Our second installment in the Panther Legend series focuses on offense. Previously, we looked back at one of the Panther's all time greatest linebackers, Kevin Greene. This week we take a trip down memory lane with one of the best wide receivers to ever line up wide at BoA Stadium.
If you've read articles over the past two years about Panther's receivers not named Steve Smith then you've seen the name Muhsin Muhammad come up, if not in the article itself at some point in the comment thread. For those who were fans of this great team pre-2010 the answer is obvious. "Moose", as Panther fans affectionally referred to him, was the greatest #2 WR we've had. This is why guys like Dwayne Jarrett, Keary Colbert, Brandon Lafell etc.. always get compared with Muhammad. Simply put, he's what you want in a #2 WR and a guy who helped keep some of the attention off Smitty. At one time though Muhammad was the #1 receiving threat of the Panthers and in fact is the second longest tenured Panther behind the original Panther John Kasay. Let's take a look back at the great career of "Moose" after the jump...
Muhsin Muhammad was drafted in the 2nd round (34th overall) by the Panthers in the 1996 draft. That's right Panther fans, at one time this team could pick talent in the second round. Sorry Marty, couldn't resist. Moose joined our second year franchise just in time to see them make their first trip to the playoffs as the 1996 NFC West Champions. Did I mention this playoff birth included a home playoff win against the Cowboys? While his rookie stats were mediocre (25 receptions, 407 yards and 1 TD) he had an opportunity to play and learn from the likes of Willie Green and Mark Carrier all while getting a taste of the playoffs. If that doesn't make a rookie hungry for success what will?
Moose experienced a sophomore slump in 1997 earning less yards than his rookie year. I personally attribute this to pent up rage from not punching Kerry Collins in the nose after he drunkedly called Moose a racial slur on the last night of 1997 training camp. Ultimately Muhammad began his rise as a Panther in 1998 where as a starter he led the team with 68 receptions, 941 yards and 6 TD's. Panthers fans were happy, they were hungry and the great Muhsin Muhammad had just gotten started.
In 1999, Moose put any doubters to rest that he was the real deal. Keep in mind that in 1999 the league had not thought of forcing defenses to play with one hand tied behind their back. The thought of not one but two QB's breaking the all time yardage mark in the same year where not one but two TE's break the all time yardage mark was ludicrous. Regardless, Muhammad broke out in '99 with numbers that would make today's NFL wide receivers jealous. 96 receptions, 1253 yards and 8 TD's not only solidified Moose as the Panthers #1 target but as a Pro Bowler as well. How did the great Mushin Muhammad follow up a career year? By tying for the NFL receptions lead with 102 while managing only 70 less yards. Panther fans worldwide were content that their 5th year wideout was the answer at WR for years to come.
If you rearrange the numbers in 2010 you get 2001. 2001 was arguably this franchises worst year. We had a touted rookie QB in Chris Weinke who turned out to be mediocre on the field (sound familiar?) an aging coach in George Seifert who seemed about as interested in coaching the Panthers as watching the grass grow in Ericsson Stadium (switch the name Seifert for Fox and Ericsson for BoA and the similarity is uncanny) and ultimately the worst record in franchise history of 1-15. You can only rearrange these numbers one more way - 2100. I'm calling it now, in 88 years the Panthers will finish 3-13. Where the hell was I....right, 2001 and Muhsin Muhammad. Well he sucked too, due to injuries mind you. But as Moose went so did the Panthers and the same held true over the next few years.
In 2002, Muhammad began his climb back from injury-incurred mediocrity putting up 820+ yards as the Panthers improved to a 7-9 season under first year head coach John "it is what it is" Fox. A second year receiver quietly had a breakout year too and actually surpassed Moose in yardage and matched him with 3 touchdowns. By the next year this upstart receiver passed Moose again putting up 1110 yards and 7 TD's while Moose put up 837 yards and 3 TD's. You guessed it, Smitty had arrived. Muhsin Muhammad remained the consumate professional and in fact embraced the new #1 target on their way to Super Bowl XXXVIII. The story of the Panthers one and only Super Bowl appearance is for another day but it is worth mentioning that Moose had a historic highlight in that post season. Moose set a record for the longest TD reception in Super Bowl history, 85 yards.
In 2004 Muhsin Muhammad had his best year in the NFL. On 93 catches he amassed 1405 yards and 16 TD's on his way to his second and last Pro Bowl. Unfortunately following this amazing effort the Panthers and Muhammad could not come to terms and he became the first of many Bears/Panthers switcheroos. Since this is about Panther Legends we will not get into his Bears highlights other than an unforgettable quote from Moose:
Chicago is where receivers go to die.
Muhsin Muhammad came back to Carolina after three seasons of mediocre play in the Windy City to retire as a Panther. He played two more years and made a final playoff appearance where Jake Delhomme famously
took a 6 turd dump had a 6 turnover game in our final playoff experience. Moose bowed out after the 2009 season and after 14 great seasons.
Moose will always have his stamp on the Panthers organization. He was one of two players to play in all of the Panthers post season games (to this point). Through Super Bowl appearances to 1-15 seasons he was there, it's hard not to think of the Carolina Panthers and not think of Muhsin Muhammad. Until the next posession receiver of his calibar arrives expect many more comparisons of current and future WR's to the great Moose, and rightfully so. Here's looking at you Lafell, Gettis and co.