Cam Newton, Panthers

Panthers eyeing first Super Bowl title

The Carolina Panthers have never won a Super Bowl. The franchise was created in 1995 and immediately found success, getting to the NFC Championship Game the following year.

It seemed as though the Panthers would become one of those organizations that was consistently in the hunt, finding ways to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy on a constant basis. Instead, 1996 turned out to be an oasis in the desert, with the team failing to become relevant again until 2003.

In 2003, head coach John Fox successful turned around what had become a poor team for years. Fox was able to coach up one of the better defenses in the National Football League, led by a front four that had Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins among other talents. The offense was nothing to write home about outside of the receivers, which featured Ricky Proehl, Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith.

Carolina might have become one of those beautiful Cinderella stories that you hear about, if not for the immovable object known as the New England Patriots. Carolina was able to keep the game close, even tied, into the final seconds, but only for a game-winning field goal off the right foot of future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri.

Since then, the Panthers have been the proverbial close but no cigar. Carolina was able to make it back to the NFC Championship Game in 2005, only to be beaten soundly by the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field. Only a few years later, the Carolina faithful would be forced to watch as Jake Delhomme imploded in the NFC Divisionals against the Arizona Cardinals, ending his time with the Panthers.

Over the past two seasons, Carolina was able to take down the NFC South title, despite going 7-8-1 in 2014. Both times, the Panthers were taken down in the NFC Divisional round once again, falling to the San Francisco 49ers and Seahawks, respectively.

Now, the Panthers have another chance and have gotten further than they have been since the Fox era. Carolina hammered both Arizona and Seattle on the way to Super Bowl 50, and is favored heavily to beat the Denver Broncos. The storylines have been all about Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, but those fall by the wayside when you consider the broader scope of things.

Can this expansion team of 21 years ago finally reach the mountaintop? Will the Panthers become one more team that can say it has been the best in the NFL, instead of belonging to the ranks of the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and others without the proverbial ring?

In one week, Carolina will have its chance to make history. The Panthers have been close before, now it is time to seel the deal.

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