Carolina Panthers Offseason Plan

Panthers Offseason

The Carolina Panthers are officially out of the postseason race, which means it’s time to start looking at the offseason. The team performed admirably down the stretch, but unfortunately, they were unable to dig themselves out of their early 1-4 hole. The two most important parts of the 2023 season are going to be the head coach and quarterback, so how should the Panthers approach those two openings?

Previewing the Carolina Panthers Offseason

The Head Coach

Even though they didn’t make the playoffs, interim head coach Steve Wilks deserves all the credit in the world for making the Carolina Panthers competitive down the stretch. After a 1-4 start, the Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule and traded away Christian McCaffrey shortly thereafter. Everyone expected this team to compete for the first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but instead, Wilks had this team playing meaningful football up until Week 17.

As we discussed in a previous article, Steve Wilks has a decent case to be the head coach of the 2023 Carolina Panthers. Put simply, performing this well with a relatively untalented roster is an impressive feat, and he’s not far off from being in the Coach of the Year race.

However, the biggest downside with Wilks is that he is a defensive-minded coach. In today’s pass-heavy NFL, if you want to compete on a year-by-year basis, you need to win with offense. Even if Wilks hires the best offensive coordinators in the world, it would only be a matter of time before they got head coaching opportunities elsewhere. In a perfect world, the Panthers would find a great, young offensive mind to pair with their next quarterback. While Wilks is a fine candidate, Carolina should do their due diligence around the league and see if they can find that elusive offensive mind.

The Quarterback

Finding the right coach is a good first step, but no team stands a realistic chance at success without a quarterback. The Panthers have gone through a seemingly endless list of quarterbacks since the end of the Cam Newton Era, but Sam Darnold has actually shown something in the past five weeks. Since Week 12 (Darnold’s first week starting), the quarterback leads the league in EPA+CPOE and is at or near the top of just about every other meaningful passing metric.

Now, this is a small sample, and we have four years of data showing that Darnold is usually bad at football. However, this is the first time he’s had a competent coach, so it is possible that he’s better than his numbers imply. After all, all it took for Baker Mayfield to look like a good starting quarterback was an escape from Matt Rhule. Assuming the money is right, the Panthers should definitely look to bring back Darnold on a one-year deal this offseason.

However, even with his strong recent performance, Sam Darnold should not be Carolina’s only option next year. The 2023 NFL Draft class is supposed to be loaded with quarterback talent, and the Panthers should be in a position to grab someone that could be the future of the franchise. At 6-10, Carolina is on a collision course with a top-10 pick, and they should be able to grab the third or fourth quarterback off the board.

The Panthers have been linked to Anthony Richardson, a raw talent with unmatched upside that could probably use a season to develop on the bench. If Carolina can’t get Bryce Young, then perhaps their best course of action would be rolling with Darnold in 2023 and letting Richardson take over when he’s ready.