to receive the 29th franchise, the first new NFL team since 1976 (Jacksonville was named the 30th team a month later). Fans all over the region celebrated with fireworks. In a memorable moment during the expansion announcement conference, Richardson spoke directly into the camera to thank the 40,000 people who had purchased the PSLs and allowing the stadium to be built without a burden to the taxpayers.

Even though St. Louis and Baltimore lost out on their expansion bids, they eventually acquired new teams: the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. And as the result of the 1996 Cleveland Browns relocation controversy, the Baltimore Ravens were established by the league as technically a new expansion team. Memphis also temporarily received a team when the Houston Oilers relocated in 1997 to Tennessee, intending to play the 1997 and 1998 seasons in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadiummarker while what is now called LP Fieldmarker in Nashville was being constructed.

Capers era: 1995–1998

The Panthers signed Dom Capers, former defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as their inaugural head coach. During the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft, Rod Smith was the first player selected by the Panthers. Greg Kragen, Jack Trudeau, and Mark Carrier were among the other players selected. Bill Goldberg was picked up off the roster of the Atlanta Falcons, but made Panther history by being the first player cut by the Panthers; Goldberg would later go on to much greater fame as a professional wrestler for WCW and WWF. During the 1995 NFL Draft, the Panthers made their first significant addition (in terms of long-term contributions to the team) by drafting Penn Statemarker quarterback Kerry Collins. Upon entering the NFL in 1995, the Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars set about building their respective squads with a luxury not afforded to previous expansion teams, i.e. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks: free agency. The Panthers made excellent use of the tool, picking up wide receiver Don Beebe, linebacker Sam Mills, and placekicker John Kasay. , Kasay is the only remaining "Original Panther" from the inaugural season. Defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina, another inaugural Panther still in the league, was on the Houston Texans' roster at the start of the 2007 season.

The Panthers became only the second expansion team (besides the Minnesota Vikings in 1961) to win their first game, winning the annual completely meaningless exhibition Hall of Fame Game against the fellow expansion Jacksonville Jaguars 20–14 on July 29, 1995 (a game known as the "Battle of the Big Cats," due to the similar nicknames of the franchises). The home games that first season were played at Clemson Universitymarker, as the stadium was still under construction. This made the Panthers the only sports team in one of the Big Four leagues ever based out of South Carolina, even if only for one year. The Panthers first regular season game was against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Domemarker. The Panthers scored on their first three possessions to take a 13–0 lead before the Falcons rallied to win 23–20. The Panthers first home game (in Clemson) was a 31–10 loss to the St. Louis Rams. The Panthers won their first game against the New York Jets 26–15 on October 15, 1995, after Sam Mills returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown. Later that year, the Panthers stunned the league by not only winning four consecutive games (an expansion team record), but defeating the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers, 13–7, the first time an expansion team had beaten the reigning champs. The Panthers finished their season 7–9, more than doubling the previous record of a first year expansion team (and far surpassing the 0–14 record of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their inaugural season).

In the 1996 draft, the Panthers used their first pick on running back Tim Biakabutuka, and their second pick on wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. During the off-season, they also picked up quarterback Steve Beuerlein, tight end Wesley Walls, and linebacker Kevin Greene. The second year proved even better than the first, as the players found a groove and rattled off a seven-game winning streak to end the season and took the top spot in the NFC West. They beat the Dallas Cowboys 26–17 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 30–13 in the NFC Championship. Their fellow second-year expansion team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, played in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots but lost 20–6; the NFL nearly had an all-expansion Super Bowl. Panthers fans took it in stride, however, as the team had made massive improvement from the year before, and the team was represented at the Pro Bowl by eight players, including Collins, Kasay, Greene, Mills, Walls, Michael Bates, Eric Davis, and Lamar Lathon.

The Panthers fully expected to return to the NFC title game in 1997, but a 2–4 start quickly began to cloud the minds of Carolina fans. Meanwhile, the Panthers became known as much for their problems off the field as they did on. Wide receiver Rae Carruth, taken with their first pick of the 1997 Draft, was arrested in 1999 for conspiring to murder his pregnant girlfriend. He was later convicted, and is serving his sentence in Raleigh, North Carolinamarker. Star quarterback Kerry Collins was dealing with alcoholism, and was accused of making racial comments about teammates (notably Muhsin Muhammad). Collins was later released following the 1998 season. Former running back Fred Lane was shot and killed by his wife during a domestic dispute in 2000, after signing with the Indianapolis Colts.

Seifert era: 1999–2001

After Dom Capers was let go following a 4–12 season in 1998, the Panthers hired George Seifert as the team's second head coach. Seifert had won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and had a reputation for winning with talented and experienced teams. His first season, 1999, the Panthers finished with an 8–8 record and missed out on a wildcard playoff berth through a complicated tiebreaker based on total points scored. His second season saw the Panthers finish 7–9.

Seifert's third and final season, 2001, was a disaster. The team released veteran quarterback Steve Beuerlein in the off-season and handed the reins to Jeff Lewis, an untested but promising quarterback obtained from the Denver Broncos. Lewis was released after several poor performances during the preseason that left the Panthers with rookie quarterback Chris Weinke under center. Weinke had won the Heisman Trophy leading Florida State to a national championship in college but was unable to duplicate that level of success in the NFL. The Panthers won their opening game against the Vikings, where third round rookie WR Steve Smith returned the opening kickoff. Seifert was fired the day after the 2001 season ended and the team then set out to find its third head coach. Although his final season was the worst in team history, George Seifert did help select several outstanding players in the 2001 NFL Draft including Dan Morgan, Kris Jenkins and Steve Smith who have earned several Pro Bowl berths and All-Pro awards while playing for the Panthers. Smith is considered one of the most electrifying and explosive wide receivers in the game today.

Fox era: 2002–present

After being turned down by Steve Spurrier and Tony Dungy for the head coach job, the Panthers hired New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox as the team's third head coach. Fox was known for defensive discipline and it would be needed to improve a team that had finished in the bottom of the defensive rankings the previous year.


Fox looked to the 2002 NFL Draft to begin revamping the franchise, starting with the second overall pick; Julius Peppers. Peppers was a dominating defensive end at the University of North Carolinamarker and he was a solid fit for Fox's defensive plan. The Panthers also picked up linebacker Will Witherspoon and running back DeShaun Foster in the draft. Peppers combined with fellow defensive end Mike Rucker and defensive tackles Brentson Buckner and Kris Jenkins to form what many football experts called the best defensive line in the game. Meanwhile, Mike Minter anchored the secondary, while Witherspoon (affectionately called "Spoon" by fans & teammates) and Mark Fields led the linebacker corps. Fox's defense-first philosophy worked well as the Panthers improved to 7–9 and posted the second-best overall defense in the league including allowing a league-low 3.69 yards per rushing attempt.

2003: The Cardiac Cats

The 2003 season began with the Panthers drafting several young prospects, including Ricky Manning, Jr. at cornerback, and Jordan Gross at offensive tackle. In addition, quarterback Jake Delhomme, running back Stephen Davis, and wide receiver Ricky Proehl were signed in the off-season, making additions to an offense that needed to complement a top-ranked defense. The team was not without tragedy, however, as it was revealed that former linebacker and coach Sam Mills was diagnosed with intestinal cancer; additionally, linebacker Mark Fields was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. The season seemingly was off to a bad start, as the the Panthers were booed off the field entering halftime. John Fox then decided to bench Rodney Peete in favor of the then-backup Jake Delhomme. By the time he came in, the Panthers were down 17-3. Delhomme then rallied the team back, and with 16 seconds left on a 4th down, Ricky Proehl caught a 12-yard pass for the touchdown and the win. The following week, Carolina defeated the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. After a last-second touchdown pass, the Bucs tied the game 9-9, and with the extra point would have the win. However, the Panthers blocked the extra point to force overtime, where they eventually won 12-9. The Panthers won their first 5 games, and finished the season with an 11-5 record and the NFC South championship.

In the playoffs, they easily defeated the Cowboys 29–10 in a home wild-card game before facing the St. Louis Rams in the divisional playoff game in the Edward Jones Domemarker. Carolina had an 11-point lead in the last 3 minutes of play, but a touchdown from Marshall Faulk, a successful two point conversion, and an onside kick that led to a field goal tied the game and sent it to overtime. Both John Kasay and Jeff Wilkins missed potential game-winning kicks in the first overtime, and Jake Delhomme hit Steve Smith on a 69-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the 2nd overtime to win the game, 29–23, sending the Panthers into the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, led by Donovan McNabb, were in the NFC title match for the 3rd year in a row, but lost it as the Panthers shut down the Eagles offense and, with a 14–3 victory, headed to their first Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

At Super Bowl XXXVIII, neither team was able to put up points in the first quarter, and the game remained scoreless until near the end of the first half. However, 24 points were scored in the last 5 minutes of the first half, and the score going into halftime was 14–10 New England. The third quarter was also scoreless and it wasn't until late in the game that things heated up once again. The teams traded leads numerous times in the highest-scoring fourth quarter in Super Bowl history, including setting a record when Jake Delhomme hit Muhsin Muhammad for an 85-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. That pass made the score 22–21, Carolina and went down in the record books as the longest offensive play in Super Bowl history. After New England responded with a touchdown of their own and a 2-point conversion to make it 29–22, Carolina would storm right back to tie the game with a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left in regulation, opening the possibility to the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. However, John Kasay's kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball on their own 40-yard line. Adam Vinatieri, who had won Super Bowl XXXVI two years earlier on a last-second field goal, repeated his heroics, connecting on a 41-yarder with four seconds left, even though he had already missed two field goals in the game. This gave the Patriots their second Super Bowl win in three years. During the season, the Panthers won 7 games in the last 2 minutes or in overtime, giving them the nickname The Cardiac Cats.


The experts all picked the Panthers to repeat their 2003 season success in 2004. Having selected cornerback Chris Gamble and wide receiver Keary Colbert with their top two picks in the 2004 draft, and not having lost any core players from their Super Bowl run, the team looked ready for their 10th Anniversary season. In addition, Mark Fields, who had missed the previous season with Hodgkin's disease, returned and was ready to go. But the team suffered major injuries early on, as Steve Smith broke his leg in the season opener against Green Bay, Stephen Davis suffered a knee injury before the second game of the season, and Kris Jenkins had shoulder problems that benched him for the season, the Panthers had problems early on. In fact, the Panthers had 14 players on injured reserve, including their top four running backs, more than any other team. This led to a 1–7 start, and people began wondering if they would repeat the 1–15 season of 2001. However, backup fullback Nick Goings stepped up to the challenge with five 100-yd rushing games, Keary Colbert played better than most rookies thrown into the #2 receiver spot, and the defense held together despite the injuries to help the team win 6 of their last 8 games, and the Panthers barely missed the playoffs after losing a close game on a 60 yard field goal attempt that just fell short as time expired to New Orleans, finishing 7–9.

Among the other things the Panthers did in 2004 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the franchise, they named a 10th Anniversary All-Time Team (listed below). With the exception of tight end Wesley Walls, every offensive starter was on the team during their Super Bowl run of 2003. The only defensive players to make the anniversary team that played in the Super Bowl were the front four (Peppers, Rucker, Jenkins and Buckner), linebacker Dan Morgan, and safety Mike Minter. Pro Bowl punter Todd Sauerbrun made the squad as well. Naturally, kicker John Kasay made the team, since he has been the team's kicker since its inception.


Despite a home-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints to start off the 2005 season, the Panthers got revenge against the two-time defending champion New England Patriots for the loss in Super Bowl XXXVIII winning the rematch by a final score of 27–17. Despite going on the road and losing a close game to the Miami Dolphins 27–24, the Panthers managed to get a six-game winning streak going. First, they won at home on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers 32–29. Then, they squeaked out victories in their next two games, on the road against the Arizona Cardinals (24–20) and the Detroit Lions (21–20). Coming off of their Week 7 Bye, the Panthers won their home game against the Minnesota Vikings 38–13. During that game, Steve Smith, who had already emerged as one of the league's best wide receivers, had a real breakthrough, catching 11 passes for 201 yards and 1 touchdown, with his longest reception of the game being 69 yards. Jake Delhomme also enjoyed one of his best outings in years, completing 21 of 29 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, giving Delhomme a nomination for FedEx Air Player of The Week. A week later, the Panthers won against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road with a final score of 34–14, before winning at home against the New York Jets 30–3.

Their winning streak came to an end however at the hands of the Chicago Bears. The #1 defense held the Panthers to just three points, as they lost the game 13–3. A week later, they traveled to Ralph Wilson Stadiummarker to play against the Buffalo Bills. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers rallied and won 13–9, thanks to a three-yard TD pass from Jake Delhomme to TE Michael Gaines. They would go home and win the next game against division rival Atlanta Falcons 24–6, but unfortunately, the Bucs would come to town a week later and get revenge with a final of 20–10. Despite winning against the Saints 27–10, they would lose a close game to the Dallas Cowboys 24–20 after a controversial running into the kicker call. After losing to the Cowboys in the season's penultimate game, the Panthers needed a victory to secure a spot in the playoffs. They responded with a dominating New Years Day performance at the Georgia Domemarker, a 44–11 victory over the Falcons, making the score the largest margin of victory in franchise history, and the first time since 1997 that the Panthers were able to beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. With that victory, the Panthers secured themselves the NFC's #5 seed.

The Panthers began their post-season play on Sunday January 8, 2006 at Giants Stadiummarker against the New York Giants. After both sides failed to score in the first quarter, the trifecta of Jake Delhomme, DeShaun Foster, and Steve Smith showed dominance as they shut out the Giants 23–0. Carolina's coach, John Fox, used to be the defensive coordinator for the Giants when they went to the Super Bowl earlier in the decade. New York was the nation's number one television market, and the shutout in the playoffs was significant.

Their next opponent was the Chicago Bears, home to the nation's third largest television market. The Panthers defeated them at Soldier Fieldmarker with a final score of 29–21. Unaffected by the major media hype of the Bears' defense, the Panthers led throughout, starting with an incredible touchdown reception by Steve Smith, who had 12 catches for 212 yards with 2 touchdowns in Chicago. With that victory, the Panthers advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the third time in the franchise's 11-year history. However, during the Chicago game Deshaun Foster suffered a crushing ankle injury that would keep him indefinitely sidelined. Also, star defensive end Julius Peppers re-injured an ailing shoulder. The next weekend they played against the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC Championship, but injuries and playing on the road for the fourth straight week caught up with the Panthers and they came up short, losing 34–14.


Coming off a playoff season and with new acquisition Keyshawn Johnson, the Panthers sold out Bank of America Stadiummarker fifteen minutes after tickets went on sale. An early injury to Steve Smith led to a two-game losing streak, but his return coincided with a four game winning run. However, Jake Delhomme was injured soon after and lost for three games. The team finished 8–8 and missed the playoffs. Following the season, offensive coordinator Dan Henning was fired and Johnson retired and became an NFL analyst for ESPN after being released after the team drafted Dwayne Jarrett in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft.


The Panthers began the 2007 season as playoff contenders, and won their opener against the St. Louis Rams for the first time since 2003. However, the next week at home against the Houston Texans the Panthers jumped ahead 14–0 but lost 34–21, unable to fend off a relentless passing attack by the Texans. In week three against the Atlanta Falcons, Jake Delhomme had won the game, but was lost for the season with an injured elbow, which resulted in Tommy John Surgery. After a close loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 4, the Panthers got back on the winning track behind the passing arm of former Houston Texans standout QB David Carr, who drew from the playbook of his 2006 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts by engineering two 4th-quarter drives; the first for a TD, and the last to set up the game winning field goal by John Kasay to defeat the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the unpopular Carr suffered the first major injury of his career, badly injuring his back against the Saints. After returning to the game in the second half to get the win, Carr would play sparingly for the rest of the year, forcing the Panthers to rely on 44-year old Vinny Testaverde and rookie Matt Moore for the remainder of the season. The Panthers finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs again.

2008: The Rally Cats

With the help of a much improved rushing offense, the Panthers rebounded in the 2008 season, going 8–0 at home, and finishing the season with a 12–4 record. After defeating the New Orleans Saints 33–31 in the last game of the regular season, the Panthers claimed the NFC South title and a first round bye in the playoffs. However, on January 10 the Panthers' season came to a disappointing end, as they lost to the Arizona Cardinals 33–13 at Bank of America Stadium in the Divisional Playoffs.

Logos and uniforms

The Panthers logo consists of the head of a black snarling panther outlined in blue. It is shaped to resemble the combined borders of North and South Carolina. The helmets are silver, and in 2003, they changed the helmet color slightly to a more metallic shade. The team normally wears silver pants with their black jerseys, and white pants with their white jerseys. Both the black and the white jerseys have blue stripes over the shoulders. The team introduced an alternate jersey in 2002 that is blue with black shoulder stripes. Carolina debuted the alternate light blue jersey for one game at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. The alternate jersey has been worn twice a season beginning in 2003. The Panthers have worn the light blue jersey a few times on the road when the home team has chosen to wear white due to the heat, as the light blue uniforms are more comfortable in the heat than black. Carolina prefers to not wear black when the temperature is hot or not mild enough. With the league rules permitting teams to wear their third jersey twice in the regular season and once in the preseason, the Panthers reserve the use of their alternate light blue jersey for a home game when there is one or two games that they don't wear them on the road.

Like many other NFL teams located in temperate climates, the Panthers traditionally wear their white jerseys at home during the first half of the season — forcing opponents to wear their dark ones under the warm autumns in Charlotte. When it gets to the second half of the season the Panthers will start to wear their colored jerseys for home games as temperatures will be more mild.

The team's uniforms prompted a 2003 lawsuit by the Oakland Raiders, who claimed that the NFL and the Panthers had infringed upon key trademark elements of the Raiders' brand, specifically the silver and black colors. In the same suit, the Raiders challenged the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1997 uniform design, including the pirate logo. The Raiders wanted the courts to bar the Buccaneers and Panthers from wearing their uniforms while playing in California. However, since the lawsuit was filed in a state California court, the lawsuit was tossed out because only federal courts have jurisdiction over intellectual property issues. The Raiders have yet to appeal the ruling.

The Panthers have played in ten postseason games, wearing the white jerseys in all but their most recent. Two of those games were at home against the Dallas Cowboys, making the Cowboys wear their "unlucky" road navy-blue jerseys, as the Cowboys are one of three teams who routinely wear their white uniforms at home.

Season-by-season records

Players of note

Current roster

Hall of Honor

The Panthers Ring of Honor was started in 1997.

Retired Numbers

Pro Football Hall of Famers

10-year anniversary team

Source: 10 Year Anniversary, (URL last accessed December 26, 2008)



Special Teams

Coaches of note

Head coaches

Name Years Won Lost Ties Winning % Playoffs Awards
Dom Capers 30 34 0 .469 1–1
George Seifert 16 32 0 .333
John Fox –present 68 52 0 .571 5–3

Offensive Coordinators

Defensive Coordinators

Current staff

Franchise traditions

Fight song

When the Panthers started in 1995, fans would sing the official Carolina Panther Fight Song "Stand and Cheer" (composed by Duane Evans) every time the team would score. As the first season was played at Clemson Universitymarker, many fans felt that the song was reminiscent of the collegiate atmosphere those games had.

The fight song only lasted a few years before being officially retired. Officials with the Panthers organization said that they received a large number of fan complaints regarding the fight song. The fight song was revised, although in an abbreviated version, during the first preseason game of 2006. It was used throughout the remainder of the season. Currently, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond is played and sung by fans after every home victory.

Growl Towel

Growl Towel (1996–1997 then called the "Prowl Towel") is the nickname adopted by fans that refers to small, terry-cloth towels that are waved or spun in the air during football games. The towels are similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terrible Towel, but in Panthers team colors (also white in more recent years).

Radio and television

The Panthers' flagship radio stations are WBTmarker in Charlotte and WBT-FMmarker in Chester, S.C.marker The announcing team consists of Mick Mixon, Eugene Robinson and Jim Szoke. Most preseason and regular season games are locally broadcast by Charlotte's Fox affiliate, WCCBmarker channel 18. The exceptions are when one of their preseason games gets nationally televised on a network other than Fox, in the regular season when they host an AFC team in the afternoon (in which case the game would be on WBTVmarker, the CBS affiliate), or when one of their regular season games is in primetime.

Notes and references

External links

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