Reporting David Elfin
Washington and Carolina have never competed in the same NFL division. No current Panther has ever worn the burgundy and gold. Center Will Montgomery’s six games as a rookie with Carolina in 2006 are the extent of Redskins players donning the black and blue although linebacker Lorenzo Alexander spent time on the Panthers’ practice squad in 2006.
But boy, oh boy, do these franchises have much in common.
To begin with, North Carolina was Redskins territory from the time that George Preston Marshall moved the franchise from Boston to Washington in 1937. The Redskins were the closest thing the NFL had to a Southern franchise into the 1960s and were the last to employ a black player. Their radio network stretched all across the Land of Dixie.
Following Texan Sammy Baugh’s 1952 retirement, the most popular Redskin of the next three decades was fellow quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, a product of Wilmington, N.C. and Durham’s Duke University. While the Charlotte area certainly belongs to the Panthers, there are still plenty of Redskins fans in the Eastern part of the Tar Heel State despite the franchise’s past two decades in the NFL’s doldrums.
After he was awarded an expansion franchise in 1993, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson tried hard to convince Joe Gibbs, who had retired to Charlotte after 12 years glorious seasons with the Redskins, to become Carolina’s first coach. That didn’t work, but Richardson did lure Redskins public relations boss Charlie Dayton to the Panthers, for whom he still works.
In 1998, Richardson hired former Washington Times beat writer Marty Hurney, who had gotten his start in the NFL as a PR man for the Redskins, as a salary capologist. Four years later, Hurney was promoted to general manager. In 2003, Hurney signed running back Stephen Davis – the linchpin of Washington’s 1999 NFC East championship team — away from the now pass-happy Redskins. In his Carolina debut, Davis powered the Panthers to their lone Super Bowl.
Wheaton native Hurney was fired last month after 10-plus seasons in command, but his D.C. legacy lingers in Carolina. Trainer Ryan Vermillion joined the Panthers in 2002 after a season with the Redskins. Scout Jeff Beathard is the son of former Washington GM Bobby
Beathard, who mentored Hurney and made him a capologist with San Diego. Beathard worked out college prospect Jared Green at Oakton High before April’s draft. The rookie receiver, who’s on Carolina’s practice squad, is the son of Redskins Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, whom Bobby Beathard drafted, Hurney covered, Dayton publicized, and Vermillion treated.
And look at Carolina’s coaching staff. Assistant offensive line coach Ray Brown made his name in the NFL in Washington as a stalwart blocker from 1989-95 and in 2004-05 before beginning his coaching career with the Redskins in 2006. Running backs coach John Settle played for Washington in 1991 and 1992. Offensive quality control coach Scott Turner virtually grew up around Redskins Park since his father Norv coached the team from 1994-2000 beginning when the son was 11 until he was an Oakton High senior quarterback.
Of course, there really isn’t a fierce Redskins-Panthers rivalry. Washington focuses on beating longtime NFC East foes Dallas, the New York Giants and Philadelphia. Carolina’s biggest games are against NFC South opponents Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. But make no mistake, Washington and Carolina have a history, one that goes back well before the Panthers were born and that continues to this day.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin