Did the Carolina Panthers fail Baker Mayfield?

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield /

Did the Carolina Panthers fail quarterback Baker Mayfield after his early release was officially confirmed by the franchise this week?

It was seen as one last roll of the dice by beleaguered head coach Matt Rhule. The Carolina Panthers took yet another swing in the quarterback trade market to acquire Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns, who let the player go without much fuss after they gave up the house to secure the services of controversial signal-caller Deshaun Watson despite his sexual misconduct issues.

Mayfield left a good impression over the summer, establishing himself as a prominent leader within the locker room and also comfortably beating out Sam Darnold for the starting job. Sadly for the player and the Panthers, this didn’t translate into a competitive setting and the signs weren’t good right out of the gate.

There was just something missing during Mayfield’s time under center. His hesitancy behind a much-improved offensive line was notable and timing was way off on countless occasions with the team’s primary playmakers.

Carolina Panthers failed Baker Mayfield, but the QB wasn’t good enough

Another disappointing outing against the San Francisco 49ers cost Rhule his job and Mayfield spent time on injured/reserve in the immediate aftermath. P.J. Walker made some strides under Steve Wilks, but the former Oklahoma sensation got one final opportunity to lead Carolina in Week 11 at the Baltimore Ravens.

More false hope emerged thanks to some progressive play-calling at long last from offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo without Rhule’s influence. However, it was the same old story from Mayfield and as it turned out, this was the last time as the team’s starter.

There’s no denying that the Heisman Trophy winner’s lackluster production became a weak link. Considering how surprisingly efficient Sam Darnold was in his first start versus the Denver Broncos, it only decreased Mayfield’s chances of seeing playing time down the stretch.

When Mayfield came to Wilks upon returning from the bye and ask for a release, the interim head coach granted this wish, praising the player’s professionalism on his way out of the door.

"“Yes, we felt we wanted to give him the opportunity to be able to seek whatever him and his agent felt would be the best for them. Again, he has been nothing but a professional for us. So I wanted to extend that courtesy. I wouldn’t say that he failed. I would say that it just didn’t work out. You know, he’s still a good football player. Just like coaches, just like players sometimes, you know, they just need to change. And I wish him all the best.”"

Wilks is right. Sometimes, in football and in life, things just don’t work out and a fresh start is needed.

But did the Panthers fail Mayfield all things considered?

In many ways, that’s true. Even though Mayfield would be the first to admit his performances were nowhere near good enough to firmly establish himself as Carolina’s long-term option.

Firstly, the needless training camp competition with Darnold implemented by Rhule denied Mayfield significant reps at an important time. This was despite the Panthers waiting until the 11th hour in pursuit of finding value in their latest quarterback trade.

Picking up a new scheme and developing chemistry with teammates is an integral part of any transition. Rhule’s inept personnel management prevented any consistency and considering the need for a fast start, the decision was bizarre.

There was also McAdoo’s scheme to factor into the equation. The offensive coordinator wasn’t Mayfield’s biggest fan during his pre-draft assessments in 2018 and even though the pair said all the right things, the lack of confidence was evident.

Trust is a big thing between quarterbacks and coordinators. McAdoo never truly believed in Mayfield, which made this a failed marriage from the outset.

In all honesty, there is plenty of blame to go around. But the great quarterbacks overcome almost anything to produce the goods and Mayfield simply didn’t do enough when it’s all said and done.

That’s not to say he wasn’t dealt a rough hand. Even if this was his only legitimate chance of starting straight away after his relationship with the Browns passed the point of no return.

Nobody should hold any ill will towards Mayfield. The No. 1 overall selection in 2018 did all he could, but sometimes even your best isn’t good enough.

With Mayfield and Rhule gone, this represents the dawning of a new era in Carolina. One that will hopefully come with renewed hope after so much underachievement.

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