During the month of June, the readers of CSR were able to vote for the Greatest Panther of All Time. When the voting got underway, I found myself asking would the GPOAT have his jersey number retired? I will admit I had my own personal list of candidates before the voting ended this past week, but the final rounds featured players I felt were worthy of having their numbers retired and each one makes a strong case for themselves. Granted, having a number retired is kinda tricky in professional sports. Some teams base it on performance, while others use that along with tenure with the team as prerequisites. Please note, these are my personal opinions and if I unjustly miss anyone please let me know.
John Kasay #4 - The Original Carolina Panther. He has been durable, clutch and reliable during his 16 seasons with the Panthers. His (Panther) stats are as follows: 351FGM/424FGA/83% a career long of 56 yards. He was named to the 1996 Pro Bowl. Its difficult to imagine anyone else wearing this jersey. Alot of people have said that regarding many players but very seldom do you have a player which everyone identifies as "an original" or are accustomed to seeing one player wear the same number for many years.
Jake Delhomme #17 - Probably the best QB the franchise has seen during its short history. His stats with the Panthers: 1580 completions, 19,258 yards, 120 TDs 84.9 QB rating. He appeared in one Pro Bowl (2005). Delhomme gave us alot of memories and alot of heartburn or heartache. He established himself as a leader and guided the Panthers to multiple come from behind wins as well as three trips to the playoffs (Super Bowl XXXIII in 2004, NFC Conference Championship in 2006 and the NFC Divisional Game in 2009). *Note - the games played are not a representation of the season but year it was played; Super Bowl XXXIII was played in February 2004. Many people in Panthers Country want to see a return (I'm one of them) of Jake to the Carolinas but I know I would be satisfied if he came back just to retire a Panther.
Jon Beason #52 - I know it seems kind of soon to have his name on this list. However, this team has long been defined by defense and those leading that defense. Beast has made noise in his first five years at the pro level. His stats thus far: 540 Tkls, 4.0 Sacks and 8 INTs. His accolades include being a three time Pro Bowler (2008, 2009, 2010) and an All Pro for 2008 and 2009. Beason is very much still in his prime and has yet to touch the pinnacle of his career. I would imagine that if he maintains the same type of leadership, skill and on field tenacity that a former Carolina MLB showed, he could very well rank up their not only as one of the greatest defensive player but the greatest Panther of all time.
Steve Smith #89 - Small, fiery and always playing with a chip on his shoulder, Smitty has given defensive coordinators headaches with his competitve play and amazing pass catching ability. He has been slowed in recent years due to lackluster QB play and double/triple team coverage. He has amassed 620 receptions, 8884 yards and 52 TDs. His best season was no doubt 2005 winning not only the Comeback Player of the Year Award but the WR Triple Crown. He has been to the Pro Bowl four times (2001, 2005, 2006, and 2008) and voted an All Pro three times (2001, 2005, 2008). Personally, I hope he returns for another year. I REALLY hope he finishes out his career as a Panther; but time will tell.
Julius Peppers #90 - No one doubted his ability to play the game. He reinvented the DE position but some accused him of taking plays off. Unsatisfied with his role and wanting to play in a 3-4 defense, he left Carolina for the Chicago Bears at the end of the 2009 season. Accolades: 2002 Defensive Rookie of the Year, five time Pro Bowl Selection (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009), five time All Pro (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009), 2004 NFL Alumni Defensive Player of the Year, named Defensive Player of the Month twice (11/2004 & 11/2008) and named to the NFL All 2000 Decade Team.
Muhsin Muhammed #87 - Moose never showed the ability and flash of his WR counterpart Steve Smith, but he was reliable. He started and ended his career with Carolina with a three year detour with Chicago in between. His best season would be 2004 where he caught 16 TDs and had 1405 yards receiving. He would go on to be selected to two Pro Bowls (1999 and 2004), named an All Pro in 2004 and be the NFL Alumni's WR of the Year for 2004. Additionally, he was on the receiving end of Jake Delhomme's record setting 85 yard TD pass in Super Bowl XXXIII; the longest in the event's history.
So what do you think CSR faithful? Do you agree with my list or did I leave off someone who is deserving of having their number retired? Remember, these are my opinions based on some of the best players who have made huge contributions to the team.