By: Jeff Rickard
Eleven games into the 2022 Carolina Panthers season, the verdict is in on the Baker Mayfield experiment. Put simply and succinctly: it failed to launch. In playing in all, or at least parts of seven games, Mayfield is completing just 57.8% of his passes and is the owner of a paltry quarterback rating of just 74.4. Mayfield has just 6 touchdown passes to go with six interceptions, seems to have passes batted down at the line of scrimmage at critical moments and is averaging an anemic 6.4 yards per attempt which put him near the very bottom of all NFL starting quarterbacks this season.
But the biggest negative stat of all, is that Carolina is just 1-5 in games that Mayfield starts and one never gets the feeling that the offense is about to take off at any moment.
Not all of that is on Mayfield of course. While D’Onta Foreman and the running attack have had some success on the ground, there is no consistent push from this Ben McAdoo-designed offense and it’s no surprise to discover that the Panthers are ranked 23rd in points per game and they’ve been held to 16 points or less on five different occasions.
The hope for Carolina at the beginning of the season was that a union of Mayfield and McAdoo would revive both of their fizzling careers. This is also a good time to revisit McAdoo’s original thoughts on Mayfield who told the New York Post back in 2018 when reviewing that year’s quarterback draft class. McAdoo was quoted as saying “He’s got an edge to him, I like that. He’s gonna lead, they’re gonna follow him. I didn’t see a lot of pro-style football in his college tape. And if you’re short you have to be able to make up for it some way, somehow, and personality doesn’t do that. I didn’t think he was a great athlete. This guy is kinda like a pocket quarterback that is short and with small hands, that’s what I worry about.”
I bring this up because the chorus from fans and analysts alike to see what a healthy Sam Darnold can do from here on out. When speaking about Darnold to the New York Post, McAdoo gave this assessment, “I think [Darnold] has a lot of magic in his game. I think he’s special. He’s obviously a talented guy, he can make plays with his feet. I’d just have a hard time drafting a guy in the first round where you don’t necessarily like the way he throws. He can overcome it, guys have, but that’s something that’s a challenge for me. I’m gonna be looking at that, trying to fix it, because it’s a fundamental flaw, and I believe in the fundamentals. The quarterback, his No. 1 job is to pass the football. If I don’t like the way he throws the ball, I have a hard time picking him, right?”
We are four years and many games removed from those initial thoughts on his current quarterbacks but McAdoo now finds the pair in his quarterback room and must find a way get the most out of at least one of them until perhaps PJ Walker recovers from a badly sprained ankle.
Whatever the Panthers decide to do, what they’re really evaluating over the course of their final 7 games, is which one, if any of them, is likely to come back next season as at best a band-aid until they find a franchise leader or maybe a back-up to whoever general manager Scott Fitterer decides to bring in next.
Until then, the Panthers will be relying each week on a young and improving defense that has repeatedly shown it’s ready to win now but too often wears down under the weight of being on the field for better than 26 minutes per game, dead last in the league.
UP NEXT: Carolina (3-8) will host the Denver Broncos at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday. The game kicks off at 1 pm Eastern and will be televised on Fox 46. Denver will bring a record of 3-7 into the game and is coming off a 22-16 overtime loss at home to the Las Vegas Raiders.