We here at TheSportster recently ranked every starting quarterback in Jacksonville Jaguars history. It only makes sense to evaluate a team linked to Jacksonville through the NFL’s expansion process. The Carolina Panthers joined the Jaguars in 1995 as the league’s first expansion teams since 1976. Both teams struggled during their inaugural campaign, but the Jaguars and Panthers had unprecedented success for second-year expansion teams the following season. Carolina went 12-4 and lost in the NFC Championship while Jacksonville squeaked into the playoffs at 9-7. They also fell in the Conference Championship.
While Jacksonville entered an era of success behind their Pro Bowl quarterback, Mark Brunell, Carolina experienced a prolonged dip in performance. The team did not experience a winning season between 1997 and 2002. 2016 marks the franchise’s 22nd year of existence. Fans have seen six winning seasons, seven playoff trips, and two Super Bowl defeats. If you’ve forgotten how Carolina could possibly have more playoff seasons than winning ones, it’s because the team captured an NFC South Title in 2014 with a preposterous 7-8-1 record.
Although it hasn’t always been pretty, and the Panthers currently appear to be nursing a doozy of a Super Bowl hangover, they have found a few needles in the quarterback haystack. The list below is a collection of Pro Bowlers, journeymen, busts and no-names. Read on and feel free to comment with your thoughts.
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15 Randy Fasani (2002)
A Stanford grad and fifth round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Randy Fasani found himself forced into action after injuries to Rodney Peete and Chris Weinke. He already had low expectations coming into the league and his debut, and lone career start, did nothing to elevate the outlook. To be fair, the 2002 Panthers were coming off a disastrous 1-15 season. Carolina was not built to win and threw Fasani to the wolves in week eight. He was not only an ill-equipped starter; he was an ill-equipped starter starting straight into the mouth of the NFL’s best defense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fasani threw three interceptions and fumbled once while going 5-18 for 46 yards. The Panthers parted with Fasani after the season. He never saw another regular season start in the NFL.
14 Matt Lytle (2001)
Matt Lytle’s greatest achievement in professional football involved winning NFL Europe’s World Bowl with the Rhein Fire in 2000. After the Seahawks signed and waived him, the Panthers acquired Lytle’s services in December 2000. He made his first and only start in week nine the following season. Like Fasani, Lytle ascended to the top of the depth chart after two quarterback injuries. He fared better than Fasani, but fell 14-48 to the Greatest Show on Turf. Lytle went 15-25 for 126 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. No one’s calling him Joe Montana, but it’s enough to place Lytle ahead of Fasani in the countdown. Carolina allowed Lytle to become a free agent during the offseason. He bounced around the CFL, Baltimore’s preseason roster and AFL before calling it quits.
13 Brian St. Pierre (2010)
Carolina served as Brian St. Pierre’s final stop of his eight-year career in the NFL. A 5th round product out of Boston College, St. Pierre made his living as a backup quarterback. He split his previous seven seasons between the Cardinals, Ravens and Steelers, never starting a game and throwing only five passes. The 1-8 Panthers were enduring another rough stretch when injuries to Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore made the team reach out to St. Pierre. St. Pierre had been a stay-at-home dad a little over a week before his first career start. Carolina ran him through a crash course preparation. Like the previous two quarterbacks, St. Pierre lost. He went 13-28 for 173 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Despite the losing effort, the unlikely start was a nice way for St. Pierre to go out.
12 Jimmy Clausen (2010)
Jimmy Clausen peaked in high school – just not in the traditional sense. He’s not a 300-pound, balding letterman. He simply never amounted to the premature hype. Clausen gained national attention as a “can’t miss” prospect with skills comparable to NFL greats. He attended Notre Dame and enjoyed a good-but-not-great career. After declaring early for the NFL Draft, Clausen looked like a top ten lock. Instead, he dropped to the Carolina Panthers in the second round. Clausen became the team’s starter in week three due to Matt Moore’s poor play. The rookie bombed out of the job after three starts, but he regained the role to end the season when Moore injured his shoulder. In 10 starts for Carolina, Clausen threw 1,558 yards, 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, losing nine of those games. Carolina eagerly selected Cam Newton the following year. Clausen is currently a free agent after stints with the Bears and Ravens.
11 Chris Weinke (2001-2002, 2006)
Chris Weinke turned to college football after failing to move up the ranks of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. He led Florida State to a National Championship in 1999. The 28-year-old Weinke became the oldest player to win the Heisman Trophy in 2000. He was quite literally a man among boys. The Carolina Panthers drafted Weinke in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft. The logic behind the risk was simple: If Chris Weinke turned out to be Roger Staubach (who started his NFL career at 27) the Panthers would have struck gold. Unfortunately for Carolina, the elderly rookie amounted only to fool’s gold. Weinke threw 540 passes his rookie season for 2,931 yards, an average of 5.4 per attempt. He finished with 11 touchdowns to 19 interceptions and a team record of 1-15. The Panthers had to move on. There’s little time to mold a 29-year-old quarterback with that type of production. Weinke served as the team’s backup until 2006. He played one year with San Francisco before retiring.
10 David Carr (2007)
David Carr never received a fair shake. He became the Houston Texans first ever quarterback in 2002 and the weight of being a number one draft pick wasn’t the only pressure, as he was sacked an incredible 76 times during his rookie season. That’s an NFL record and it is not the way to develop a quarterback. He also holds the record for third most sacks taken in a season (68 in 2005). When Carr failed to produce in Houston, he signed a two-year contract with Carolina. Pressed into service by Jake Delhomme’s elbow injury, Carr started four games throughout the 2007 season. Carr’s back injury, two concussions and woeful ineffectiveness created a quarterback carousel that included Matt Moore and Vinny Testaverde. Carr finished the year with three touchdowns, five interceptions and a 58.3 rating. Carolina released him at season’s end. Carr served as a backup in New York and San Francisco before retiring in 2013.
9 Frank Reich (1995)
This is purely a legacy pick. Reich is the first starter Carolina ever had and he threw the franchise’s first touchdown. Unfortunately, he only attained the starting role for three games. Panthers head coach Dom Capers made the move to rookie Kerry Collins, eager to see what the top five pick could accomplish. Reich sat the bench the rest of the season. Here is his final stat line as a Carolina Panther: 37-84 (44%), 441 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. It’s ugly, but hey, you never forget your first. Reich also has this going for him – he’s the greatest backup quarterback in the history of the game. During the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game, the Houston Oilers jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead over the Buffalo Bills. Jim Kelly left the game with an injury. Things looked bleak, to say the least. Enter Frank Reich, who tosses four touchdowns on the way to a miraculous 41-38 overtime victory. Reich retired in 1999 as a legend in Buffalo lore and a trivia question in Carolina sports history.
8 Rodney Peete (2002-2003)
Rodney Peete played 16 NFL seasons without making a huge mark. He started double-digit games in a quarter of his seasons. The prolonged exposure to defensive coordinators often reflected poorly on his stats. Still, he managed his second best effort during his 14th year in the league, when Peete became Carolina’s starting quarterback after the failed Weinke experiment. He started the season with a three-game winning streak. It tripled the Panthers’ win total from the previous year and September hadn’t even ended. The team then lost eight straight, two of which came while Peete was injured. Carolina finished the year at 7-9. Peete threw for 2,630 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He’s likely a forgotten man, but Rodney Peete restored Carolina’s dignity before Jake Delhomme led them to a Super Bowl. He retired after the 2004 season.
7 Derek Anderson (2014, 2016)
Derek Anderson holds the distinction of having the best season of any in the rankings so far. Unfortunately, it came with a different team. He led the 2007 Cleveland Browns to a 10-6 record with 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Anderson’s breakout performance landed him a spot on the AFC’s Pro Bowl team. After starting nine games for Arizona in 2010, he joined Carolina in 2011 and became a staple as Cam Newton’s backup. Anderson’s first action as a Panthers starter came in 2014. Anderson opened the season with a win against Tampa Bay (230 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception). He filled in again against Tampa Bay after Cam Newton’s car crash. He threw one touchdown in another victory. Without his performances, the Panthers may have finished even worse than 7-8-1, a record that ultimately gave them a playoff birth. Fans may be upset at Anderson’s recent two-interception performance against – you guessed it – Tampa Bay, but he still belongs among the NFL's backup top tier quarterbacks. Face it. The competition isn’t exactly fierce.
6 Vinny Testaverde (2007)
Vinny Testaverde, originally drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987, played for seven teams over 21 NFL seasons. He joined the Carolina Panthers midway through the 2007 season after injuries to Jake Delhomme and David Carr. Testaverde battled his own injuries and poor play, throwing for 952 yards, five touchdowns and six picks in six starts. That’s his resume as a Panthers starter. He appears this close to the top five because of his career accomplishments. It’d be a crime to place Rodney Peete or Derek Anderson ahead of Vinny. Testaverde became the oldest quarterback (44) to win a game during his short tenure with Carolina. He holds the record for most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass (21) and highest completion percentage in a game (91.30%). Testaverde retired with 275 touchdowns and 46,233 passing yards. That’s one of the finest journeyman careers a player can have.
5 Matt Moore (2007, 2009-2010)
Matt Moore entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. In four seasons with Carolina, He was never their go-to guy. Injuries to three quarterbacks ahead of him created Moore’s first opportunity as a rookie. During a three-game stretch in 2007, weeks 15 to 17, Moore went 2-1 with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The NFL named him the Offensive Rookie of the Month. Moore missed all of 2008 with an injury, but he once again finished the 2009 season as the Panthers’ starter. He went 4-1 with eight touchdowns and one interception in the team’s last five games. His performance, coupled with Jake Delhomme’s decline, earned Moore the starting role going into 2010. He struggled mightily and lost his job to Clausen twice – once due to performance and once due to injury. Moore then joined Miami, where he currently serves as a backup behind Ryan Tannehill.
4 Kerry Collins (1995-1998)
Kerry Collins shocked the NFL by leading Carolina to the NFC Championship Game in the team’s second season of existence. Collins threw for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions that year and he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Everything was clicking. Then, it wasn’t. Collins created locker room discord in 1997 by using a racial slur toward his wide receiver, Muhsin Muhammad, during a team party. Winning solves everything, but the Panthers didn’t win. They went 7-9 while Collins threw 11 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. The next year, Collins troubles with alcoholism reached a breaking point. He quit on his team several games into the season and told Dom Capers his heart wasn’t in it. Carolina waived their former franchise quarterback and Collins later attributed his erratic behavior to alcohol. He eventually straightened out and managed a 17-year career in the NFL, but why does such a negative, polarizing figure rank so highly? Collins is one of three men to lead Carolina to the playoffs. Plus, he retired with 208 touchdowns and 40,922 passing yards.
3 Steve Beuerlein (1996-2000)
After struggling to find a stable home for his first seven years in the league, Steve Beuerlein enjoyed a career renaissance with the Carolina Panthers. He replaced Kerry Collins partway through the 1998 season and excelled. The journeyman quarterback failed to reach the playoffs, but performed far better than Kerry Collins in a similar timeframe. In 1999, his first year starting 16 games, Beuerlein threw 4,436 yards (which led the league), 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Both the yardage total and touchdown mark still stand as single season franchise records. Beuerlein struggled while being sacked a league high 62 times the next season and the team released him in hopes of acquiring a more mobile quarterback. His stats place him third on the Panthers all-time list in both touchdowns (86) and passing yards (12,690).
2 Jake Delhomme (2003-2009)
Jake Delhomme came out of nowhere to lead the Carolina Panthers to the cusp of Super Bowl glory in his first year as a starter. He began his career as an undrafted free agent on the Saints’ practice squad. During his time with the NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals, Delhomme backed up one of the most successful undrafted quarterback of all time, Kurt Warner. He eventually became the permanent third string quarterback for the Saints, but it wasn’t enough. Delhomme sought out the opportunity to battle for a starting position in 2003. He landed with the Panthers and quickly unseated Rodney Peete. Delhomme went on to reach the playoffs three times in seven years, including his crushing 2003 defeat to Tom Brady’s Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Delhomme had clearly lost a step at the start of his final season with the Panthers. His poor performance from the 2008 playoffs (five interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals) bled over noticeably and Carolina released him following the season. He finished his career with forgettable stints in Cleveland and Houston. Before Cam Newton came along, Delhomme held team records in touchdowns (120) and passing yards (19,258).
1 Cam Newton (2011-Present)
This isn’t up for debate. Cam Newton now holds the record for most passing touchdowns (125) and passing yards (19,771) in team history. During the first week of the 2016 season, Newton also set the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and most games with both a passing and rushing touchdown. The dual threat quarterback, as evidenced from both of those NFL records, is the most dangerous mobile signal caller in history. He holds these significant marks at age 27. For reference, Jake Delhomme wasn’t even on the Panthers at that age. Newton still has a decade to put his statistics out of reach for years to come. Newton dealt with questions about his character and maturity when he first entered the league, but he has largely overcome the doubters. For the first time in team history, the Panthers have not just made consecutive postseason runs – they have reached the playoffs three straight years. Cam Newton is the best quarterback in team history and he has cemented Carolina as a championship threat every year.
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