Panther Nation is fresh off the heels of a disappointing Super Bowl loss ending a historic 15-1 regular season. So what goals should we have for next season? The same ones; win the NFC South (for 4th consecutive divisional title), earn the number one playoff seed, win the NFC Championship, and get back to the Super Bowl. There's one more goal, which will likely be necessary if the Panthers hope to achieve any of this, notch their first consecutive winning seasons in franchise history.
It's kind of weird actually.
-Following the 1996 12-4 season, where Carolina fell to eventual Super Bowl champions Green Bay, they finished 7-9 the following season.
-In 2004, following a heart breaking Super Bowl loss to New England in 2003, they started 1-7 and finished 7-9 thanks to a late season surge, narrowly missing the playoffs.
-In 2006, Carolina finished 8-8 after an 11-5 finish and NFC Championship appearance. Carolina didn't make the Super Bowl, nor did they make find much success the following season.
-In 2009, the Panthers finished 8-8, failing to again record a winning season in the wake of one. Carolina had gone 12-4 the previous season, still missing the playoffs. Carolina still couln't find a way to crest. 500 despite having Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams each rush for over 1,100 yards that season. The only running back duo to due so in NFL history.
-Most recently, Carolina finished the 2014 season with a down to the wire, battle of the worst, playoff run. Carolina the division following a winning season, but still failed to notch more wins than losses. The 7-8-1 advanced to the divisional round by beating an Arizona Cardinals team decimated by injury. Despite Carolina becoming the first repeat NFC South Champions in division history, the Panthers still couldn't string together winning seasons.
You see a lot of the 7-9, 8-8, and then the 7-8-1 teams in Carolina's history. This Panthers team hopes to buck the trend, and they have the foundation to do it. With their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, their defensive quarterback, Luke Kuechly, and a list of other young talented players who will be on the roster for the next four years, Carolina not only has a real shot at putting together winning seasons, but also being among the league's best for years to come. Carolina has some weaknesses, like any other team (i.e. Secondary), but this team has the talent and now the experience to accomplish am new first for the franchise.
15-1 again? Probably not. It is extremely difficult to do that once, let alone twice. But if the team can stay healthy a 11-5, 12-4, or 13-3 season is certainly conceivable. Every season is much different but that's what makes this game beautiful.
By Tripp Morgan
Follow @TrippMorgan6 on Twitter