Since Cam Newton’s shoulder and foot injuries catalyzed his exit from the franchise that drafted him in 2011, you could close your eyes, spin in a circle, blindly fire a dart towards a board and be more accurate than the seven souls who’ve been tasked with leading their rudderless offense.
Panthers fans have been jonesing for a competent starting quarterback for what feels like a lifetime. In reality, it’s only been three years of misery. Kyle Allen, PJ Walker, Will Grier, a washed-out version of Cam, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold have all taken the Panthers jalopy out for a drive, spun out and crashed. The jury is still out on Baker Mayfield, but we know he was an incredibly inconsistent, frustrating talent in Cleveland. However, would they be enough to revitalize the Panthers if you took the strengths and kryptonite of each of the seven quarterbacks Carolina has devoured in recent years?
Kyle Allen had the most promising start to quarterback in the post-Cam-era, which isn’t saying much. In his first five 2019 starts, the Panthers believed they’d uncovered a Brady-esque steal in their undrafted free agent backup until he came crashing back to earth.
Early on, Allen’s heady play had him operating on the fringe of cult hero status. Only Kurt Warner, Patrick Mahomes, and Ben Roethlisberger have had a higher passer rating among quarterbacks to go undefeated and earn a 100-plus passer rating in each of their first five starts.
That wasn’t the first time Allen turned into a small-sample-size superstar. At Texas A&M, he arrived a year ahead of freshman phenom Kyler Murray as the top quarterback in the Class of 2014. Allen’s arm strength screamed superstar, and his decision-making gave fans flash grenade headaches.
After Allen wore out his welcome, the Panthers turned to their third-round pick, Will Grier. The Panthers rookie was a stink bomb in the pocket, throwing for 228 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions in his only two starts. That gives Carolina’s Composite QB two quarterbacks with severe turnover woes. Things aren’t looking great so far.
On the other hand, P.J. Walker and Cam give our composite some mobility behind their shoddy offensive line. P.J.Walker can’t churn through contact as powerfully as Newton, but he doesn’t have to. He’s a faster model who is better at avoiding contact and dancing behind the line of scrimmage instead of turning upfield and trying to Hulk Smash linebackers. Walker’s kryptonite is his 9 ⅛-inch hands. Those tiny hands make ball security an issue when he’s hit. Walker has run 12 times in two seasons and fumbled on 25 percent of those rushes.
Cam Newton’s return in 2021 had Carolina fans excited for a reboot. Unfortunately, SuperCam’s “I’m Back” energy dissipated in his final starts. However, Cam 2.0’s contributions of a thick lower body also give our Frankenstein the strength to churn through contact easily. Yet, that thick lower body comes with a stack of injuries that would intimidate any orthopedist.
In 2020, Teddy Bridgwater signed to be the Panthers’ starting quarterback. Between the ears, his football IQ and cerebral pocket presence were canceled out by an unwillingness to threaten defenses downfield.
Sam Darnold’s DNA provides our composite prospect loads of potential. It’s potential that always feels just within reach but is never realized. Unfortunately, Darnold’s immune system, combined with Cam 2.0’s no-vax stance, would be another obstacle to our composite quarterback remaining on the field. A mono and strep throat diagnosis derailed Darnold’s second season that he probably caught from some West Village bar.
Baker Mayfield’s spunk is both his gift and his curse. He’s always been the underdog since earning the starting job at Texas Tech as a walk-on to becoming a Heisman winner en route to earning the trust of teams who considered him the top quarterback in the 2018 Draft.
In totality, our Carolina Composite QB’s pros consist of:
Kyle Allen’s arm strength
Will Grier’s pocket presence
P.J. Walker’s mobility and improvisation ability
Cam 2.0’s strength
Teddy Bridgewater’s football IQ
Sam Darnold’s potential makes him great trade bait
Baker Mayfield’s spunk
Our high-risk, high-reward quarterback has some zip on his deep throws, but he’s wildly inaccurate. He’s also turnover-prone, setting opposing offenses up with excellent field position by surrendering interceptions at an alarming pace thanks to Grier’s penchant for interceptions and Allen’s decision-making. Additionally, all that dancing from P.J. Walker does us no good when he can’t hold onto the ball.
Unfortunately, our Composite Carolina QB might not even crack the top-15 quarterbacks in the NFL, which is precisely what has appealed to the Panthers lately. There’s a saying about quarterbacks that certainly applies here. If you have two starting quarterbacks, you actually have none at all. Overall, this was as much of an exercise in futility as anything else the Panthers have done in the last few years.