Inspired by Arealpanthersfan's earlier "Question for your Weekend" post, I found myself digging through old Panthers rosters and thought it would be fun to put together my "Dream 53" of all-time Panthers players.
I resisted the urge to include a few superstars that blew through during the George Seifert debacle, (Reggie White, Eric Swann, etc.) as they were well past their primes and never really saw success while members of the team, but anyone else who pulled the blue and black over their pads was considered fair game.
Some of the positions were pretty easy, because of the relative lack of turnover at the position over our short history as a franchise, but others were quite difficult. After playing around for a couple hours and fine tuning I believe my roster is ready, and I now submit it for your review, my CSR brethren. Now keep in mind, this is my list of the players I think would make the BEST roster under our existing scheme and coaching staff, i.e. vertical offense, 4-3 defense. Some rookies made the team based purely on potential, and all historical players will have a range of years listed beside them to signify their "prime" as Panthers. Finally, injuries were not taken into account for this exercise, which made players like Dan Morgan, Patrick Jeffers, and Jeff Otah infinitely more valuable.
So without further ado, here is the roster, along with a few notes for each position to clarify my thought process. Tell me, what do you think? Would you make any changes?
Carolina Panthers Dream 53
- Cam Newton
- Jake Delhomme
- Steve Beuerlein
This wasn't too hard, because Jake's style of play would fit well into our current offense. He runs better than Kerry Collins and Beuerlein, and played that "gunslinger" style that fits well in a vertical offense. Beuerlein over Collins was iffy, because I think the offense is better suited to Collins' big-arm, where Beuerlein is more of a west-coast style quarterback. However, I gave the nod to Beuerlein because if our third-string QB is in there, I want someone who is cool-headed, accurate, and can manage the game well, not a guy that was a career 50% passer as a Panther.
Once again, not a lot of controversy here. J-Stew and Davis are pretty interchangeable style-wise, but the high hopes for Biakabatuka and Deshaun Foster never really panned out. Anthony Johnson would probably have to be my honorable mention, as he was the franchise's first 1,000 yard rusher and I just remember watching that little guy with the tinted visor lowering his head and pounding out four yard runs like nobody's business...
No one else even close.
This is the first position where I would anticipate some real discussion. Rocket Ismail was a favorite of mine when he was on the team, and his claim to fame was a several-year run as the "fastest man in the NFL", but he only eclipsed 1,000 yards for us once and was kind of a one-trick pony. Willie Green had a couple good seasons, and I remember Ricky Proehl and Donald Hayes fondly as well, but I gave Jeffers the nod over them all because of his size, hands, and fearlessness. Unfortunately, that fearlessness came with the scars to prove it, and injuries pushed him into an early retirement.
One could make an argument for Kris Mangum as one of the longest tenured Panthers, due to his vastly superior blocking ability over all of those listed, but in this offense we need all the weapons we can get.
This one was tough. I remember Steussie being involved in a PED scandal after leaving the team, and almost went with Blake Brockermeyer for that reason, but then decided if this is a fantasy team, then the players' indiscretions must go away just as their injuries do.
Here, I am going off potential. Mike Wahle would be the obvious choice behind Wharton if it was bassed off his career with the Packers, but his one Pro-Bowl berth as a Panther was more due to name recognition than production, and even that level of performance was never replicated. Amini struggled last season, but I started to see flashes late, and if he continues to improve I could definitely see him becoming a special player.
- Ryan Kalil
- Jeff Mitchell
Honorable mention goes to Frank Garcia. Kalil and Mitchell are the obvious choices, but Garcia was quietly a very strong player for us. He was versatile, starting and playing well at both the center and guard positions, and I have always thought he was kind of overlooked as a Panther, and remember him fondly from those exciting early years in franchise history...
- Keydrick Vincent
- Greg Skrepenak
Ok, I have to admit I never realized how much of a turnstile this position has been over the years. In eighteen seasons, there have been thirteen different starters. Only one player (Kevin Donnalley) has started more than two seasons, with a whopping three year run, and only four players have started two seasons (Piggy, Keydrick Vincent, Greg Skrepenak, and Tutan - wait for it - Reyes. We have groomed two quality players in Evan Mathis and Geoff Schwartz only to let them go elsewhere to shine, and of course we all remember the Bruce Nelson fiasco, *shudder*... Donnalley would have gotten the nod, but really, with the pickings as slim as they are, who cares? Hopefully Kugbila will work out and solidify the position for the next decade...
- Chris Terry
- Jeff Otah
When I think about the right tackle position and the Panthers, an old Diamond Rio song comes to mind...
"I try not to think about what might have been, 'cause that was then, and we have taken different roads..."
Chris Terry was our first pick in the decimated 1999 class, where we had given up our first, third, and fifth in the acquisition of Sean Gilbert from the Washington Redskins. After four tumultuous seasons, the talented but troubled Terry moved on to the greener pastures of Seattle, but he never really lived up to his potential, and had several bouts with alcohol-related off-field issues.
The Panthers' brass thought so highly of Jeff Otah in 2008 that they traded back into the first round for him. For one bright, shining season Hurney looked like a genius. The Panthers rolled to a 12-4 record and first round bye on the back of D-Will's career year, and the dominantly mauling Otah was a huge part of that success. I think we all know what happened from there...
- Julius Peppers
- Charles Johnson
Noone else even in the discussion. Reggie White (R.I.P.) was a shadow of his former self in his one season with us.
Kris was an insane talent, and Star has the potential to be as good. As an interesting aside, go look at Pro-Football-Reference's page for Greg Kragen, the Panthers' nose tackle from 1995-1997. I don't know if it is right, but it has him listed as 263 lbs. (wut) and playing the nose his entire career. In Denver, he had a couple 100+ tackle seasons. Weird...
- Brentson Buckner
Believe it or not, though Sean Gilbert was widely despised by Panther faithful due to his acquisition cost, his numbers were far and above any other under tackle we've ever had not named Brentson. Hopefully KK will justify his draft position, and in a few years we can officially wipe the Sean Gilbert debacle from our consciousness altogether...
Ruck held it down for a long time, and hopefully the Kraken will do the same.
- Thomas Davis
- Mark Fields
This one was hard. Technically, Kevin Greene played sam his entire career, but in a 4-3 defense he would need to play the will to utilize his strength (pass rushing) and mask his weakness (coverage). Pre-injury, TD played the sam and did well, so I swapped him back so we could get our most prolific group on the team together. Mark Fields was just a stud, and his miracle story was one of the best Panthers storylines ever. Fast, great in coverage and a consummate pro, Fields wasn't with us very long but left a huge impression.
Man. This position was the toughest so far. I am in the camp that believes Luke Kuechly has the potential to be the next Urlacher, so even though he is very young I had to include him. Minus consideration of injuries, Dan Morgan was dominant. He had the talent for Canton, but a skull made of eggshell. Beason rounds out the top three, because how could I leave him off the list? He has the most hardware of any Panthers mike, and with good reason. To look at this roster and realize I have to put players like Sam Mills and Michael Barrow on the "honorable mention" list is a little surreal. For the record, Mills is my all-time favorite Panther. Rest in peace, Sam, and keep pounding!!!
- Kevin Greene
- Will Witherspoon
Greg Lloyd was unfortunately washed up by the time he got here, and Lamar Lathon was near the end of his career as well. Lathon and Greene as "Salt-and-Pepper" was epic, and one of my favorite Panthers stories to date, but Lamar only really gave us one great year. Greene is still 4th on the Panthers' all-time sacks list, and only one and a half short of Big Money even though he only played three seasons in Carolina. Not to mention he was 34 years old when he ARRIVED in Charlotte. Witherspoon was a very solid linebacker for the Panthers' most successful three year stretch to date, but chased the money to St. Louis after his rookie deal ended...
Pickings have been slim here. I can't see how anyone else could be seriously considered. Manning and Munnerlyn, maybe, but I just can't do it...
Wow. Just, wow.
Honorable mention: Eugene Robinson, mostly for sticking around in the city where he finished his career and providing local coverage for the games now.
- Mike Minter
- Chris Harris
If you ask a true Panthers fan for a short list of his/her all-time favorite Panthers, I can pretty much guarantee Minter makes the list. Never a ball-hawk, the man was an outspoken leader for the team and would absolutely lay the wood if you dared to cross the middle. It is no surprise that since he retired, the secondary has had a vacuum in leadership which was only briefly filled by Chris Harris, and has subsequently suffered through mediocrity...
- Need I bother?
I have to say, I loved Todd Sauerbrun. Dude was insane, and without a doubt could boot the ball a mile. And man did he say some funny stuff!
- Michael Bates
I would have loved to carry Winslow Oliver on the roster as well, as he has been our most prolific punt returner to date, but there is no one else I would cut in his favor, so Smitty would have to carry that burden in this scenario. Perish the thought...
Well, there you go, folks! Tell me what you think of my first real attempt at writing a piece for the site, and of course feedback on my list is welcome! I would hate to think I have forgotten to mention anyone!