The Relationship: Seahawks-Panthers
Seaside Joe 1377
In 1995, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars became the NFL’s first two expansion teams since the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976.
Carolina’s general manager is Scott Fitterer, who was previously in the Seahwks organization from 2001 to 2020. Assistant GM Dan Morgan, once a great Panthers linebacker, was in Seattle’s front office from 2010 to 2017. Said John Schneider of the Panthers hiring Fitterer in 2021: “You guys are going to kick ass.”
Luke Kuechly was the top-ranked linebacker in the 2012 class, going ninth overall to the Panthers, while Bobby Wagner became the sixth linebacker off the board that same year. (Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Andre Branch, and Mychal Kendricks all went ahead of Wagner.) Wagner, still active and PFF’s top-ranked linebacker in 2022, has made six first team All-Pro rosters and eight Pro Bowl rosters. Kuechly, who retired after 2019, had five first-team All-Pros and seven Pro Bowls. We spent a lot of time debating “Who’s better?” and nationally speaking, I know that Luke Kuechly was rated higher in the 2010s, but arguing the merits of two first ballot Hall of Famers seems a little pointless. (Lavonte David, also in the 2012 class, could have a better Hall of Fame argument if he wasn’t constantly losing out honors to Wagner and Kuechly.)
The most recent game between Seattle and Carolina was a 30-24 Seahawks victory in 2019, the Panthers second game under interim head coach Perry Fewell following the firing of Ron Rivera. Cam Newton had missed all but two games that season, also his last with the Panthers. Backup Kyle Allen, now the starter on the Texans, threw three interceptions. Chris Carson had 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
In 1982, Mike McCormack joined the Seahawks as president and general manager after a Hall of Fame playing career with the Cleveland Browns and a 15-year coaching career; that same season, the year of the player’s strike, the Seahawks fired head coach Jack Patera and McCormack coached Seattle to a 4-3 record, but the team hired Chuck Knox to take over in 1983. McCormack stayed as general manager through 1988, but when Ken Behring bought the team that year, he fired McCormack in January of 1989 because he wanted full control of financial operations. Now a free agent, McCormack was immediately hired as a consultant to an ownership group led by Jerry Richardson that wanted to have their own NFL expansion team. Six years later, that became the Carolina Panthers and McCormack became the team’s first general manager. He stepped down after two seasons but was the first inductee into the Panthers “Hall of Honor.” McCormack died in 2013.
Nobody would even consider Russell Wilson for the 2015 MVP award because finally their priors were being confirmed with Cam Newton. But the two had eerily similar campaigns. Newton’s first nine games (56%, 2,037 yards, 15 TD, 9 INT, 85.1 rating, 366 rushing yards, 6 TD, 2 FL) were extinguished by his final seven (64%, 1,800, 20 TD, 1 INT, 116.7 rating, 270 rushing yards, 4 TD, 2 FL). Wilson’s first nine games (66%, 2,118 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT, 91.7 rating, 355 rushing yards, 0 TD, 2 FL) and final seven games (71%, 1,906 yards, 24 TD, 1 INT, 132.8 rating, 198 rushing yards, 1 TD, 1 FL) were similarly split.
I still think Russell Wilson’s season was better!
The Seahawks and Panthers first met on October 8, 2000, with both franchises in their second season under a head coach who had won a Super Bowl with a different team: In Seattle’s case, Mike Holmgren, and for Carolina, George Seifert. When Seifert won his second Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994, his defensive coordinator was Ray Rhodes (who had previously been Holmgren’s DC with the Packers), but he was replaced by Pete Carroll in 1995 after Rhodes accepted the Eagles job. Rhodes then later replaced Holmgren as the Packers head coach in 1999 and was later hired by Holmgren in 2003 to be Seattle’s defensive coordinator, a job he held through 2007.
In an ugly 26-3 loss that day, Brock Huard went 19/34 for 172 yards, Ricky Watters rushed 10 times for 63 yards, rookie Shaun Alexander had one carry, a failed fourth-and-1 attempt, and Sean Dawkins led the Seahawks with five catches for 61 yards. But Chad Brown did finish with 1.5 sacks and an interception. The Seahawks punted on their first six drives, then turned the ball over on downs on their seventh.
Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is someone who Geno Smith cites as a good friend and a reason for his continued existence in the NFL.
Ikem Ekwonu (6th overall by the Panthers) and Charles Cross (9th overall by the Seahawks) were two of the top-three offensive tackle prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. Ekwonu is getting mostly great marks.
The Seahawks have since won 10 of 13 games against the Panthers, including 2-1 in the playoffs. The Seahawks are 7-1 in their last eight regular season games against Carolina.
Seattle seems high on defensive end Darryl Johnson, one of the two players that Pete Carroll claimed on waivers at final cuts; Johnson was waived by the Panthers.
The first two times that they met in the playoffs, the Seahawks beat the Panthers on the way to the Super Bowl. On January 22, 2006, Seattle blew out the Panthers in the NFC Championship game, intercepting Jake Delhomme three times. On January 10, 2015, Seattle quickly turned a 14-10 lead at the start of the fourth quarter to a 31-10 lead about 10 minutes later and beat the Panthers in the divisional round. One year and one week later, Carolina built a 31-0 halftime lead in the divisional round, only to win 31-24, as the Seahawks needed to recover an onside kick to complete the miracle. No such luck and this time the Panthers reached the Super Bowl.
Panthers linebackers Cory Littleton and Shaq Thompson were teammates on the Washington Huskies from 2012-2014. Backup linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was on Seattle’s roster in training camp this year. Practice squad cornerback Gavin Heslop was on the Seahawks for most of 2020-2021, usually the practice squad.
The Panthers and the Seahawks were the two teams most-often linked to quarterback Baker Mayfield in the offseason, with no evidence that Seattle was ever seriously considering a trade for the former number one overall pick. Most of the Baker Mayfield rumors were simply lies, either by media members themselves or by people who had something to gain by feeding obviously bad information to reporters who are willing to do anything to get on The Pat McAfee Show to boost their follower counts. Carolina’s offers were clearly more serious and Mayfield went 1-5 as starter prior to being released this past week. But by releasing Mayfield so that he could help the Rams beat the Raiders on Thursday, the Panthers indirectly helped Seattle’s 2023 draft pick coming from the Broncos.
Seahawks defensive tackles coach Damione Lewis spent four seasons on the Panthers.
The teams have executed three trades since 1994 and they’ve all been draft pick swaps: In 2005, Seattle traded up for Lofa Tatupu in the second round; in 2019, Carolina traded up for tackle Greg Little in the second round; in 2020, Carolina traded up for safety Jeremy Chinn in the second round.
The biggest blowout in the series was a 40-7 Seattle victory on Sunday Night Football in 2016. Russell Wilson’s numbers were okay (277 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but Thomas Rawls rushed for 106 yards and two scores, Tyler Lockett had a 75-yard touchdown run, and Carolina had two turnovers, including an interception by Mike Morgan against backup quarterback Derek Anderson on the first play of the game.
The Panthers beat the Broncos two weeks ago, helping Seattle’s 2023 draft picks. They also lost to the Rams in Week 6, which also helped the chances of Denver’s pick being higher in 2023. Now they can help Seattle’s 2022 playoff chances by losing.