As the saying goes, when you have two quarterbacks, you have none. Well, what if you have three?
There’s QB purgatory, there’s QB hell, and then there’s whatever the current state of the Panthers represents. With PJ Walker the starting quarterback entering Carolina’s “Thursday Night Football” matchup against the Falcons, the Panthers remain in franchise passer limbo with no clear plan the rest of the season.
GM Scott Fitterer has thrown a fair amount of darts at the board in recent years while trying to find a stopgap, let alone an answer, for the team’s hole at quarterback. With Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield filling out the room behind Walker (and 2022 NFL Draft pick Matt Corral out for the year), there are plenty of options.
But, just because there are options doesn’t mean they’re good ones.
MORE: NFL power rankings — Panthers in the cellar
Here’s how the room shakes out:
Panthers QB depth chart
Entering the “Thursday Night Football” matchup against the Falcons, the Panthers are starting PJ Walker with Baker Mayfield in the QB2 spot.
1. PJ Walker
2022 stats: Five games (four starts), 1-3 record, 623 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, 124.6 yards per game, 25 rushing yards.
Even with Baker Mayfield replacing Walker in the second half of the Panthers’ Week 9 loss to the Bengals, interim head coach Steve Wilks is sticking with the journeyman passer, at least for the start of one more game.
For those looking at the decision to start PJ Walker after a 0.0 passer rating yesterday, Wilks says to trust the process and his decision making. Adds that Walker wasn’t the only one to have a bad game. “ I could bench everybody if we go off bad games.” pic.twitter.com/Pcoy7wyULb
— Sheena Quick (@Sheena_Marie3) November 7, 2022
“We all have bad games — PJ wasn’t the only one,” Wilks said earlier this week. … “I can bench everybody if we go off bad games. So we’re gonna rally behind PJ and definitely give him the things that he needs from a game plan standpoint.”
Walker getting another opportunity isn’t the worst thing in the world for Carolina, but a shaky performance in Week 9 leading to his benching means the Panthers have a bit less faith than the team is letting on. We’ll see how long Walker’s leash is entering Week 10.
2. Baker Mayfield
2022 stats: Six games (five starts), 1-4 record, 1,117 yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions, 186.2 yards per game, 40 rushing yards, one touchdown.
The Baker Mayfield experiment hasn’t exactly gone as planned for the Panthers and Scott Fitterer. The former No. 1 overall pick got another chance at playing in Week 9 after Walker was benched following a poor first half, and threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the relief appearance.
Still, the Panthers have been fair to Mayfield, and aren’t prepared to entirely close the door on him just yet.
“Baker has not failed — Baker got injured,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said on Tuesday. … “I think Baker’s a tremendous leader for us. He had moments of playing well before the injury. He had a rough game the game he got injured, but that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. We still have a lot of football left to play. He offers a lot to the room and the team and the offense.”
Whether it’s injury or ineffectiveness that caused Mayfield’s slip down the depth chart, he still hasn’t made good on the deal that brought him to Carolina: In six games, Mayfield has six touchdown passes and four interceptions, and has averaged 186 passing yards per game in that span. Hardly lighting up the stat sheet.
If Week 9 is any indicator, there’s still a chance he’ll get another shot at playing (or maybe even starting) with the Panthers the rest of the way.
MORE: NFL picks, predictions for Week 10
3. Sam Darnold
2022 stats: N/A
Once upon a time, NFL analysts believed that a change of scenery for Sam Darnold would do wonders for his career. That … hasn’t been the case.
In 2021, the Jets shipped Darnold to the Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second- and fourth-round picks. In turn, Darnold has been either bad or injured, but he’s still expected to get a few snaps before the end of the season, according to Ian Rapoport.
The #Panthers activated quarterback Sam Darnold and he should play some down the stretch. Part of the evaluation for next season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 7, 2022
Darnold suffered an ankle injury in the Panthers’ preseason finale that kept him out until after Week 9, but Baker Mayfield was still in line to start over Darnold entering the regular season, beating out his 2018 NFL Draft classmate.
Darnold’s potential last good shot at playing time in the NFL should come this year — if Rapoport’s report holds up.
4. Matt Corral (IR)
2022 stats: N/A
In a room full of unknowns, Matt Corral is equal parts the least and most unknown. The 2022 third-round pick out of Ole Miss has yet to play a snap in the NFL, and he won’t in 2022 as he recovers from a preseason foot issue.
One thing is certain, though: With all three QBs in front of him heading into free agency following the season, Corral will enter the offseason as QB1 on the depth chart.
But if the Panthers have taught us anything, then expect QBs 2, 3 and 4 to get involved in some way, shape or form next season.