Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich lays down gauntlet to Matt Corral
By Dean Jones
Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich laid down the gauntlet to quarterback Matt Corral after a series of cryptic Instagram posts.
It's not hard to see why Matt Corral might feel a little hurt about how things have unfolded throughout his NFL career to date. The quarterback was seen as the team's future starting option under center after those in power moved up to secure his services at No. 94 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Matt Rhule's desire for an instant fix to save his job saw a trade for Baker Mayfield, too.
Corral was a bystander throughout Carolina's training camp as Rhule moved forward with a battle between Sam Darnold and Mayfield for the No. 1 job. The former Ole Miss star took reps with the third and fourth-string talent more often than not, which hindered his development considerably and played a big role in getting hurt during the Panthers' preseason game against the New England Patriots.
The signal-caller was running for his life before getting hit and fracturing his foot. This ruled Corral out for the entire campaign - one that saw Rhule fired after just five weeks and general manager Scott Fitterer begin to pick up the pieces of the mess he left behind.
Trading for the No. 1 overall selection - which turned out to be Bryce Young - and signing veteran Andy Dalton in free agency puts Corral further down the pecking order than ever. Something that saw cryptic Instagram posts emerge during the draft, which indicated a sense of disenchantment and that the second-year-pro didn't feel wanted by the new regime.
Carolina Panthers lay down the gauntlet to Matt Corral
When asked about the posts by Will Kunkel of FOX Charlotte, Frank Reich said he didn't see the post. But the head coach made no secret of his desire for Corral and every player on the roster to earn their positions out on the field throughout the upcoming preparation period.
"It is an emotional time of year. I didn't see the post but I don't overreact to stuff like that. This is the time of year having the draft where guys are trying to get picked and jockey to position themselves. The message to all the players is to earn it out on the field. We're excited about the direction we are going and we trust that the guys inside the locker room are excited as well."- Frank Reich via FOX Charlotte
If Corral is sulking, he needs to snap out of it pretty quickly. Young will be the team's No. 1 and Dalton is likely to back him up, but the former third-round pick will also get some opportunities and must take advantage of them.
Working hard on all aspects of his game over the summer, remaining focused, being a good teammate, and putting some good film together when preseason reps come his way is the only option left for Corral. Otherwise, he can kiss his chances of a profitable NFL career goodbye.
Whether this is enough for the Panthers to alter their course is highly debatable. But if another team likes what Corral is doing under center during warmup games, then a call or two regarding a potential trade could arrive before competitive action begins.
This is arguably the best-case scenario for all parties. It gives the Panthers some much-needed draft capital in 2024 and also provides Corral with a fresh start in an organization that feels like he could offer something long-term.
It's all about character. Nothing is given - although one could suggest otherwise when Rhule held absolute power - so Corral must dig in his heels and fight for every inch under a coaching staff that wasn't around when he arrived from the collegiate level.
Corral looks like he possesses the right mentality, even if his frustrations obviously boiled over when the realization of Young's arrival truly hit home. Responding to adversity in a positive manner is going to command respect and perhaps even get other teams to examine his credentials in greater detail heading into the 2023 season.
This is yet another fascinating dynamic to the Panthers' offseason. One that signals the start of a new era under Reich, his all-star coaching staff, and a franchise quarterback that can hopefully become a worthy successor to Cam Newton at long last.
How it pans out for Corral is a different matter entirely.