Is Matt Rhule starting to regret Carolina Panthers QB competition?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold /

Is Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule already regretting the quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold this offseason?

Much was made of the Carolina Panthers implementing a quarterback battle between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold in training camp. This method was scrutinized heavily by the wider media, who questioned whether or not this would have grave implications when things got serious during the regular season.

Mayfield’s late arrival after the Panthers held out for a good deal only complicated matters further. The signal-caller made a smooth transition to a different environment and won the job comfortably as expected, but that was just the first, expected step for a player Carolina is counting on heavily in 2022.

The fact it took Mayfield so long to get going against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 coupled with some serious timing problems with center Pat Elflein brought the spotlight on Carolina’s offseason competition once again.

While the coaching staff wanted the former Oklahoma standout to earn his spot, there was an air of inevitability about the overall outcome given how poorly Darnold performed last season following his trade from the New York Jets.

Matt Rhule not thinking about Carolina Panthers QB competition

When asked about the quarterback competition and whether it’s something he regretted, Matt Rhule was coy in his response, adding that there is no point looking back and wondering what could have been done differently at this stage.

"“I think the starting competition was what it was. I can’t go back. We had to do what was right by the team and make sure who our quarterback was. Yesterday was one of 17.”"

Making sure who the quarterback was seemed to be a foregone conclusion from pretty early on. So for Rhule to carry on splitting reps until after the second preseason game was bizarre then and even more so now.

Having regrets and making poor decisions have been evident throughout Rhule’s time with the Panthers so far. The slow start in Week 1 was littered with complications as the offense stuttered and Carolina’s defense wasn’t much better as they were rolled over by the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

In fairness to the Panthers, they put up a good fight late on. Everything started to click with enhanced urgency, but it wasn’t enough to end a deeply concerning losing streak in front of the team’s long-suffering fanbase.

Rhule stated that the Panthers have to play better at the New York Giants and beyond. But the head coach was optimistic about the production demonstrated by Mayfield in the fourth quarter that can hopefully turn into something more over an entire game.

"“We have to have a really good week, and we have to play much better. I think who we were in the fourth quarter is who we’d like to be. We just have to do it for 60 minutes. When we do that, we’ll be a good team.”"

Everyone has their own opinion on how Carolina handled this situation. For good or bad.

It’s just the first game. But if the same problems remain in the coming weeks, then it’s hard to justify the competition when the need for Mayfield to get on the same page with his offensive line and primary playmakers was evident.

What comes next? Only time will tell.

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