Expanding on Expansion Success

The Jaguars entered the league as the NFL's 31st franchise along with Carolina, who was named the 30th franchise back on November 1, 1993. Both Carolina and Jacksonville began play in 1995, and have both experienced unparalleled success as expansion teams in their 12 seasons in the league.

In their first 12 years of play, the Jacksonville Jaguars have had the most regular season success amongst any of the NFL expansion ballclubs. The Jaguars have a collective regular season record of 102-90, a winning percentage of .531. The Jaguars have also had some post-season success, compiling a 4-5 record with two AFC Championship game appearances, their first coming in 1996 in just the teams second season of play.

The Carolina Panthers have also been a model of success among expansion teams as they have a 90-102 regular season record, a winning percentage of .469. Where the Panthers have excelled is in the post-season. The Panthers have a 6-3 post-season record, and have notched one NFC Championship and Super Bowl berth, back in 2003, narrowly losing to the New England Patriots, 32-29. The Panthers also have two other NFC Championship game appearances, in 1996, and 2005.

The two previous NFL expansion teams before the Jaguars and Panthers came into the league in 1976, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks. Both the Bucs and Seahawks struggled in their first 12 years, notching losing records and few playoff berths. The Buccanneers were historically the model for losing, as they compiled a regular season record of just 51-126-1 over their first 12 seasons for a winning percentage of .287. The Bucs had two playoff appearances in that period of time, finishing with a 1-2 record. The Seattle Seahawks had some more success in their first 12 years, as they compiled a regular season record of 85-93, a .478 winning percentage. Over that period of time, they had three playoff appearances, marking a 3-3 record with an AFC Championship game appearance.

On paper, it certainly looks as if the Panthers and Jaguars have been the more successful franchises, at least at the start of their play, but the stats may not tell the entire tale. It appears that it has been slightly easier for the Panthers and Jaguars to build a team in their era, due to free agency and the salary cap, which didn't exist back in the mid-70's when the Buccaneers and Seahawks started out. The Bucs and Seahawks were very small markets back in the 70's, and they had to build their teams through the draft. The flip side of the argument is the Houston Texans, the NFL's last expansion team which started play in 2002. The Texans have had the benefit of playing in a very large market with a beautiful new playing facility. The Texans have had the benefit of free agency, and haven't done much with it. They have a combined record of 24-56 through their five seasons, a winning percentage of .300. The Texans are yet to experience their first winning season, while having the advantage of drafting in the top 10 five times, also with the number one pick overall twice.

Out of the four expansion teams covered, the only one with a Super Bowl Championship is Tampa Bay who won it all in 2002, 26 seasons after they started. Seattle made it to their first Super Bowl in 2005, 29 seasons after their commencement, and Carolina made it to their first Super Bowl just eight years after they began play. Although Jacksonville is the only team who is yet to earn a Super Bowl berth, they have had the best start in terms of regular season records. The Jacksonville and Carolina franchises will forever be linked due to their entrance in the league together. At this point, I would say that Carolina holds a slight edge, due to their post-season success. It is unlikely that any future expansion franchises will have the same immediate success as the Jaguars and Panthers.

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