The Carolina Panthers debuted in 1995 and set an NFL record for most wins in a single season for an expansion football team, finishing 7-9. They started the season at 0-5 that year, finally winning their first game as an NFL franchise on October 15th, 1995 against the New York Jets.
In 1996, the team started the season 3-0 and finished at 12-4, earning a surprising 2nd seed in the 1996 NFL Playoffs. They won their first ever playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys before falling to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
The next six seasons were lean, with the team finishing a combined 19-29 from 1997 to 1999, finally bottoming out at 1-15 in 2001. The Panthers became the first team in NFL history to lose fifteen straight regular season games that year, starting the year at 1-0 before running the table in reverse the rest of the way. Only the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns, who both finished their respective seasons at 0-16, have had worse seasons since the NFL expanded to sixteen-game regular seasons.
After a 7-9 finish in 2002, the team shocked the NFL landscape with a playoff run that ended with a Super Bowl appearance, a narrow loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
2003 marked another set of lean seasons where the Panthers made just one playoff appearance in 2008 which ended in a blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals in route to the latter’s first Super Bowl appearance.
From 2013 to 2017, the Panthers made the playoffs three seasons in a row along with three division championships. However, in 2014, they became just the second team since the NFL divisional realignment in 2002 to win their division, the NFC South, with a losing record at 7-8-1.
In 2015, the team went on an epic 15-1 run, earning their second Super Bowl appearance and looking to become just the third team in NFL history (1985 Chicago Bears and 2007 New England Patriots) to finish a season at 18-1. They fell short, however, to Peyton Manning’s swan song as the Denver Broncos won the game, 24-10.
Reflecting on the team’s up and down tenure, the Panthers have yet to finish back to back seasons with a winning record. Ironically, they have won their division in back to back to back seasons. This is akin to the MLB’s Miami Marlins, who have won two World Series, yet never won an NL East Championship.
Carolina Panthers Quick Hits
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Black, panther blue, silver
Cam Newton, Muhsin Muhammad, Julius Peppers, Jordan Gross, Sam Mills
Like their expansion brethren, the Panthers made the NFC Championship Game in 1996.
Main Article: The Carolina Panthers Helmet History
Main Article: History of the Carolina Panthers Jersey