For many years, the three of them were as closely linked to the Carolina Panthers football team as those snarling black panther statues that ring Bank of America Stadium.
Coach John Fox, quarterback Jake Delhomme and kicker John Kasay combined for dozens of wins and big moments while with the Panthers. For most of the 2000s - and well before that for Kasay - they served as three of the team's most recognizable faces. It was nearly impossible to find anyone in the Carolinas who had ever talked to any of them one-on-one and not come away smiling and saying: "I like that guy."
Now Fox, Delhomme and Kasay have given way to Ron Rivera, Cam Newton and Olindo Mare, respectively. But the old trio certainly has one edge on the new for the 2011 season:
Fox has not only survived but thrived in his shotgun marriage to Tim Tebow in Denver, where the Broncos started 1-4 but are now 6-5 and in the playoff race. Kasay has already kicked 40 extra points for New Orleans' high-octane offense - he only got to attempt 17 of those all season for the Panthers in 2010.
And Delhomme just got hired Tuesday to back up rookie quarterback (and former North Carolina standout) T.J. Yates for the Houston Texans. Delhomme, 36, has left his family and his beloved thoroughbreds in Louisiana for one last NFL go-around for an 8-3 Texans team that employs the NFL's No. 1 defense.
Nice, isn't it?
I don't know why anyone would wish ill on the three former Panthers. It ended somewhat badly for all three of them in Carolina. But that's unsurprising - few ever get to choose their ending in pro sports.
You rent the uniform. You rent the whistle. You ultimately don't own either one.
Team owner Jerry Richardson didn't renew Fox's contract after Carolina's 2-14 season in 2010 - their relationship had run its course. Delhomme and Kasay were replaced by Panthers management before they were ready to go (Delhomme in 2010, Kasay in 2011).
Delhomme, the first of the three to leave, played the 2010 season for Cleveland after Carolina let him go. He was undone by injuries and inconsistency, and the Browns also released him this summer. He hasn't thrown a real pass in the 2011 season, although apparently he's been keeping in shape in Louisiana.
Yates, the former Tar Heel, is No. 1 in Houston for now and has gained high praise for picking up the offense quickly. The usual No. 1 quarterback, the injured Matt Schaub, has said he's never seen anyone understand it faster.
Yates was the No. 3 quarterback until Schaub and Matt Leinart went down with injuries. I wouldn't be shocked to see Delhomme take some meaningful snaps for Houston before the end of the year.
Delhomme beat Carolina while starting in Cleveland in 2010 (thanks to Kasay's 42-yard missed field goal as time expired). It would be weird if Delhomme played again in Houston when the Panthers visit the Texans on Dec. 18.
Kasay, 42 and a member of the Panthers from their inaugural 1995 season until 2010, may finally get the Super Bowl ring he's always wanted. The Saints (8-3) would likely have to upset undefeated Green Bay to get there, but the New Orleans offense makes anything possible.
Kasay may end up leading the NFL in scoring. He's in third place, behind two other kickers. He has not missed from inside 40 yards all season.
And Fox has shown what we (and I include myself in that pronoun) too often forgot in the last couple of years of his nine-year Panthers tenure while complaining about his conservatism: He can flat-out coach.
Fox has the Broncos playing great defense and has accommodated the skills of an unorthodox quarterback very well. Tebow has yet to complete more than half of his passes in any game. But he is 5-1 this season as a starter and ran an astonishing 22 times last week.
The Broncos' resurgence has Fox being talked about for coach of the year honors. And although he won't win - San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh should - he'll get some votes.
I'm not saying that because these three men may be headed to the playoffs that they should get their jobs back in Carolina, where the current crop of Panthers are 3-8 but boast a dynamic young star in Newton. The water long ago rushed under that bridge.
But I am saying it's good to see Fox and Kasay succeeding - and Delhomme back in the league with a chance to do so.
They are good football men, all of them. And good men, period.