The Carolina Panthers and the Longest Ongoing NFL Postseason Droughts

In the world of professional football, the pursuit of making it to the postseason is a marathon, not a sprint. Every season, teams across the NFL put in a gruelling year-round effort with the hope of clinching a spot in the playoffs. However, for some, that hope may seem like a distant memory, a dream deferred season after season. 

Ending the Drought 

Last season, two teams ended their long-standing droughts. The Cleveland Browns – inspired by the resurgence of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco – reached the postseason for the first time in seven years. They were one of three teams that qualified from the uber-competitive AFC North, finishing behind the Baltimore Ravens and ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals stranded in fourth place after consecutive trips to the Conference Champions. Fans based in Old North State will soon be able to back the Bengals when DraftKings launches in North Carolina and they are currently the sixth favorites for glory next season. 

The Detroit Lions meanwhile won the NFC North for the first time in franchise history. Then, they ended their decades-long baron spell in the postseason, defeating the Los Angeles Rams in the wildcard round to secure their first playoff victory since 1992. And during the halftime of their NFC Championship game, it looked as though they might have made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, however, a Brock Purdy-inspired San Francisco 49ers completed the comeback of all comebacks, and it was them that headed to Las Vegas at the Lions’ expense. 

But with those two droughts ending, which are the longest-standing droughts at present? Let’s take a look. 

Carolina Panthers 

For the Carolina Panthers, the postseason drought has been a recent chapter in their journey. While the team was established in 1995, it took only two seasons for them to reach the playoffs. Success came quickly, with the Charlotte-based outfit appearing in the postseason seven times between 1996 and 2017, including two Super Bowl appearances, both of which ended in defeat. The energy of their early years was chartered by impactful players like quarterback Jake Delhomme, wide receiver Steve Smith, and linebacker Luke Kuechly. 

But as any sports fan knows, the tides of fortune in football can change swiftly. With new eras came new challenges for the Panthers, and as of 2022, they are experiencing their second-longest playoff drought and the third-longest in the entire league. Despite picking Bryce Young with the first pick of the 2023 NFL draft, they were one of the worst teams in the country last year and they will need to strengthen heavily in the close season if they are to be competitive next term. 

New York Jets

Conversely, for the New York Jets, playoff frustrations have been woven into the fabric of their recent history. Since their miraculous Super Bowl III victory, the Big Apple outfit has endured extended periods of playoff absence, with their current drought beginning after the 2010 season.

Despite coaching changes and player shifts, the team has not found the right formula to return to the postseason. Many hoped that the baron spell would come to an end last season with the trade of legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but his season ended in six minutes with an Achilles injury and he took the Jets’ playoff hopes with him. 

Denver Broncos

In the mile-high city, Broncos fans are no strangers to the ups and downs of a playoff chase. The team enjoyed a period of dominance in the late 1990s, culminating in back-to-back Super Bowl wins. However, they have also known the frustration of postseason shortages. After winning Super Bowl 50 in the 2015 season, the Broncos haven’t even reached the postseason since. 

The Colorado side has fielded legendary quarterbacks like John Elway and Peyton Manning, and their formidable defence, labelled the “Orange Crush,” is the stuff of NFL folklore. With a focus on rebuilding and a fervent desire to return to winning ways, the Broncos remain one of the most watched and talked-about teams in their quest to break their playoff dry spell.




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