Panthers HC Matt Rhule: ‘Significant’ upgrade could still replace Sam Darnold
from Zac Wassink, at www.yardbarker.com
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule raised eyebrows when he commented on Thursday that veteran Sam Darnold “would be our quarterback” if the 2022 NFL season started today despite the team’s constant links in reports with Cleveland Browns signal-caller Baker Mayfield.
It appears “today” was doing some heavy lifting in Rhule’s statement.
According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk and Shanna McCarriston of CBS Sports, Rhule made it clear the Panthers “absolutely” should be in the market for a quarterback if a “significant” upgrade over Darnold is available.
Darnold admitted on Wednesday he’s doing his best to focus on improving and to ignore stories claiming he’s about to be replaced by somebody such as Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers. Rhule added the 25-year-old needs to work with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and the rest of the staff to convince everyone involved he deserves to be QB1 in September.
“Sam’s job is to take the next five weeks, make sure he shows up to Wofford better than what he is right now,” Rhule explained. “He said to me yesterday how good he feels footwork-wise in the offense. He’s got to get to training camp and improve and he’s got to do it with the pads on with people trying to knock you down.
“You look at the quarterbacking world from high school through college now, it’s so much 7-on-7. A lot of guys can throw it, it’s what you do when guys are trying to chase you down. So, those are his steps. He knows that, I know that, Ben knows that, that’s our job as coaches is, our job is not to think ‘hey we need to go get this, go get that.’ That’s [general manager] Scott [Fitterer’s] job. Our job is to get Sam as ready as possible.”
Across 12 games last season, Darnold completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,527 yards with a paltry nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions. On paper, Mayfield is a “significant” upgrade, but the first pick of the 2018 draft also carries a fully guaranteed salary of $18.858 million for 2022 that the Panthers don’t want to take on, especially if he or Garoppolo will eventually be cut this summer.