The 14-0 Carolina Panthers still need five more wins (including the Super Bowl) for a perfect season, but the discussion of how such a theoretically-perfect season would stack up against some of the all-time best ones has already begun. Mark Maske of The Washington Post has a piece examining if a 19-0 season would be seen as the greatest in NFL history, and he finds one prominent former NFLer who disagrees with that notion: Joe Theismann.
“Let me ask you this: Do you consider the 17-0 Miami Dolphins the best team in the history of the league? I don’t,” former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said. “The Carolina Panthers would be considered a great football team. They already should be considered that right now. They’ve won games a number of different ways. But that wouldn’t make them the best team in, let’s say, modern football history, the Super Bowl era.”
…“I would say the Panthers are a great football team,” Theismann said. “People use that term ‘great’ too much. But they are great. They have a tremendous quarterback. They have a tremendous defense. They’ve found ways to win. They’ve won close games. They’ve won games where they had a big lead and sometimes gave it up. Are they the greatest team in history? I would say no. But they are a great team.”
…Theismann played on a 1983 Redskins team that scored 541 points, then a record, and committed 18 turnovers while its opponents had 61. But those Redskins suffered a pair of one-point losses during a 14-2 regular season and were overrun, 38-9, by the Los Angeles Raiders in the Super Bowl.
“We had a team that was plus-43 in turnovers,” Theismann said. “We set the scoring record. That was a great team. The 18-1 Patriots, they set a scoring record. That was a great team. But I would tend to think it’s the ’85 Bears. They were a truly dominant team.”
Theismann’s points aren’t invalid, as some of the most dominant seasons (like those Redskins’ and Patriots’ ones) didn’t end with a victory, and other dominant ones (such as the Bears’) didn’t come with a spotless record. The best season ever will always be a matter of opinion, and while a 19-0 mark would certainly have many picking the 2015 Panthers, that won’t win over everyone. (It’s also notable that Theismann himself was part of what was dubbed “The Best Team That Never Won” during his CFL days, in addition to his role on the ’83 Redskins, so he might have a slight bias towards dominant regular-season teams.)
The crazy thing is that this discussion’s already ongoing, though. Carolina still needs five wins to post a perfect season, and yet we’re already debating where they stand in history. Imagine how intense these debates will get if the Panthers actually pull it off?