With heated debates ongoing, is Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young quickly becoming the NFL's most polarizing player at the position?
There are many polarizing quarterbacks around the league. From Dak Prescott to Tua Tagovailoa. From Baker Mayfield to Trevor Lawrence. From Brock Purdy to Russell Willson. From Derek Carr to Kirk Cousins. It seems as if Bryce Young is getting added to the list following an indifferent rookie campaign.
The Carolina Panthers gave up a significant amount - more than they initially envisaged - when they made their daring move to No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft for Young. After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the cost was astronomical. This included the embarrassment of parting ways with the top pick in 2024, which could lead to the Chicago Bears cutting the Justin Fields experiment short and taking USC phenom, Caleb Williams.
Only time will tell on that front. The jury is still out on Young, too. He didn't perform well. There were issues with his deep ball. The Panthers didn't put him in any sort of position to immediately thrive.
Bryce Young and Carolina Panthers must work together for a better future
Some fans fiercely defend Young, pointing to his flashes as reasons for optimism once the Panthers put better pieces around him. Other fans have seen enough, convinced Carolina made the wrong call thanks in no small part to C.J. Stroud's phenomenal success with the Houston Texans in 2023.
Most smart football people - analysts and former pros alike - have a different view. They acknowledge Young didn't showcase what he's truly capable of enough as a rookie. They also recognize the poor situation as a mitigating factor behind his early demise.
This was a sentiment echoed by NFL executives speaking under anonymity to Jeff Howe of The Athletic recently. They were also skeptical about whether Stroud's would have been able to overcome the toxic environment in Carolina.
"Houston has a better situation. If you drop Stroud in Carolina, would he have the same success? No way in hell. There are a lot of failures there in Carolina. It’s not all on Bryce. Carolina had no run game or playmakers, and the offensive line was a mess. You tried to drop a unique QB into a bad situation, and you can’t protect him. The situations, staff, surrounding cast, etc., have a bearing on success and (what is labeled as) failure, especially at that position."- NFL executives via The Athetic
Players have bounced back from difficult rookie seasons before. Stroud's outstanding transition from college to the pros is the anomaly, not Young's poor production. What adjustments the former Alabama star makes this offseason will be pivotal. Carolina must also hire the right head coach, find the correct upgrades to their playing personnel, and conjure a scheme that fits his strengths.
Young had a bigger bullseye on his back than most. He was the No. 1 pick. He's held to a higher standard. He's not made a rod for his back as such, but the player is evolving into a polarizing figure through some - but not all - fault of his own.
Of course, there is a way for Young to shift the narrative - even with those who've criticized the signal-caller without the proper context attached. Silence the doubters through consistency. Through evident, undeniable strides in terms of on-field performance. Continue to evolve from a leadership standpoint. Respond well to the new coaching regime's methods.
If Young can do that, everything else should fall into place. If not, the concerns surrounding his long-term aspirations will only grow among those who had little confidence in the Heisman Trophy winner to begin with.