Is it 2023 yet? The Carolina Panthers once-promising season took another turn for the worst after their latest defeat. The defense held up their end of the bargain, holding the high-flying Baltimore Ravens offense to just 13 points. The offense, however, only scored three points, thanks in large part to Baker Mayfield’s atrocious performance. With Mayfield struggling and PJ Walker injured, the Panthers should make Sam Darnold the starting quarterback, at least in the short term.
Sam Darnold Next Up To Be Carolina Panthers Starting Quarterback
Prior to the start of the season, Baker Mayfield looked like the one of the Panthers better quarterback options. While he was no superstar, he had his moments with the Browns, and the 2023 quarterback draft class was supposed to be pretty weak. Add in the fact that Mayfield wasn’t staring down dozens of civil lawsuits and the former first-overall pick appeared to be a great short-term option for the Panthers.
Unfortunately, Mayfield has not lived up to his potential in Carolina. Joining the team late in the offseason, the quarterback has been one of the worst starters in the league by just about every metric and has already lost the starting job to career journeyman PJ Walker. The only reason Mayfield started in Week 11 is because Walker suffered a high-ankle sprain, and Mayfield didn’t exactly do anything to prove he deserves to start. When all was said and done, Mayfield completed 21 of his 33 pass attempts for 196 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 20, 2022
Baker Mayfield was bad in 2021, but it was easy to blame his struggles on his shoulder injury. This year, he has no excuse for the consistently below-average play. The former Cleveland Brown has done nothing to keep the starting job, so the team needs to go to the next man up. Unfortunately for the Panthers, that next man is Sam Darnold.
Could Sam Darnold Do Better This Time?
The third-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Panthers fans are very familiar with what Sam Darnold can – and cannot – do. The USC product started off hot in 2021 before he came crashing down to Earth for the final three months of the season. That nightmare of a season, combined with his atrocious time with the Jets, should be all the evidence the Panthers need to know that he is not the long-term answer under center. However, he doesn’t need to be the quarterback of the future to be better than Baker Mayfield.
The 2022 Carolina Panthers don’t stand a chance at the postseason, but that doesn’t mean the players and coaches that comprise the team don’t have anything to play for. Interim head coach Steve Wilks wants another shot at running his own team, and the best way to audition for a full-time head coaching position is by squeezing a few wins out of this Panthers team. Additionally, the front office will want to evaluate intriguing youngsters like Terrace Marshall, and the best way to do to that is by playing the best quarterback available.
On top of that, the Panthers should be interested in finding next year’s backup. Carolina is practically guaranteed to have a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which means they should be able to select their long-awaited franchise quarterback. However, even with a franchise savior on the horizon, they should still look into getting a veteran passer that can serve as a bridge quarterback and teach the youngster how to handle life in the NFL. Right now, Walker is probably best suited for that role, but Darnold deserves the chance to audition for the part.