Rethinking the Sam Darnold Story

If Tom Brady was drafted by the Panthers in 2000, would George Seifert even start him? As fans, it is easy to be unnecessarily and unhelpfully negative about players who are not mythologically shocking us. We forget that these are people, this is a team , and that this is not some video game that is as simple as filling bubble answers on a standardized test. There is no statistical adjustment for players with disabilities, deaths in their families, coming from bad coaching, or players who have a lower tolerance for pain. Yet we know that these factors matter in the outcome. Instead of demanding the almighty wins and draft picks, we as people have a responsibility to learn to get a better reading and presentation of the stories that come from these silly games.

I am asking that we rethink what happens and accept the fact that we only know what happens based on what information is given to us. Fair chances are not given to players who deserve them. Second chances are given to players who do not deserve them.

Sam Darnold went from a promising 2021 start to a miserable finish that was just left with enough inconsistency to produce doubt in his ability to be a quarterback. But it also left the Panthers staff with enough inconsistency to produce interest in returning him to the team as a backup quarterback. Last season, the proof is in his play. He was much better at managing the game. Just do not trust him to be a statistics machine. But for a quarterback to go from being an Adam Gase/New York Jets normally would produce the quality of a three-legged, blind chihuahua playing the lead in a live-action Balto remake. The end result of a mediocre career in Carolina is a massive improvement from such a lousy introduction to the NFL.

When a lot of people discuss individuals, there is much but not enough said about the conditions of the situations in which the individuals are given to thrive. If Darnold had been given the patience and a competent offensive coaching staff necessary for him to excel, the situation would likely be better. As it is, his hard work did pay nicely for the Carolina Panthers, even if the fans don’t necessarily appreciate the fact that he actually dove on the ball when he fumbled against the Broncos or beat the Saints with a painfully predictable gameplan even after the great running back was ejected from the game. While the pain of suffering yet another season without returning to the playoffs bleeds from our foreheads, there is a light that shines in this team that has good people that are not quitting even when others have quit on them. Darnold never drunkenly entered the head coach’s office to admit his heart was not in it. He took as much of the blame on himself as he could even when it was clear at times that other players put less effort and lost the game with their own mistakes. While we all wish he could have been better, Panthers fans suffered through much worse than his best. His improvement from the Jets to the Panthers to become a more reliable but not ready quarterback is an amazing accomplishment for a quarterback that did not have Andy Dalton, Frank Reich, Josh McCown, or Derek Anderson on the sideline with him to help guide him. He did this without any Steve Smith-type of receiver or Greg Olsen-type of tight end. The offensive line was far from the glory days of Ryan Khalil and Jordan Gross. To be fair, their improvement was quite a story as well. So it is with humble and little but significant appreciation that I express my gratitude for a performance left with more negativity than is deserved. For the Carolina Panthers and for Sam Darnold, this is a new beginning that can produce success in two different directions. As a Panthers fan, it is fun to see what happens for both the Carolina Panthers and Baltohuahua from here.

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