Historically speaking, wins came quickly to the Carolina Panthers, and the team may be considered one of the NFL’s great expansion franchises. Of all teams born in 1976 or later, only the Seattle Seahawks have a better cumulative winning percentage (NFLbets is not counting the Baltimore Ravens as an expansion franchise, because all denial aside, the Ravens were a case of reincarnation rather than rebirth). And despite a couple of ugly outliers (2001, 2010), the Panthers all-time at 182-183-1 are less than a half-game under .500 going into 2018.
The Panthers’ short lifetime, devoted fanbase and relatively consistent success have led the club to employ just four head coaches in its first 24 seasons, and so the “eras” of the Panthers’ brief history may be neatly categorized.
Debuting in 1995, the Panthers hired then-Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers as head coach the team, which managed a record-setting 7-9 inaugural season and a run to the NFC championship game after going 12-4 in ’96. In two subsequent years, Capers could not get Carolina back into the postseason, bust his success piloting the Panthers certainly directly led to his hiring by the expansion Houston Texans in 2002.
The George Seifert Era lasted three years, culminated in the aforementioned 2001 season featuring Chris Weinke at quarterback “leading” the team to a 1-15 record, and is best forgotten.
John Fox took over on the sidelines for the Panthers in 2002 and enjoyed some success over the next nine seasons, thrice making the playoffs and playing in the very odd and endlessly fascinating Super Bowl XXXVIII. However, Fox’s teams often produced mediocre results in seasons with tougher schedules – five teams Fox Panthers were 7-9 or 8-8 – and the team bottomed out at 2-14 in ’10.
When Ron Rivera became head coach for 2011, the team was transformed across the board. Throughout the 10s, mercurial and thrilling QB Cam Newton had led dangerous offenses with names like Johnathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen while Luke Kuechly has crushed it for the defense. Going into the ’19 season, the Panthers’ peak remains the 15-1 season of ’15 which led to an unfortunate demolishment by a brilliant Denver Broncos defense in Super Bowl 50.
Tell you what, though: If this franchise follows its overall trend thus far, Panthers fans should probably expect a one- or two-win season in 2019 or ’20, followed by yet another resurgence – after all, this cat’s got at least five more lives to go…
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