49ers Clubhouse 

About The Panthers

November, 17, 2001

by James Parrott
Clubhouse Staff Writer

Since the Carolina Panthers franchise began play at the start of the 1995 season, the Charlotte based team have posted one winning season, one division title, one NFC Championship appearance (all in 1996) and one other .500 season. Aside from those two seasons Carolina have endured four losing seasons and at 1-8 this year look set to post another. Carolina's initial success was a result of their recruitment of such veterans as linebackers Kevin Greene, Sam Mills and Lamar Lathon and cornerback Eric Davis.
This masked their poor drafting for their first two seasons, but once the veterans had given all they could and Dom Capers' feared 3-4 Zone Blitz defence lost it's bite then it was downhill from there.

First round picks Kerry Collins, Blake Brockermeyer and Ty Poole (all 1995), Tshimanga Biakabatuka (1996), Rae Carruth (1997) and Jason Peter (1998) all failed.
The first three all left after experiencing mixed fortunes, Biakabatuka and Peter can't stay healthy and Carruth is in jail after the killing of his partner.
The trading of two first round picks for Sean Gilbert was another disaster as the high priced acquisition tied up valuable cap dollars and underproduced his hefty salary.
After 1998's 4-12 record and Kerry Collins flameout Dom Capers was fired.

Enter ex 49ers head coach George Seifert. The man with the highest all time winning percentage for a head coach.

Seifert's first season could be seen as a huge reason as to why this team is so poor now. Despite a poor offensive line, no running game and weak defence Carolina finished up 8-8. Steve Beuerlein's career year included 4,436 yards passing and 36 touchdowns.

This convinced Seifert that all he needed to do was upgrade the defence and he had an instant playoff contender, so he signed veterans Reggie White, Chuck Smith, Eric Swann and Lee Woodall to big money contracts.

The experiment was a failure as White showed why he retired after the 1998 season, Swann showed why Arizona cut him and Smith missed almost all season with a knee injury which the Panthers medical staff missed before they signed him.

All are now gone from the Panthers.

Beuerlein took a tremendous beating from an offensive line that was actually worse than the previous year and which gave up 69 sacks, and the offence and defence both struggled on their way to Carolina's third 7-9 record in six seasons.

So Seifert began to rebuild again.

Out went Beuerlein and Eric Davis, and in came Todd Steussie, Kevin Donnalley and Jeff MItchell on the offensive line, Brentson Buckner and rookie Kris Jenkins on the defensive line and Miami of Florida linebacker Dan Morgan with the 13th overall draft pick. Also, in the fourth round, Florida State's Heisman winning quarterback, 29 year old former baseball player Chris Weinke to challenge for the starting job.

Weinke won the starting job by virtue of not being Jeff Lewis as the former Broncos prospect proved a let down and was released.

Suprisingly, Carolina won it's opener in Minnesota. Since then it's been a streak of eight straight losses.

* With no running game once again Weinke has been forced to carry the team, with the result being his 6 TD's and 12 interceptions.
* Starting tailback Richard Huntley averages just 3.1 per carry on 44 attempts. Biakabatuka had a breakout game and got injured in the same game and will miss the rest of the year.
* Wideout Muhsin Muhammad has struggled through double teams and he and Wesley Walls have both complained about their roles in the offence. Ironically, they are the top two receivers for the team.

The defence ranks dead last in the NFL, currently giving up over 380 yards per game. The one real bright spot has been cornerback Doug Evans, who has seven interceptions and fifteen passes broken up in nine games. In the first meeting between the two teams Evans gave the Panthers a brief second half by returning a Jeff Garcia pass for a touchdown.

Super bust Sean Gilbert will miss the next 4-6 weeks, and the defensive line will be reshuffled again.

Seifert's first and second round picks from the 2000 draft, corner Rashard Anderson and safety Deon Grant both start and both struggle.

This week former 49er Brentson Buckner ripped on Dana Stubblefield and the teams decision to sign Stubblefield instead of himself. Most probably, this outburst was caused by Buckner's frustration as the Panthers have collapsed again and this years 49ers are 6-2.

This year saw Steve Mariucci defeat his predecessor for the first time and there is no question over who has the better team. The 49ers have struggled against Carolina though, being 6-7 lifetime, including a 2-4 record on the road.

For both teams this is a must win. Carolina need something to build on, whilst San Francisco have to win games like this in order to make the playoffs.

Watch for the Niners to run the ball and take advantage of Carolina's weak run defence, whilst you can expect the Panthers to throw the ball more often than not but don't be suprised if they attempt to establish the run early.

Expect a San Francisco victory by at least ten points.

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board