The story of Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers is a confusing one. For some reason the Panther front office signed his fifth-year rookie extension earlier this offseason without even seeing him play a game as a starter at the NFL level. After a strong start to the season in the first three and a half games of the season, Darnold's season has taken a turn for the worse, as he has thrown for just 200 yards once since Week 4 after doing so in each of the first four weeks and has just a 2-9 TD-INT ratio since that Dallas game.
Yesterday the finalist for 2022, Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced, and among the finalists was former Saints and Panthers Linebacker, Sam Mills. Mills was an original of the Panthers franchise after they entered the NFL in 1995, and was a major part of the success the franchise enjoyed right away. As you well know, Mills passed away from cancer in 2005. During his battle with cancer, Mills was a member of the Panthers coaching staff and coined the phrase "Keep Pounding" which is still synonymous with the team today. During his lengthy playing career, Mills was selected to 5 Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro 3 times. Panthers.com writer Darin Gantt joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today, and this to say about Sam Mill's Hall of Fame candidacy:
The 2021 Tar Heel football season mercifully came to an end on Thursday afternoon in Bank of America Stadium with a disastrous 38-21 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks, a team that came in with one of the worst offenses in all of college football. That loss may have been the final time that Sam Howell will suit up in his college football career and, like it seemed happened too often during his three year career in Chapel Hill, he walked away with a loss that he did everything to avoid with his play at the quarterback position. Howell has yet to make his intentions for his future public yet, but if this is it, it's hard not to feel like the Tar Heels weren't able to do enough with the best quarterback in school history.
The Carolina Panthers are 5-10 in large part to below average play at the quarterback position, as they have started Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and PJ Walker under center this season. The QB position is the most important position in football, and arguably all of sports, yet that hasn't stopped Matt Rhule from neglecting the position. Rhule is likely coming back for a third season, despite being just 10-22 in the NFL, but there will be expectations to win, and win big. In order to do that though, the Panthers will need to revamp the QB position right? Josh Klein from the Riot Report joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today and said:
Prior to Sunday's home finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was announced that the Carolina Panthers and owner David Tepper were leaning towards bringing Matt Rhule back for his third season in Charlotte. Following that report, the team would proceed to beat down by a depleted Bucs team 32-6, though, looking lifeless throughout the majority of the game and failing to score a touchdown in a game for the third time this season. Later that night, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said on Football Night America that Matt Rhule is someone to keep an eye on in terms of his job status.
The Hornets had no issues with the Huston Rockets on Monday, disposing of them 123-99 in what was their largest margin of victory of the season. Terry Rozier led the way for team in the win, dropping 27 points on 10-17 shooting from the field and 7-12 from beyond the arc, but the bench production led by Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nick Richards was once again a big part of the success in this one.
From a 3-0 start, to the hot seat, it has been a very trying season for Panthers HC Matt Rhule, who is still trying to prove he belongs in the NFL. The Panthers have lost 10 of their last 12 games and were officially eliminated from playoff contention with yesterday's 32-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs. The recent losing streak has brought into question the job status of Matt Rhule, who signed a seven-year, $63 million dollar contract just two seasons ago, and yet is only 10-22 in the NFL. Panthers beat reporter for The Charlotte Observer joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today, and offered this opinion as to why it would make sense to move on from Rhule: "You look at his record in November and December for the past two years, and you worry about momentum, like where is this headed. Why isn't this team building towards success?" What kept John Fox and Ron Rivera in Charlotte for extended periods of time, were successful ends to seasons, that show glimpses of hope for the future, which were proven true as the Panthers would make the Super Bowl under both Fox and Rivera. Matt Rhule is still searching for his first signature win in the NFL, something that if you don't have after two seasons in the NFL, doesn't lend well to your long-term future.
The Panthers playoff hopes are officially done as of Sunday after a blowout 32-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the team's home finale for the 20212 season. The team was dominated from start to finish by a Bucs team that was as beat up as any team that the Panthers have faced this season, allowing 391 yards of total offense, 6.3 yards per play and 159 yards on the ground, all while facing a team that was without their leading rusher and their top two receivers. Meanwhile, the Panthers continued their struggles offensively, totaling just 273 of total offense and somehow only putting six points on the board in this one.
It's no secret that the Panthers have two major question marks personnel-wise moving forward that the team still has to address, the left tackle and the quarterback positions. Left tackle is a spot where Panther fans have grown frustrated by the fact that the team hasn't taken many risks and has tried to solve the position with band-aid instead of a long-term fix. The quarterback position is an area where the team has been more aggressive, but simply has swung and missed on the three quarterbacks that they have acquired since Matt Rhule's arrival two years ago.
The Carolina Panthers have lost 9 of their last 11 games, and after a 3-0 start, they sit at 5-9 and are virtually out of the playoff picture. The recent losing streak which extended to four games on Sunday in Buffalo has raised the question of Matt Rhule's job security in Carolina after this season. Rhule, who signed a seven-year, $63 million dollar contract roughly two years ago, is 10-20 in the NFL. Despite his struggles in the league, he was sought after for all the premium openings in college football, but never really considered leaving. There's no denying that Matt Rhule was David Tepper's guy, remember he out-bid the New York Giants for Rhule's services, and even visited Rhule's house to interview him, and offer him the job. During the struggles of this season in particular, Tepper has been very quiet, which hasn't eased any concerns Rhule may be having. Joe Person from The Athletic joined Wilson & Norfleet, and had this to say on the matter: "It feels like this is a franchise were somebody needs to say something. Everything I keep hearing is that Rhule is probably safe" Tepper has only made a handful of public comments in the last year or so, but this feels like the appropriate time to hear from the NFL's richest owner, as his franchise is currently suffering from the fourth consecutive losing season, the first time that has ever happened in the history of the Carolina Panthers.