If you attended today’s Carolina Panthers game against Washington at Bank of America Stadium like I did, or watched it on TV, then you knew that the Panthers made it 10-0 thanks to a 44-16 win. Now, I’ve been following this team since day 1, and yes, I was there through the down years, especially that 1-15 season in 2001, but let’s not get into that discussion. I’m talking about if this year’s Panthers team has been one of the best teams we have seen in the franchise’s history?
When I left after today’s game, I was pondering that question to myself and wondering about all the previous Panther teams that this franchise has had in their brief history, and sure, some think that this year’s Panther team is better than some of the best teams the team has put together since taking the field in 1995, which was the year that we started from scratch and during that inaugural season, we played all of our “home” games in Clemson, South Carolina at Death Valley, and that 1995 team would finish 7-9, which was good enough for the best record by an expansion team in it’s first season at that time.
Fast forward to 1996, which was a special year for the Carolina Panthers, as they would open up what is now Bank of America Stadium, and believe me the second edition of this team would capture the hearts of Panther fans throughout North and South Carolina, finishing 10-6, defeating Dallas in the NFC Wild Card game, and winning the NFC West title. That team had a talented bunch of players that were part of the “Cinderella Cats” that year, including Kerry Collins, Kevin Greene, Michael Bates, Wesley Walls, and many more.
Another Panther team that I would prove my case is the 2003 edition of the Carolina Panthers, which became known as the “Cardiac Cats”. Anchored by Jake Delhomme, and featuring yet another group of players including Ricky Proehl, Stephen Davis, Steve Smith, and Dan Morgan. This team was special for one reason: They just would not quit. That mentality would later inspire the franchise to adopt it’s trademark slogan/mantra, “Keep Pounding”. and they pounded their way through the regular season and into the postseason, reaching Super Bowl 38 in 2004, before falling to the New England Patriots in Houston.
Which brings us back to this year’s Panther team. Sure, they’re 10-0 and with a huge showdown coming in Dallas this upcoming Thursday, some of the naysayers say that Carolina may be a legitimate Super Bowl contender with a solid core led by Cam Newton, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, Jonathan Stewart, and many more, and I say that with the roll we’ve been on recently, I haven’t seen a city like ours get excited about a team since that 2003 Super Bowl team and the early days of the Charlotte Hornets when they first arrived back in 1988.
So, the question I ask you is this: Do you think this year’s Carolina Panthers team is one of the best teams we’ve seen in the 21-year history of this franchise?