Who Should Be the Carolina Panthers Starting Quarterback?

Panthers Starting Quarterback

Another week, another controversy at the game’s most important position. The Carolina Panthers starting quarterback is once again up for grabs after P.J. Walker’s no good, terrible, very bad day at the office. Baker Mayfield took over to start the second half and never looked back, putting together a solid performance, albeit long after the game’s outcome was determined. Interim head coach Steve Wilks didn’t name a starter moving forward, so which quarterback deserves the honors?

Carolina Panthers Starting Quarterback Controversy Begins Anew

The Case For P.J. Walker

P.J. Walker was terrible on Sunday, there is no denying that. Playing in just the first half of the game, the former XFL legend finished his night completing just three of his 10 passing attempts for nine yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. The film matched the uninspiring numbers, as Walker ultimately put together one of the worst performances you will ever see on the NFL stage.

However, Walker’s performance against the Panthers was not emblematic of his season. Granted, it’s a small sample, but Walker played well during his first two starts. Entering the game, Walker’s 77.1 PFF grade ranked ninth in the league, which obviously wasn’t sustainable but showed he was playing good football.

Nobody expects P.J. Walker to be a top-10 quarterback, but if he can find a happy middle ground between his first two starts and his third, then he might be Carolina’s best option. Sam Darnold was terrible last year, and Mayfield wasn’t much better early in the season. With the Panthers still in the playoff race, Carolina needs to make sure they have the best guy possible under center.

The Case For Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield’s overall body of work left a lot to be desired early in the season, but there were some silver linings throughout the season. Considering Mayfield joined the Panthers late in the offseason, it’s safe to assume he didn’t have a complete grasp of the offense entering the season. Perhaps those few weeks on the bench were a blessing in disguise, and now Mayfield can come back and play some better football.

Additionally, Mayfield easily has the highest upside of any quarterback on the Panthers roster. Of the three big names, Mayfield is the only one that has an extended stretch where he looked like an actual starting-caliber quarterback. Maybe he’s nothing more than a bridge quarterback, but that level of play is still incredibly valuable for this team.

The Case For Sam Darnold

The dark horse of the bunch, Sam Darnold should officially re-join the roster any day now. The Panthers need to activate him before November 9th, or else he’ll revert to the injured reserve. Steve Wilks has spoken in vague terms about Darnold’s potential availability, but there is no reason to believe he won’t be on the active roster within the next few days.

Darnold’s first season with the Panthers was a nightmare, but perhaps a second year in the system and an improved coaching staff will bring out the best in the former first-round pick. It’s not particularly likely, but since both Mayfield and Walker have failed when their numbers were called, perhaps it’s time for Darnold to show what he can do.

The Verdict

Ultimately, the best move is to go back to Baker Mayfield for at least one more week. Walker’s two-week stretch of solid play was likely an aberration, as he has had far more poor performances than good since joining the Panthers in 2020. Mayfield may not be the long-term answer, but he’s a better short-term option than Walker.

If Mayfield struggles on Thursday Night Football, then it will be time to turn the keys over to Darnold (assuming he’s healthy, of course). Darnold is definitely not the long-term answer, but Walker and Mayfield’s continued shortcomings will allow him an opportunity to redeem himself.