Amid the latest New York Jets quarterback controversy, fans received a blast from the past. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that former first-round draft bust Sam Darnold will start for the Carolina Panthers in Week 12 — and the news was received with a bit of angst on social media.
Zach Wilson was just benched coming off one of his worst starts as an NFL quarterback and “Darnold-truthers” are using the timing to point to what could have been while others are agonizing over his potential success against the Denver Broncos.
Realistically though, this is Darnold’s final shot at redemption. It’s also his final chance to prove everyone wrong and win a starting job in 2023.
Ex-Jets QB Sam Darnold Given Final Panthers Opportunity
Let’s first keep in mind that if not for injury, XFL star P.J. Walker would be starting for Carolina in Week 12. After Baker Mayfield’s miserable comeback tour with the Panthers, Walker managed to win some games and get them out of last place in the NFC before an unfortunate high-ankle sprain.
Carolina then went back to Mayfield last weekend but after a three-point performance that was eerily similar to the Jets on Sunday, the former number-one overall pick has been relegated to the farthest end of the bench. Darnold is merely the next man up and for the ex-Jets prospect, this might be his last opportunity.
Mayfield and Darnold are both free agents at the end of the 2022 campaign. The chances of the Panthers re-signing either of them are slim to none.
Not only do they have Walker, but they drafted Matt Corral in April and it’s very likely that they spend their 2023 first-round pick on one of the top quarterback prospects in a QB-heavy draft class. That, or they target a veteran acquisition.
Panthers owner David Tepper is famously impatient and you get the sense that he’ll either blow it all up again or attempt another big splash in the QB market. So what does all this mean for Darnold?
It means that this Week 12 start and any that follow might as well be an audition for 2023 — and any franchise in the market for competition at quarterback. Unless he comes out and lights the world on fire, Darnold will most likely start next summer as a backup or best case scenario, at the center of another camp battle.
Remember, Darnold was losing a camp competition to the pitiful Mayfield this August before his injury.
Is Sam Darnold an Option for the Jets?
What a cruel twist of fate it would be if Wilson continued to submarine within the organization and Darnold became one of the top free-agent options for Gang Green.
In theory, it could happen but considering the history between the failed draft pick and the NYC organization, it’s hard to fathom that Darnold would ever agree to return to the Jets — even if his choices were limited. It’s also hard to believe that a proud NFL general manager like Joe Douglas comes out and practically admits he was wrong by replacing his prized prospect with a QB that he decided to trade away.
No, a reunion feels extremely unlikely but the speculation would make for a headline or two.
Who knows when fans will see the BYU product take the field again — and whether or not it will happen in 2022.