It seems like only yesterday the Carolina Panthers were reportedly “laughing off” any potential interest in Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Now, they’re heading into the 2022 season with fellow castoffs, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, in “open competition” to be their next starting quarterback, according to team general manager Scott Fitterer on Tuesday.
Is it funny now?
The rehabilitation project for Darnold, who saw more ghosts than Haley Joel Osment with the New York Jets, hasn’t gone according to plan. The Panthers still only won five games for a third straight season, and Darnold was still seeing Casper.
Meanwhile, Mayfield is coming from a roster with an embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball — reliable offensive line, two Pro Bowl running backs, a stud tight end and a receiving tandem with eight combined Pro Bowls between them.
What more does one man need to be successful in the NFL?
Things were so bad with Mayfield that the Browns were desperate enough to hand Deshaun Watson a $ 230 million fully guaranteed contract, despite all of his ongoing legal drama.
And now the Panthers are stuck with both Mayfield and Darnold, the only two quarterbacks drafted ahead of Josh Allen in the 2018 NFL draft. The Jets and Browns are wishing they could turn back time like Cher right about now.
If anything, the ugly quarterback carousel in Carolina is proof that the grass isn’t always greener.
Cousins is obviously a cut above both Darnold and Mayfield, and he gets lambasted daily, even following a season where he threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The Vikings’ “problem” would be another team’s treasure.
This isn’t a situation where good quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. There always seems to be this misguided thought process that teams are hording signal-callers like Pokemon.
The good ones are hard to find, and the great ones are near impossible.
Cousins is one of the good ones that a team could build around and compete, assuming all of the right pieces are in place. There are still a bazillion question marks on the defensive side of the ball for the Vikings, but the offense is ready to fly with coach Kevin O’Connell in the cockpit.
It would seem as if the Panthers are ready to try and do the same with the real punchline hinging on them somehow sticking the landing with Darnold and Mayfield as their only lifelines.