The Carolina Panthers are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The Carolina Panthers play in the National Football Conference (NFC) South Division with three other teams: the Atlanta Falcons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers have not won any Super Bowl Championships. Bank of America Stadium, located in Charlotte, North Carolina hosts all Carolina Panthers home games.
In 1995, the NFL granted an NFL expansion franchise to the City of Charlotte. A buzz had taken hold of the Charlotte, North Carolina area following the 1987 establishment of the NBA basketball team Charlotte Hornets. At that time, Richardson Sports Group, run by former professional football player Jerry Richardson, started a campaign to bring a professional football team to the area and announced a plan to construct a privately financed outdoor stadium that would seat up to 70,000 fans. Local businessmen and politicians worked closely with Richardson Sports to prove to the NFL that the area could afford and aggressively support a professional football team in the Charlotte area. In 1992, the NFL began its search and after much deliberation and in-fighting, the NFL granted the 29th franchise to Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte became the first new franchise in the NFL since 1976. An amazing 40,000 individuals purchased private seat licenses to enable the Charlotte plan to proceed without over-extending the burden to the public. That same year, the NFL awarded the 30th franchise to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Carolina Panthers first head coach was Dom Capers. The first team consisted of players signed through free agency, players drafted through an NFL expansion draft consisting of NFL players who were left “unrestricted” by their current NFL teams, and players drafted through the traditional NFL draft. As expected the Carolina Panthers had a losing record in their first season, but in their second season, the Carolina Panthers finished in first place in the NFC West with a 12-4 record. The Carolina Panthers made it to the playoffs for the first time in their history and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 26-17 in the Divisional round of the playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, the surprise season came to an end when the Carolina Panthers lost to the Green Bay Packers 30-13. Ironically, that same season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the other team granted an NFL franchise in 1995, lost in their Conference Championship game to the New England Patriots 20-6. Both losses precluded the opportunity for the Super Bowl to match up two 2nd year NFL franchises. For the next 6 seasons, the Carolina Panthers did not record a winning season. The low point came in 2001 when they won only 1 game the entire season. After that disappointing season, the Carolina Panthers fired head coach George Seifert, the former San Francisco 49ers head coach, and hired the talented young defensive coordinator from the New York Giants, John Fox. Fox immediately turned things around by building a solid athletic defense that would keep the Carolina Panthers in many low-scoring affairs. And although the team still finished with a losing 7-9 record in 2002, the foundation was laid for a team that was rising to the top. In 2003, the Carolina Panthers solid defensive play was again the focus of the team. But the Panthers added some weapons on offense in the off-season – Quarterback Jake Delhomme, Running Back Stephen Davis and Wide Receiver Ricky Proehl – which allowed the team to perform more consistently on offense each and every week. After a thrilling 4th quarter comeback victory in the first game of the season, the Carolina Panthers played with newly instilled confidence and started the season with 5 straight wins. The Carolina Panthers finished atop the NFC South with an 11-5 record and made the playoffs for the second time in the team’s short history. In the playoffs, the Carolina Panthers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 29-10 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Carolina Panthers then met the high-powered St. Louis Rams offense in the Divisional round of the playoffs. After blowing an 11- point 4th quarter lead and surviving the first 15 minute overtime period without a score, the Carolina Panthers scored on the first offensive play of the 2nd overtime period when Jake Delhomme fired a strike to Steve Smith to win the game 29-23. The next week, the Carolina Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 14-3 in the NFC Championship Game, which ended the Philadelphia Eagles season in the NFC Championship Game for the 3rd consecutive year. That victory enabled the Carolina Panthers to advance to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
In Super Bowl XXXVIII, the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29, when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal with only 4 seconds left to break the 29-29 tie. After an uneventful 3 quarters of play, both offenses exploded in the 4th quarter when they exchanged leads numerous times. The Carolina Panthers completed the longest offensive play in NFL Super Bowl history when Jake Delhomme hit Muhsin Muhammad for an 85-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Panthers a 22-21 lead. The Patriots answered with a touchdown and 2-point conversion of their own, to give the Patriots a 7 point lead. Jake Delhomme led the Panthers back down the field to tie the game at 29 with a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl. When, Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff, it gave the Patriots excellent field position, from which they easily moved down the field to set up Adam Vinatieri’s game winning kick.
Although Super Bowl XXXVIII was a fun and exciting game to watch for its play on the field, it will be most remembered for the halftime show when Janet Jackson exposed her breast during her song and dance routine. That “wardrobe malfunction” caused much unwanted publicity for Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and CBS, the network that broadcast the event. CBS was sanctioned for allowing that incident to occur on public television, and the “wardrobe malfunction” resulted in numerous calls for stricter laws controlling “immoral behavior and acts” shown on public television.
The Carolina Panthers finished with a losing record in 2004. But they returned to the post-season the following year when they finished with an 11-5 record. After stunning both the New York Giants 23-0 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs in Giants Stadium and the Chicago Bears 29-21 in the Divisional round of the playoffs in Soldier Field, the Carolina Panthers ran out of steam. A third straight road victory at Seattle was not in the cards, and their season came to an abrupt end by the score of 34-14 at Qwest Field.
During the 2006-7 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers struggled to an 8-8 record. Despite acquiring legendary Wide Receiver Keyshawn Johnson in the off-season, injuries to Quarterback Jake Delhomme and Wide Receiver Steve Smith proved too difficult to overcome as the Carolina Panthers did not qualify for post-season play. Although the team was expected to compete for a playoff berth in 2007-8, a season-ending injury to Quarterback Jake Delhomme in the 3rd week of the season sealed the fate of the Carolina Panthers. The Carolina Panthers finished with a 7-9 record and failed to make the playoffs for the 2nd straight season.
Hall of Famers
The only player inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame who wore a Carolina Panthers jersey was legendary Defensive Tackle Reggie White. In 2000, Reggie White played his final NFL season with the Carolina Panthers. Reggie White passed away in December 2004 and he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006. The Carolina Panthers have a “Hall of Honor” in which the following people are honored: Linebacker Sam Mills, who retired in 2005 (his #51 jersey is no longer used by the Carolina Panthers in honor of Mills), Executive Manager and General Manager Mike McCormack, and all PSL owners.