It's not every day that the first-ever NFL Draft pick of a team in your division retires, and it definitely doesn't happen all that often when the team in question is about to enter its 17th season. The long and rocky NFL career of Kerry Collins has concluded, and though perhaps only one of his best 10 seasons as a pro came in the NFC South, he'll still always be a part of division lore.
Yes, the NFC South has lore.
Since Collins went to the Pro Bowl as a member of the Panthers in 1996, the team has had six different season-leading passers, and will soon break in its seventh. Though Jake Delhomme would likely join Steve Smith and Julius Peppers on the list of most recognizable players in Carolina history, and Steve Beuerlien actually had more yards as a Panther than Collins did, the first image that comes to mind when I think "Carolina Panthers quarterback" (I think this ALL THE TIME) is Kerry Collins.
Collins followed that 1996 season with a 21-interception 1997 and ended up waived after four games in 1998, signing on with the Saints. Though he was able to take advantage of his various fresh starts elsewhere and even make a Pro Bowl a decade later -- while more importantly getting clean -- his exit still feels like the quintessential Carolina Panthers quarterbacking moment.
Delhomme, a fellow Saint/Panther (yugh!), had a few very good years of his own but left Charlotte with one of the most drastic cases of the yips any NFL quarterback has ever developed, and the Chris Weinke regime is not the most fondly remembered sports era in North Carolina history.
Will Cam Newton be the player to break the tradition in Carolina? I think it should be too early to write off Jimmy Clausen and way, way too early to lean one way or the other on Newton, but the top pick from Auburn is about to be tasked with bringing stability to a franchise that's only had one long-term quarterback in its entire history.
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