Carolina Panthers: Building a Legacy

What’s the difference between the Patriots and the Dolphins or the Steelers and the Browns? Is it Super Bowls? Divisional titles? Wins? It’s all these, plus more that define teams’ legacies.  Their identities are more than that of winners and losers, but an expectation of greatness and failure. Sure wins and championships add to a team’s identity, but their legacies hinge on something, deeper and more powerful, something that bonds a fan to a team.  Legacies in the end are forged by truly defining moments. Carolina’s playoff matchup against the 49ers will be a defining moment in the Panthers’ legacy

It’s impossible  to overstate the significance of Sunday’s NFC divisional round playoff game against San Francisco. All season, Carolina has sought relevancy. After an 8 game winning streak, I thought they had found it. The fact that the Panthers are home underdogs has proven me
wrong. We are not respected! Carolina is not respected by the pundits, by opposing fan bases, or by the oddsmakers.

San Francisco is currently favored by anywhere from -1 to -3 on the road against the #2 seed Carolina Panthers.  This is a big slap in the face.  I know Carolina’s schedule did not turn out as tough as it appeared when initially released, but they have won some big games this season. Beating last year’s Super Bowl loser in their house and, the always tough, New England Patriots on Monday Night Football should count for something. The fact that these wins took place in
consecutive weeks makes those victories more impressive. Yet despite this, despite Carolina’s clinching of the NFC South, and despite earning the number two seed in the NFC playoffs, the Panthers are home dogs!

What will it take for Carolina to be taken seriously?

Panthers’ fans are often viewed as a wine and cheese crowd. I don’t know why that is or  whether or not it is deserved, but I do know Carolina fans are not seen as “loyal.” Most other teams fan base’s view the Panthers fans as “bandwagon”.  Why is that? Is it because we are a relatively young franchise? Is it because we haven’t been a traditionally rowdy crowd on game days? Or is it because we have not won enough big time, high profile, all On the Line type games? I think it is the latter. This stigma can be dispelled on Sunday with a win against the 49ers.

There is so much more On the Line than just a NFC Championship game for the Panthers on Sunday against the 49ers. Yes, a shot at the NFC Championship is vitally important, but this game is about the Carolina Panthers' future. It is about this young core of potential superstars on the Carolina roster future. It is about the the organization’s future. It is about the next generation of Panthers fans’ future. This game will go a long way in determining the Panthers legacy--one that will be characterized by expected greatness or anticipated failure.  

A win and we will establish solid footing in another area of concern for this organization’s future. Winning will attract talent. Whether that be through the acquisition of free agents or simply easing the process of signing our own free agents, that does not matter. If we are seen in the eyes of NFL players as a winning organization, they will flock to Charlotte. The city itself is nice enough to garner interest from established players who would be considering moving a family.  It is also attractive to young player who is looking to put down roots somewhere as he starts his family. Charlotte is a great place to live. Coupling the Queen City’s charm with a Panthers franchise dedicated to winning and the attitudes toward Carolina change, amongst fans as well as

Having been a Panthers fan as long as I have, there is really only one scenario I fear above all else. And I never thought it possible until this year. The thought of this team packing up and leaving deeply concerns me. Winning this game would give Panthers fans that truly defining moment they can look at as the bond they established with the Carolina franchise. That connection to the Panthers squashes any chance of this team becoming the Los Angeles Panthers (that just doesn't sound right!) Old J.R. (Jerry Richardson) won’t be around forever and the most assured way we can guarantee this team stays here, in the heart of the South, is to begin this process of converting outside opinions.

There has never been a better time in Panthers franchise history to begin building a winning legacy. We have a young core of potential superstars, and we have a fanbase that is engulfed in Panthers mania. Winning this game Sunday will change the landscape of the NFL and will begin laying the foundation of that legacy. Go Panthers! Keep Pounding.