When training camp opened for the Carolina Panthers, Sam Darnold was the starting quarterback. And, as of Tuesday, the team is back to where it all started.
The team announced on its website that Darnold will be the starter on Sunday when the Panthers host the Denver Broncos.
Per the Panthers: Interim coach Steve Wilks told his quarterbacks Tuesday that Darnold would start and play for the first time this season.
That will make Darnold the fourth quarterback to take the field for the team this year and the third to start a game.
Yeah, it’s been a mess.
Sam Darnold Latest Panthers Starting QB
Darnold, the team’s starter in 12 games last season, has not played since suffering a preseason high ankle sprain.
The reason he’s playing this week is that P.J. Walker is apparently not yet ready to return after suffering a high ankle sprain against the Falcons. Wilks selected Darnold ahead of Baker Mayfield to start.
The coach also selected Mayfield to serve as the backup.
Mayfield, who earned the starting job after he was traded from the Cleveland Browns, has not performed at a high level.
Mayfield started six games and the Panthers have a 1-5 record in those games. Last week Mayfield started against the Baltimore Ravens and threw two interceptions without a touchdown pass. The Panthers lost the game, 13-3.
Mayfield played two weeks ago in relief of Walker. For the season he’s completed 119 of 206 (57.8 percent) with six touchdowns and six interceptions for a 74.4 rating.
This back and forth at the quarterback position is not optimal. And it signals that the Panthers have a lot of quarterbacks, but none they’re committed to.
Perhaps that guy will eventually be Matt Corral, who was drafted in the third round of the April draft. But Corral’s rookie season ended before the regular-season even began when he suffered a Lisfranc injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve in the preseason.
The Panthers, 3-8, may obviously decide drafting a quarterback in the 2023 draft is the way to go. Their current season arc has them owning the No. 2 overall draft pick. So they would be in position to find a quarterback if things continue as they have been.
The people making quarterback decisions this year — coach Matt Rhule and Wilks as interim — probably won’t be making the call next year. That’s because ownership will likely hire a new head coach.
And, while we’re at it, neither Darnold nor Mayfield may be around the Panthers next season. Both are unrestricted free agents in 2023.