Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold’s professional approach has left a positive impression despite losing his starting job to Baker Mayfield.
Sam Darnold faced an uphill battle to keep his starting job this offseason. The Carolina Panthers didn’t bring in Baker Mayfield to sit on the sidelines, although Matt Rhule and his staff were keen to make this a genuine competition before determining the overall victor.
Unsurprisingly, that was Mayfield. The news was officially confirmed before Monday’s practice, leaving Darnold tasked with backup responsibilities with a fully guaranteed $18.85 million coming his way in 2022.
Given the fact Matt Corral is likely to miss the entire season due to a foot injury suffered at the New England Patriots, the Panthers are going to keep Darnold on the books. And in all fairness to the fifth-year-pro, his professionalism and putting the team before himself painted the signal-caller in an extremely positive light.
His production last season was not up to the required standard. But one cannot accuse Darnold of being anything other than a good teammate despite things not going his way.
Sam Darnold wants to help the Carolina Panthers from a backup role
Darnold had a solid camp of his own. Although the player was disappointed the battle didn’t end up going in his favor, the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 outlined his willingness to keep the same mindset and assist Mayfield in whatever way he can to get the Panthers trending in a positive direction once again.
"“We were fighting for the starting job. Every day was our game day out there during camp, especially as we got into these last couple weeks. . . . Obviously it didn’t go my way. Coach named Baker the starter. My mindset is it is what it is. For me, right now, I’m gonna do everything I can to support Baker and get him ready to play a game.”"
What comes next for Darnold is unclear. The Panthers will likely move forward with the player as QB2 next season with little in the way of trade interest coming his way, so perhaps this could be the best thing for his future aspirations to get out of the firing line for a season.
We’ve seen it with the likes of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in recent years. Spending time watching from the sidelines has helped them get another shot, so Darnold will be hoping the same occurs for him once he hits free agency next spring.
It could have been easy for Darnold to sulk this summer. Instead, the player showed some fight and displayed a high character that won’t have gone unnoticed by others across the league.
Whether this is enough for another team to give Darnold a starting opportunity next season is another matter. There is enough bad tape to suggest that might be a long shot, but stranger things have happened and it’s absolutely vital the former USC standout seizes his next opportunity when it arrives.
As for the Panthers, there’s little doubt Mayfield gives them the best chance of being competitive. If the Oklahoma product goes down with an injury, then they have someone familiar with the system in Darnold that can step in at a moment’s notice.
The talent to get things done in the crunch is still a major concern for Darnold. But his impressive attitude and overall character are no longer in question.