I still remember Muhsin Muhammad’s cover photo in Sports Illustrated in early 2004. He was on one knee with a finger to his mouth as if to shush the crowd. The Panthers were rolling through January and it was a good time to be alive in North Carolina.
Muhammad was cool. The Panthers were cool. They had cool uniforms, enviable receivers like Muhammad and a young Steve Smith, a decent quarterback in Jake Delhomme and a rowdy defensive line.
Remember the dudes on that defensive line? Julius Peppers. Mike Rucker. Brentson Buckner. Kris Jenkins. It was an anxiety merry-go-round for opposing passers.
Two weeks after that cover shot, Muhammad, Delhomme, Smith and the Panthers played against Tom Brady and New England in Houston for Super Bowl 38. Both Muhammad and Smith caught nice touchdowns from Delhomme, but it wasn’t enough.
Although not a Panthers fan, I wanted them to win. More than the animosity towards the Patriots was that the Panthers were still somewhat of a surprising entrant that year after going 11-5. They were the underdogs no matter how young Brady was. Adam Vinatieri knocked in the game winning field goal and a ton of viewers were left heartbroken.
Fast forward 18 years and the Panthers do not have an adequate quarterback situation. I’ve read different ESPN articles saying that Sam Darnold is in the lead to be starter, while the team is open to bringing back Cam Newton.
I think Sam and Cam for another season would be a terrible idea. Darnold’s days as a starting quarterback are over as far as I’m concerned, while Cam’s actual days in the NFL are limited. That’s no disrespect to Cam, who put in a lot of great years in Charlotte.
For me, the Panthers need to cut bait on the Sam Darnold as starter experiment, stay away from Cam and draft Malik Willis. But it could work for those who still see value in Darnold, too. Let Willis and Darnold compete for the starting job in training camp, and if Darnold wins, keep him around for one more year while Willis grows.
Kenny Pickett, from what I’ve heard, is going to be a serviceable NFL quarterback, but he isn’t ‘great’ at anything. Malik Willis is a higher risk, higher reward prospect and I admit, I was wowed by the combine videos circulating around Twitter. I admit it. I’m on the Willis hype train a little bit.
No fans want to be in this situation and I don’t envy CSR readers. I know it’s not the strongest quarterback class and everyone would prefer the Panthers having the chance to grab a Justin Herbert at No. 6. And no fan really wants to be going through what Panthers fans are currently being subjected to.
But after being passed over in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes and not having grabbed another quarterback in free agency, I really think the team needs to make a splash in the draft. For me that splash is Willis.
That’s all I got for you guys. Have at it in the comments section!