Carolina a short, quick roller-coaster ride

Originally Published: December 27, 2006
ESPN.com

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MR. BLUE
By Mark Nowlan
How do the Carolina Panthers stack up? At the onset of the 2006 NFL season, many prognosticators cast the class superlative of "most likely to succeed" upon the 2005 NFC runner-ups. Their up and down play since, however, is emblematic of the franchise's brief history.

Mark Nowlan
Courtesy of Mark Nowlan
Mark has been drinking up Carolina football.

From racking up more wins than any expansion team in history, to following up a Super Bowl campaign with a subpar 7-9 record, the Panthers have been erratic. As of late, coach John Fox regime has produced a bland brand of football despite having what is likely the fastest gridiron squad (in NASCAR's back yard). It's time to kick it in high gear, as history lives in the shadows of success or the ability to entertain.

Sports passion runs deep south of the Mason-Dixon line, but unfortunately many hearts are given first to college athletics. In addition to being stepchildren of the Redskins and Falcons, the Panthers wear maybe the third-most popular shade of blue in North Carolina.

If you catch a game at Bank of America Stadium, be sure to wear your Sunday best because this is a wine and cheese crowd. On the plus side, you can wear your Michael Irvin jersey and not get pelted in the noggin by a D-cell. If this were a two-win team, attendance would fizzle out quicker than K-Fed's rap career. Still, Carolina fans have to be better than those cheering the Cardinals and the Santa Clara Niners.

On Sundays, you know whether Carolina is home or on the road by the number of available parking spaces at the local pub. Beer and football go together like steak and potatoes, which is not lost on the good people of the Charlotte area, including those at Stool Pigeons. Football is another excuse to throw a few back on the weekend, but make sure to pick up your tailgate supplies on Saturday, because there is no booze sold before noon in these parts.

Right now, I rank the Tar Heel State No. 16 on the pro level. This organization has a ways to climb, but has a solid foundation for building a younger fan base. College will always reign supreme in tobacco country, but cat scratch fever is in the air, and there is no doubt the Queen City has a gem.

OTHER HIGH SCHOOL TALENT
By Justin Griffin
I don't have any problems about your state rankings; I do believe that's about where North Carolina falls.

Justin Griffin
Griffin

But instead of just talking about one high school, I think you'd do better to talk about regions. Independence is great, but that high school only accounts for about 1 percent of the great players in this state.

The Fayetteville/coastal area, and Asheville and Winston-Salem areas all consistently have incredibly talented players that make the jump to the next level.

We're not Florida and We're not Texas, but there are high schools other than Independence where those kinds of players exist in this state and most of the time, they fall way, way under the radar.

Torry Holt was from Mebane and Julius Peppers is from Tarboro. Other than the Leak brothers, I'm having a hard time remembering any big time players from Independence.

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