Carolina’s Quarterback Carousel


Deshaun Watson Photo by FanSided

Written By Max Thompson

Lately, the Panthers have had a drought when it comes to quarterbacks. They have had a shocking six different quarterbacks since Cam Newton’s injury in 2018, three of which were thought to be the franchise’s new permanent quarterback. Because of this, many fans are unhappy when it comes to the decision making of the head coach Matt Rhule. Even now, after the return of Cam Newton (which was thought to be the last saving grace the franchise needed), many fans are left greatly disappointed. Because of this fact, many have begun pondering, “Who will be the quarterback that rescues the Panthers?”

First, before we delve into possible future quarterbacks, the current options need to be assessed carefully to understand the need for a new quarterback. The starting quarterback this year, Sam Darnold, sustained a serious shoulder injury in November, but this was already after many lackluster games on his part as quarterback. It seems he does have the potential to be a great quarterback, however time and time again, he has let his teammates and fans down with his playmaking. The talent is seemingly there as seen in the first three games of this season where the Panthers went 3-0 and Sam Darnold hit crisp clean passes to the receivers, Robbie Anderson and D.J. Moore. However, Sam Darnold endured a passing drought soon after with the Panthers losing the next 4 games. Many were quite confused at Sam Darnold’s sudden shift in skill and ability, but the common consensus is that he succumbed to the nerves of playing in the NFL. Those first three games, quite simply he was confident. He finally had the defensive and offensive arsenal needed to perform at a high level, given he recently came from the Jets where neither of those were true. He was not overthinking his decisions and he was just playing football in the essence of the sport. However, running back Christian McCaffrey sustained a hamstring injury against Houston, and it was at that moment that Darnold began to doubt himself. Since then, he has not been able to perform at the same level and has made some extremely questionable decisions and has not been able to recover all the way up to his injury in November.

Sam Darnold
Photo by Sky Sports

Cam Newton, on the other hand, is also not a viable option as he has repeatedly let down the Panthers after they traded for him in early November. There was much anticipation surrounding the return of the famed quarterback and MVP of 2015. Cam Newton was great and almost won the Panthers their first Super Bowl against the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, however through recent events, it has been made painfully clear that he represents the past of the franchise, not the future. Contrary to Matt Rhule’s foresight, he was not the one destined to bring the Panthers out of this rut they find themselves in. The blatant truth is that Cam Newton hasn’t been able to perform as well as he did since his shoulder injury in 2018 and foot injury in 2019 that resulted in his subsequent trade to the Patriots. In fact, against the Dolphins on November 29, Cam Newton had the worst pass percentage with a minimum of 20 pass attempts by a former MVP of all time. His completion percentage was a shockingly low 23.8% that resulted in a 33 to 10 loss. Additionally it’s not completely his fault, as he’s 32 and has time and time again taken hits leading to him leading the NFL in hits for any quarterback since 2011. All of the above and more, has just shown that Cam Newton is not the puzzle piece needed to complete the Panthers offense. The quarterback that the Panthers have been waiting for is yet to come; however, a great many fans have a strong opinion on this matter, and as a result, some insight can be seen as to the most sought after quarterbacks for the Panthers.

Cam Newton
Photo by ESPN

My opinion on the issue, and what seems to be the best course of action is to pursue Deshaun Watson. The reason the Panthers have not done this already is due to the uncertainty of some issues regarding him off the field. Very likely, the Panthers would ask the Texans for permission to speak to Watson following the end of the season and try to get him through trades. Trading first round picks and a player who has proven himself to be a valuable asset on the field would be worth obtaining a franchise quarterback because, as I’ve said it before, the Panthers have all the weapons they need to have a deadly team on offense, they just don’t have that one man to run the offense accordingly, the quarterback. Deshaun Watson has proven himself a worthy quarterback in passing, but also scrambling which is what the Panthers need at the moment. Someone who can beat what has been called the formula to beat the Panthers, stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. With a versatile quarterback like Deshaun Watson who can pass well but also run when necessary, the Panthers can change their game and truly achieve the offense they have the potential to have. However, this is only one potential option as others like Sam Howell or even Russell

Wilson have been highly recommended by interested fans like myself. Regardless, I would say it will be very interesting to see the direction the Panthers take for quarterback in 2022.