I wanted to jump right on this one when the news came out with Sam Darnold but I had to take an objective step back and really assess the move instead of a complete reaction. I had to let my personally feelings die down and let logic take over because my first, initial reaction was to say that he sucks regardless of where he plays. I felt that may have been just a tad one-sided in that stance, you know? At the very least I have to give Darnold the benefit of the doubt.
Earlier in April, The New York Jets finally traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three picks. The Jets flipped Sam Darnold for the Panthers sixth-rounder in 2021 and a second and fourth-rounder in 2022. With the Jets moving on from Sam Darnold they’re all but locking themselves in for picking a quarterback with their second overall pick in the upcoming draft. With Darnold going to Carolina, it also looks like the Panthers are moving on from Teddy Bridgewater. The question remains: What can Sam Darnold be with the Panthers in 2021?
Let’s get this thought out of the way. We know Adam Gase was a bad head coach. I won’t beat this point to death because I know I have in the past. It was apparent. The Jets offense in 2019 ranked 32nd in total yards (4,368) and averaged just 4.6 yards per play. Both stats put the Jets at the bottom of the league. The Jets finished at the bottom of the league again in 2020 under Sam Darnold and Adam Gase in both categories at 4,479 total yards on offense and averaging 4.7 yards per play.
Sam Darnold ranked in the bottom of the league among quarterbacks in both of those seasons as well. It’s easy to point the finger at the offense and say that he didn’t have weapons or that the oline was bad and you wouldn’t be wrong in saying it. Even considering the lack of weapons, Darnold still never appeared to be an NFL caliber quarterback. Darnold has yet to crack 20 passing touchdowns in a single season and his best Passer Rating was just 84.3 in 2017. It hasn’t been any higher at any other point in his career thus far.
That doesn’t mean that Sam Darnold can’t turn it around but he has a steep hill to climb.
Being traded to the Panthers does give him a better chance to do that. Not saying that it will but it definitely helps. Coming into an offense with proven weapons in Christian McCaffrey for starters is always a level up. McCaffery’s workhorse ability combined with how dangerous his versatility is should give Darnold an option he’s never had before. Before anyone brings up Le’Veon Bell or Frank Gore… just don’t. Christian McCaffery is leagues above both, averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the last two full seasons before being lost to injury in 2020. McCaffery also averaged 133 targets the last two full seasons and produced an 84% catch rate.
Darnold also gets reunited with former Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson and gets D.J. Moore, a wide receiver that managed nearly 1,200 yards receiving with Teddy Bridgewater despite the Panthers passing offense ranking 18th in passing yards. Robby Anderson was also able to crack 1k in receiving yards as well. Sam Darnold for his career has never had a 1k receiver. Everything about the Carolina Panthers is a legit upgrade for Sam Darnold. Darnold has to be able to make improvements to his game in order to essentially save his career.
I’m going to give Sam Darnold the benefit of the doubt but I’m not giving any excuses either. It’s time for Darnold to show up on the field. Others have made excuses like he’s been undercoached and he hasn’t been in the right system. Now he’s in a much better system than what he started out with in New York. It’s time for the pundits to cut that noise out. If Darnold can’t improve inside of the Panthers team, he is what he is.