CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- It started with Jake Delhomme's playoff meltdown in January 2009 and picked up steam through questionable personnel and coaching decisions, decimating injuries, an ill-timed labor dispute and plain bad luck.
Now after the swift fall from division winner to the NFL's worst team, the Carolina Panthers have a chance to end a brutal two-year stretch.
All general manager Marty Hurney has to do is be perfect with perhaps the most important selection in franchise history: the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft.
"You just want to make the right selection," Hurney said.
Not long after the Panthers locked up the No. 1 pick with a 2-14 season, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck stunned the Panthers by staying in school.
So now what?
There's another potentially dominant quarterback out there who owns a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Only Auburn's Cam Newton carries enough off-field baggage to make him one of the riskiest picks of recent times.
"Newton is off the charts completely," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. "The game of football requires a lot of film study. You have to be able to love that part of it. If you don't, you're not going to be a great quarterback. That's what they're trying to figure out right now about Cam Newton."
New coach Ron Rivera has stressed the need for a stable QB, something the Panthers haven't had since Delhomme never recovered from his six-turnover nightmare against Arizona in Carolina's last playoff game at the end of the 2008 season.