The Panthers dropped back below .500 after an embarrassing Week 9 performance and now sit at 4-5 after nine games. Carolina looked disjointed all day, and were completely outmatched by the Patriots. I’m struggling to find things to say about this team after the game I was forced to watch yesterday, so below are two takeaways I had from yesterday’s disaster.
It’s time to move on from Sam Darnold
I said this after the Giants game, and it’s still true (it’s so true that I adjusted the numbers to account for yesterday’s game and left the rest of it exactly the same):
Sam Darnold is not the answer, and the Panthers are back to square one at needing to find a franchise quarterback. P.J. Walker is a decent backup, and I think it’s time to let him play to see what he can and cannot do, but he’s probably not the guy to turn the franchise around. Cam Newton’s not walking through that door, either, so the Panthers are once again in the position where they have to hope the next guy — whoever that may be — can be the one to finally put this team on his back and take us to the promised land.
Matt Rhule said a few weeks ago that the Panthers were going to ‘redefine who we are’ on offense and take the ball out of Darnold’s hands and put more responsibility on the running game to help Darnold protect the ball. Well, it’s not working, even with Christian McCaffrey back in the fold. The Panthers had 23 carries for 78 yards yesterday against the Patriots. Darnold was 16-of-33 for 172 yards, 0 touchdowns and 3 (Yes, 3.) interceptions, including a pick six. So much for redefining who we are, eh? That looks exactly like the same Panthers team we’ve seen all year long: Unable to do anything on offense when the other team shuts down the rushing attack and Sam Darnold is trusted to take the reins.
I’ve given Rhule a little bit of slack since it’s hard to run the football when the defense knows you have to run because your quarterback can’t throw — and when he does make a decent throw his receivers can’t catch it, or it ends up in the hands of the other team — but he’s running out of slack by continuing to run Darnold out there when he’s clearly in over his head. I’m not saying that Walker will be any better — and it’s highly likely he’ll be just as bad — but it’s time to see what we’ve got in him so we’ll know what to do at quarterback next year. Hell, I’m even in favor of throwing Josh Love and/or James Morgan out there to see what they’ve got. It’s not like it can get much worse than it is right now.
Which brings me to my next takeaway...
It’s time to evaluate depth for the future
The Panthers are 4-5 and will probably be 4-6 after Sunday when they travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals, and at that point the playoff chase is all but over. Yes, I know there will be seven games left after next week, but keep in mind the final four games on the schedule are one home game against the Buccaneers, and three road games against the Bills, Saints and Bucs. The games against the Giants, Falcons (2x), Patriots, Dolphins and Washington were the games that would most likely decide whether or not we competed for a playoff spot, and we’re already 1-2 in the first three games of that stretch of the schedule. If we can’t win the next four games and start the final gauntlet of the season at 8-5, then our playoff chances are all but guaranteed to be gone.
It’s time to face reality and accept that this current Panthers team isn’t good enough to make the playoffs, and it’s time to see what the young guys down on the depth chart can contribute to the future of this team. I know that the coaching staff will not do this until they are mathematically eliminated, but it’s time to start playing some of the younger guys to get a better idea of how we need to approach the draft next year.
We need to see what Brady Christensen can do at left tackle on a week-to-week basis. We need to see if Shi Smith has a future as a starting wide receiver. We need to know if Keith Taylor can make Donte Jackson expendable. With the season all but guaranteed to be another disappointment, now’s the time to answer these questions. It will be miserable in the short term as these guys learn the ropes, but in the long term it will be worth it. The current regime has to face reality and start looking towards the future rather than trying to put out this dumpster fire. Just let it burn and go buy a better dumpster next year.
I really don’t know what else to say about this team. We play the Cardinals next week in Arizona, so we already know how that’s probably gonna go. Hopefully the Panthers will find a way to prove me wrong, but I’m not getting my hopes up this week.
What stood out to you this week, Panthers fans? Share your thoughts with us!