The Panthers have been receiving plenty of attention lately given the struggles of their quarterback and the increasing calls for a head coaching change. For at least the short-term future, though, the status quo appears likely to continue on both fronts.
When speaking to the media yesterday, Matt Rhule continued to support summer trade acquisition Baker Mayfield as the team’s starter. “I think Baker’s our quarterback. We have to continue to find ways to help him,” he said (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic).
In the franchise’s latest attempt to solidify the position, Carolina executed a long-anticipated trade for the former No. 1 pick in July. Mayfield took a pay cut to facilitate his move out of Cleveland, and quickly won the training camp competition between he and incumbent Sam Darnold. Things have not started as well as anyone had hoped, however.
Mayfield has completed less than 55% of his attempts, totaling 747 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. His 75.0 quarterback rating is a career-low mark, and the Panthers rank last in the NFL at an average of 283 yards per contest. Those figures fall well short of expectations entering the season, where a return to health for the Oklahoma product was thought to provide stability and an upgrade over Darnold.
The latter’s health represents the most immediate reason why Mayfield will remain the starter for the time being. Darnold has begun the season on IR due to an ankle sprain; despite the fact that he is now eligible to return, Rhule said that he is not ready to do so, with Week 6 being a more realistic target (Twitter link via ESPN’s David Newton). Darnold’s level of play last year led to the team’s urgency in trading for Mayfield, so it would come as a surprise if he were to return to the No. 1 role.
“I just feel like we have to expect more than that from all of us as an offense,” Rhule added via Person when asked about the unit’s struggles (subscription required). “Offensively, we have to score more points. And that starts with me, goes to [offensive coordinator] Ben [McAdoo], goes to the assistant coaches and players. We have to get it corrected.”