Since the team’s inception in 1995 the Carolina Panthers have been a perfectly average NFL franchise. With an all-time regular season record of 190-193-1 and a playoff record of 9-8 the Panthers are about as close to .500 as a team can get.
In assembling their nearly perfectly average record the Panthers have also been boringly predictable. This isn’t a boom-or-bust team. In 12 of their 24 seasons the Panthers have finished with either seven or eight wins. They’ve won more than 11 games just four times. Conversely, they have lost more than six games just three times.
As fans, we should be just fine with this very average history.
The reason for this is because of the way the NFL operates. With just 16 games per year, teams that hover around .500 are normally playing meaningful football with playoff implications until late in the season. Sometimes they can even sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. As Panthers fans we are fortunate to support a team that is consistently good enough to give us reasons to care from early September into late December.
In the NFL being average is often good enough because it makes almost every game relevant and it gives the fan base a reason for hope.
Not every sport can say the same. NBA fans who root for teams that are perpetually playing .500 basketball are stuck in a hopeless predicament - they aren’t good enough to advance beyond the first round of a seven-game playoff series, but they’re too good to land high draft picks who can alter the franchise’s trajectory. Many of us as Carolina Panthers fans also follow the Charlotte Hornets and know all too well what it feels like when an NBA team is stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity.
Major League Baseball can become a 162-game slog. After watching 60 games of average baseball, it’s hard for fans to stay passionately engaged for the next 100.
While it’s rare for us as Panthers fans to come into a season feeling confident about double-digit win totals, it’s also rare for us to immediately write off an upcoming season and think we’ll be lucky to win five or six games. It may get frustrating at times to feel so passionate about a generally average team, but again, average is often good enough because it gives us hope and an entire season’s worth of meaningful football.
Let’s thank our lucky stars, for example, that the Panthers aren’t the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s natural to compare these two teams because they both entered the NFL in 1995. The Jags have a 170-214 (.443) regular season record and are 7-7 in the postseason. However, Jacksonville had most of its success in its early years, going 49-31 over their first five seasons. Over the last 10 years the Jags are 52-108 and have made the postseason just one time. For the better part of the last decade, Jacksonville fans have entered each season with little reason for hope.
The 2019 Carolina Panthers could once again shape up to be perfectly average. Both CBS Sports and 247Sports put the Panthers over/under win total at eight games. ESPN gets very specific with Carolina projected to win 7.7 games with a 27.9 percent chance of making the postseason.
Now, the Panthers as an organization and we as fans shouldn’t have the goal of shooting for the middle nor should we be complacent with mediocrity. We don’t have to watch Panthers games wearing rose-colored glasses while listening to “Everything is Awesome” in the background. Botching seasons like the Panthers did in 2018 should be inexcusable, even if Cam was dinged up. As fans we should expect Marty Hurney & Co. to build a consistently competitive team while the Cam Newton-Luke Kuechly window is still open. Teams like the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks have shown that it’s possible to be consistently above average in the constantly changing NFL. That should always be the goal.
But for now, the 2019 Carolina Panthers might enter the season looking perfectly average.
All things considered, that’s not a bad place to be.