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About The Carolina Panthers
In 1985 when Carolina got the approval for an NBA expansion team, Jerry Richardson a former Baltimore Colts, got with backers to discuss the possibility of an NFL team. They had chosen the uptown section of Charlotte to build a stadium that would hold 70,000.
Backers of Richardson loved the idea and began to lobby the NFL and finally in 1993 the league unanimously voted for the Carolinas to receive the 29th franchise, which is the first new team since 1976. Dom Capers, a former defensive coordinator the Steelers would be the first head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
Rob Smith would be the first Panther. In the 1995 Expansion draft also picked were Greg Kragen, Jack Trideau, and Mark Carrier and picked up off the Atlanta Falcons roster was Bill Goldberg who was later put in Panthers history books as the first person cut from the team.
In the regular 1995 draft they picked up quarterback Kerry Collins, wide receiver Don Beebe, linebacker Sam Mills and placekicker John Kasay. Kasay is the only remaining original player.
The Panthers played their first game in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was known as the “Battle of the Big Cats” The Panthers beat the Jaguars 20 to 14.
During the regular season the Panther were forced to play their home games at Clemson University because their stadium was still being completed. The Panther not only won their first regular season game against the Jets 26 to 15 but went on to win their next four games setting and expansion team record. Then, setting another record by beating the defending Champs, the San Francisco 49ers making them the only expansion team to ever defeat defending champions. They finished the season with a seven and nine record.
The second season proved to be better than the first. They picked up quarterback Steve Beaueriein, running back Tim Biakabutuka and wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. This was a winning combination and at the end of the season they were sitting in the top spot in the NFC western division.
They easily beat the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional playoff but then lost to Green Bay Packers 30 to 13 slamming the door to the Super Bowl. That year the Panthers put eight players in the Pro Bowl.
The next few years the Panthers couldn’t get it together, they were plagued with problems. Wide receiver Rae Carruth was arrested for murdering his pregnant girlfriend, QB Collins had become and alcoholic and was being accused of racial slurs to teammates he was released from the team in 1998. Running back Fred Lane was shot and killed by wife all the while the team was playing horrible football.
In 2003 the Panther were hungry to recapture their second year. Lead by quarterback Jake Delhomme the Panther stormed the NFL starting the season with five straight victories and ending the season on top with a eleven and five record. Again, they easily beat the Cowboy 29 to 10 in a wild car game.
Facing the Saint Louis Rams in the division playoff with an eleven point lead and 3 minutes to go the Panther thought they had the game but in that three minutes the Rams had managed to tie the game. The playoffs ended up in double overtime. However, the first play in the 2nd OT Delhomme hit Smith with a 69 yard touchdown pass winning the game and sending the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Super Bowl XXXVIII not only was considered by many fans as the greatest game ever played but went down in history at half time with Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction.”
The first quarter was scoreless and no one scored until the last five minutes until half time. At half time the score was 14 to 10 Panthers. The third quarter was also scoreless but in the fourth quarter things got hot and became the highest scoring fourth quarter in Super Bowl history which also included the longest offensive play in Bowl history an 85 yard touch down pass to Muhsin Muhammad. The game was also almost the first Super Bowl to go into overtime but a Vinatieri 41 yard field goal in the reaming seconds ended the dream for the Panthers. The following years the Panther would end the season with no less than third place.