The birth of the Jaguars and Panthers -

The birth of the Jaguars and Panthers

In 1995, the NFL welcomed its two newest franchises as part of a league expansion. The cities that won the sought-after golden tickets were Jacksonville, Florida; and Charlotte, North Carolina; as they triumphed over bids from other desperate contenders, including St. Louis, Memphis and Baltimore. With that, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers were born.


1995 expansion draft

In the spirit of fair play, and to ensure that the new kids on the block weren’t just cannon fodder for the more established teams in the league, an expansion draft was held. The rules were simple. Well, simple for the sometimes convoluted world of the National Football League.

Each of the existing 28 franchises made six of their players draft eligble. The Jaguars and Panthers would then make alternate selections, until each team had chosen a minimum of 30 players. Each time one of the original 28 teams had a player selected, they were able to remove a player from their list of eligible players.

The first overall pick was decided with the customary coin toss, which Jacksonville won. Perhaps that would be a good omen. With that pick, the Jaguars selected Arizona Cardinals QB Steve Beuerlein.


Jacksonville Jaguars 1995 season

The man chosen to lead the Jaguars in their inaugural season was Tom Coughlin, who built his reputation in college football. He transformed the fortunes of Boston College and turned them into perennial winners.

But this was Coughlin’s first NFL gig, and despite that, he was given almost complete autonomy over all football matters.

With 31 players under contract following the expansion draft, the new teams were also awarded two extra picks in the first two rounds of the main draft. The Jaguars had the 2nd overall pick, and with their first ever selection, they chose USC tackle Tony Boselli.


And so, on September 3rd 1995, over 72,000 fans made the journey to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium to witness the Jaguars take the field for the first time.

They lost a competitive, if uninspiring, game 10-3 to the Houston Oilers, and would have to wait until week 5, also against the Oilers, to record their first victory in franchise history.

It came courtesy of a 15-yard pass from QB Mark Brunell to WR Desmond Howard late in the 4th quarter to secure a 17-16 win. The win was one of four they would go onto achieve that season, as they finished with an overall record of 4-12.

Offensive player of the season

There were a few candidates for this accolade, and honourable mentions must go to RB James Stewart III, OT Tony Boselli, and WR Willie Jackson. That distinction, however, must go to QB Mark Brunell, whom the Jaguars traded for Green Bay prior to the draft.

He went 201 for 346 for 2,168 yards, passing with 15 TDs with seven INTs, while rushing 67 times for 480 yards and four TDs.

Brunell would spend eight seasons with the team, be named to three Pro Bowls during that time, and was a back-up to Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl LIV victory.


Defensive Player of the Year

The Jaguars had a couple of standout defensive proformers in 1995. SS Harry Colon recorded three INTs, three forced fumbles and 79 total tackles. But he lost out by a whisker to DE Joel Smeenge who had four sacks and and INT and a forced fumble to go alongside 38 total tackles. Smeenge would go on to see out his career in Jacksonville, which ended in 2000.

Following the 1995 season

Following a slow start to life, Coughlin’s Jaguars went on to be recognised as the most successful expansion team of all time. During his eight-year tenure, they reached the playoffs four times and the AFC championship game twice, their first appearance coming in only their second season.

Coughlin would go onto further success with the New York Giants, claiming two Super Bowls in the Big Apple.

Carolina Panthers 1995 season

The Carolina Panthers placed their faith in the former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, for their inaugural season. Capers already had a 27-year coaching resume covering the NFL, USFL, and NCAA, mostly as a defensive backs coach. The Panthers were his first head coach role.


His debut season as a HC was a memorable one, with his first big decision being to trade the number one pick to the Bengals, and sliding back to five. With the fifth overall pick, the Panthers drafted QB Kerry Collins, a product out of Penn State.

But the season got off to a rocky start, and the Panthers soon found themselves 0-5, when the New York Jets arrived at Memorial Stadium for week 6. Four field goals from kicker John Kasay and a pick 6 from Sam Mills saw the Panthers emerge 26-15 winners and register their first ever win.

That initial success sparked a memorable run of seven wins in 11 games, as Carolina finished 7-9 for the season. This was a record for an expansion team, however, not enough to reach the postseason, but the fans in Charlotte would not have to wait long.


Offensive player of the season

RB Derrick Moore rushed for over 700 yards and WR Willie Green had 882 receiving yards as both delivered solid seasons. But the offensive standout for the newly formed Carolina Panthers was WR Mark Carrier, who recorded the first 1,000 yards receiving season in franchise history, scoring three TD’s.

Carrier would spend 5 seasons with the team before returning 10 years later, undertaking various high-profile roles in the Panthers front office.


Defensive Player of the Year

Veteran ILB Sam Mills was head and shoulders above his teammates in 1995. He delivered a phenomenal season in which he recorded five INT’s, one he returned for a TD, 4.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 110 tackles.

Incredibly, Mills missed out on the Pro Bowl but finished 4th in the DPOY voting. He would eventually end his career with five Pro Bowl appearances and is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.


Following the 1995 season

The Panthers, on the back of their wonderful first season, went even further in 1996 reaching the NFC Championship game before losing out to Green Bay. Capers was named COTY but that was as good as it got for him in Carolina, and the early success preceded a steady decline.

The Panthers would not return to the postseason until 2003 when they made it to Super Bowl XXXVIII, losing to the Patriots.

Edited by Akshay Saraswat

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