CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – “From one mediocre quarterback to another,” my son Ryan said of the Carolina Panthers’ acquisition of former Cleveland Browns signal-caller, and former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.
I on the other hand have to disagree. But, that’s what fathers do when it comes to their kids, right?
I certainly speak for the minority when I say Mayfield will be a big upgrade over what the Panthers had a year ago in quarterback Sam Darnold. If a healthy Mayfield can lead the Panthers to a .500 season, or better, it can save head coach Matt Rhule’s job.
That prediction comes with an asterisk, though.
Running back Christian McCaffrey needs to play a full season as well.
Mayfield is at his best when pushing the ball down the field. If McCaffrey can get back to running and catching the ball like he did before his injuries, that will open up passing lanes for the sometimes-erratic Mayfield.
Remember, Mayfield was the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL draft just four years ago and won the Heisman Trophy his senior year at the University of Oklahoma.
Now, I realize Mayfield wouldn’t be the first former No. 1 pick to flame out (I see you JaMarcus Russell) but I just don’t think that’s going to happen, and the Panthers are about to find that out.
Mayfield is just 27 years of age, right in the prime of his career. Just two years ago, Mayfield led the Browns to an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 9 interceptions. That’s a pretty good season — the type of season the Panthers hope they’ll get.
Mayfield, though, is coming off an injury-filled season but appears to be healthy entering the 2022 campaign.
The Carolina franchise is at a crossroad and Mayfield will be a huge factor in which path the Panthers travel.
Another season like last year’s 5-12 mark will lead to Carolina going into a full-out rebuild mode. If it didn’t look like it was doing that already.
I predict Baker Mayfield will not allow that to happen.
Three months from now I might regret writing this column and have to admit to my son that he was right, but that’s already something I do quite often with his mom.