Only Panthers Defy Parity

In the late 1970s, the term "parity" was coined, usually pejorative in intent, to denote what the NFL owners preferred to call "competitive balance" instead, resulting in a trend of the margin in talent between the league's strongest teams and the its weakest teams narrowing (with a corresponding shrinking of point spreads, which no doubt pleased the owners no end) — a trend that was actually more apparent than real.

Concomitant with the lengthening of the regular-season schedule from 14 games to 16 games in 1978, the NFL devised a method of determining matchups between teams not in the same division, which, while giving the four last-place teams from the five-team divisions the least difficult schedules, also saddled the fourth-place teams from those same divisions with the most difficult schedules.

This inequity was modified somewhat in 1988, but not eliminated altogether until 1995, when the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars began play as expansion teams, filling out all six of the divisions that then existed at five teams each.

In Week 6, both of the last remaining undefeated teams — the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles — suffered upset losses, both on the road, with late missed field goals (a 41-yarder by Jake Moody, and an incomprehensible 37-yard miss by Jake Elliott, respectively) effectively deciding both games.

But on the other side of the "parity" coin, not only did the Panthers remain the NFL's lone winless team, but Carolina's diminutive — 5'10", 194 pounds — rookie quarterback, Bryce Young, is still (obviously) a "maiden" as an NFL starter (0-6), with a passer rating (78.7) which is almost 10 points below the league average so far this season (88.1). The noodle-armed Young is also averaging an absolutely disgraceful 8.41 yards per completion — and his QBR of 33.1 is dead last in the entire league.

Young is four losses shy of the infamous Brodie Croyle, who in five years with the Chiefs, was a career maiden — 0-10 as a starter — with a lifetime passer rating of 67.8 (along with a Young-like QBR of 35.2 in 2007 — the year when six of his starts came).

Both Young and Croyle were products of Alabama — as is Tua Tagovailoa, who is doing all he can to debunk the stereotype that Crimson Tide quarterbacks can't cut it in the NFL, something which he is succeeding at doing beyond all belief, thanks in no small measure to the enormous speed he has at his disposal (and only Tampa Bay's offensive line has allowed fewer sacks than the 6 that Miami's has surrendered). Tua faces a revenge-minded Jalen Hurts, who lost his starting job to him at Alabama and finished his college career at Oklahoma, on Sunday night at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field.

Croyle was so lousy that he was conflated with Sunshine Mary, a horse who beat a grand total of one other horse in her 15 career starts in 1980 and 1981, and actually had a children's book written about her — yet, because Florida, where she raced, has awarded 1% of its purses to all horses finishing fifth or lower in virtually all races since 1975, she actually "earned" $1,269 in her benighted career.

Worse yet, due to the fact that they gave up their first-round pick in 2024 to acquire Young, the Panthers could be stuck with Young — who so far at least is beginning to look a lot like the football counterpart to baseball's Anthony Young, who lost an MLB-record 27 consecutive decisions in the 1990s — for at least the foreseeable future.

Maybe even long enough for Bryce Young to threaten Anthony Young's record.

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