Carolina Panthers icon twists knife into Bryce Young's rookie struggles

This was an unexpected turn of events.
Bryce Young
Bryce Young / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young's rookie season didn't go according to plan. That's not exactly a secret at this juncture.

He was let down by the Carolina Panthers and suffered accordingly. However, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft would be the first to admit that his performances could have been better no matter the mitigating circumstances attached.

The former Alabama star's come in for some heavy criticism since the campaign concluded. Young is an easy target right now, especially considering the substantial investment Carolina made to bring him into the fold. The latest skepticism came from the unlikeliest of sources.

Cam Newton questions Carolina Panthers' decision to draft Bryce Young

Cam Newton has been a staunch supporter of Young, even offering him some well-placed advice on how to firmly establish himself en route to better fortunes in 2024. However, when asked about whether Carolina made the right call at No. 1, the 2015 NFL MVP claimed that based on what we've seen so far, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson might have been better options with the top pick last year.

"In the mid-form of the season when you start to see the skill set come into play, I guarantee it - knowing what we know now - a lot of people would take C.J. Stroud number one… over Bryce Young. With what we saw this year, hindsight's 20/20. Everyone can go back and say, like bro, C.J. Stroud is a star."

Newton caused a stir with his comments thanks to his close association with the Panthers. However, it's not like this is a wild take. It's more like the consensus after their first seasons in the pros.

Everyone is moving on positively, so this wasn't well timed. This also ignores the torrid situation Young found himself compared to the exceptional culture Stroud slotted seamlessly into.

Young was running for his life behind an offensive line unfit for purpose. His wide receivers had trouble creating consistent separation aside from veteran wideout Adam Thielen. The schematic concepts were bland and uninspiring. Carolina's supposed all-star coaching staff couldn't get on the same page regarding their signal-caller's development.

It was a complete shambles from start to finish. What made matters worse was Stroud thriving in a much better environment with the Houston Texans during one of the best seasons for a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

As Young floundered, Stroud excelled, winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, guiding the Texans to an AFC South title and even securing a memorable wildcard playoff victory over the Cleveland Browns. This came with obvious scrutiny centered on whether the Panthers made a monumental error in judgment.

Richardson's campaign was less fruitful. While the dual-threat flashed moments of quality, the No. 4 pick lasted four games before going to season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The jury is still out, although it wouldn't be surprising to see him take the league by storm next season.

Young has the scope to after these narratives at the first time of asking. The Panthers have spent their entire offseason prioritizing everything around their signal-caller. Their offensive line looks stronger. Carolina's skill positions received several upgrades. Dave Canales was appointed head coach - a renowned quarterback developer who plans to mold a scheme to suit his strengths and establish a prolific rushing attack.

Everything is in place for Young to make strides. If the signal-caller struggles again with a more productive supporting cast and enhanced coaching, doubts around the selection will reach exponential levels.

Newton didn't say he'd take Stroud or Richardson over Young, but the sentiment was there. Yet another bulletin board piece the Heisman Trophy winner can add to his ever-growing collection.