Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They're the Envy of the NFL

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They're the Envy of the NFL

Article excerpt

They have not only changed themselves in the two years since

that inaugural pre-season game, they have metamorphosed an

entire league. They have gotten coaches fired, quarterbacks

canned, stadiums built. They have altered attitudes, trashed

tradition, transformed the norm.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers

played their preseason game in Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of

professional football. But when they trade teal today in Alltel

Stadium, it will signify a rebirth. For these twin terrors,

these two baby Frankensteins, have emerged from the womb not

just kicking, but stomping -- stomping down barriers that have

stood in the NFL for generations.

"It really is unbelievable how far we've come," Jaguars wide

receiver Jimmy Smith says. ". . . A lot of established teams

have been mediocre for the past several seasons, and now here

comes these two expansion teams blowing up in just two years.

"It's almost like everybody wants to be an expansion team now."

Established teams are changing coaches, colors, coordinators,

quarterbacks, whatever they can think of to keep pace with the

prodigal, precocious expansion twins. Jacksonville and Carolina

have frustrated the NFL hierarchy by coming in and refusing to

grovel before the league's established kingpins. In year two of

their existence, the Panthers swept the 49ers to win the NFC

West title and then knocked off the defending champion Cowboys

to reach the NFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Jaguars

reached the AFC title game by going on the road to beat the

Bills and the Broncos . . . two teams with a combined seven

Super Bowl appearances.

And now the rest of the league has developed an extreme case of

Panther Envy. And Jaguar Jealousy.

After marveling at state-ofthe-art stadiums in Jacksonville and

Charlotte -- facilities that came complete with sweetheart lease

agreements and a luxurious array of money-making sky suites --

many other owners are now demanding new digs of their own.

Chapter 3 in The NFL Owners Handbook: "Stadium Referendums: How

to force the hand that feeds you. …

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