CHARLOTTE — Short week, so short Mailbag, primarily because I don’t want to get into the weeds like last week.
You don’t need me to tell you that was not ideal last night. The Panthers are now 0-2, both losses in the division, which for the 2023 goals makes things a lot tougher. Not impossible, but tougher. I objected to the idea that the Panthers couldn’t “afford” a loss to the Saints since it dropped them two games back in the division. Primarily because I think such talk is silly and pointless in September. But other teams have been able to bounce back. The 2007 Giants, the 2001 Patriots, and the 1993 Patriots were among the 11.5 percent of teams since 1990 to start 0-2 and make the playoffs. They also won Super Bowls.
So I guess they could afford it. Must have clipped coupons or paused their Netflix subscriptions or something.
But this also isn’t about 2023; it’s about the next four or five years. Everybody wants to live in a renovated house. Nobody wants to sleep on the couch in the basement while the work gets done because god only knows what’s happened on that couch in the basement that used to be in somebody’s bachelor pad.
Anyway, I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything’s fine today. Clearly, it’s not. But I’m also not going to freak out about Bryce Young and his future after his first two games.
Peyton Manning might be among the four or five best quarterbacks to ever live. He also threw a league-high 28 interceptions and went 3-13 his rookie year. Joe Burrow was 2-7-1 and was sacked 32 times in 10 games. Josh Allen completed 52.8 percent of his passes, with 10 touchdowns and 12 picks, and was 5-7 as a rookie.
So no, the questioner who suggested Bryce was worse than Jimmy Clausen, I’m not engaging you by name because I suspect that’s what you want. It’s like rolling around in the mud with a pig. You both get dirty, but only one of you likes it.
At any rate, welcome to any abbreviated Mailbag since it’s an abbreviated week. Your patience and perspective are appreciated, as always.
They should have picked the quarterback from Ohio State. Bryce is not ready for the NFL. — Ann, Charlotte
Too soon, Ann.
It’s possible that this is true. But certainly not based on the amount of evidence we’ve seen so far.
CJ Stroud is a fine prospect in his own right. Throws a very catchable ball. His stat line is better at the moment, but he’s the same 0-2 Young is, and he’s got more attempts because he’s been trailing the entire time.
As you saw from Young in the late stages Monday, it’s possible to pile up stats that make a thing look better than it actually is.
This could turn out to be the case years from now. Making that judgment in two weeks, after they spent the better part of four months deciding between the two, is an emotional call rather than a logical one.
Is it too crazy to try the offense with QB2 and take the weight off Young? — Jorge, Rancagua, Chile
Probably. That’s a hot take from Chile, by the way.
This whole system was built around Bryce Young, and that includes his backup quarterback, Andy Dalton, and all those coaches they hired this offseason.
The only reason you’d pull Young at this point is if he was in harm’s way. The protection hasn’t been ideal, but there’s nothing that’s happening in a two-game sample size to suggest that Bryce can’t handle what he’s seeing.
He’ll learn and grow. Just like Peyton Manning did, if not to the same degree.
This year is about giving Young the chance to develop. He’s not going to develop watching Dalton play; he’s going to develop by seeing it with his own two eyes and working through it.
And other people see it, too. Saints quarterback Derek Carr (who met with ownership and coaches and management this offseason when he was a free agent) was asked about Young after the game last night, and beyond the basic platitudes about his kids cheering for Young at Alabama, said, “I love watching him.”
“Playing quarterback is difficult, especially at a young age,” Carr said last night. “I’m sure he learned a lot of things today, and I hope he learned a lot from me. Don’t throw that ball when the safety is there. I just think the world of him. I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he’s going to work hard, and he’s got good people around him in this organization, from the owner to the general manager to the coaching staff that’s in the room with him on both sides of the ball. He’s going to get loved up, he’s going to get positivity, and he’s going to get corrected in the right way, and I think the sky’s the limit for him. But hopefully, not yet.”
These first two games have not been easy pills to swallow on offense (productivity) or defense (injuries). I want to focus on the productivity, though. When our offense seemed to be working in the past, it was because we established an identity. This current offense doesn’t seem to be establishing anything. Has there been anything you’ve seen that I might be missing that says, you know what, this is what the Panthers can lean on? Two games in, I know, but it’s not there for me. — John, Matthews, NC
Not in these two, but they’ve been pretty different.
They ran really well in Atlanta (154 yards), less so Monday (66, not counting Bryce’s hold-your-breath scrambles).
The offense I watched get installed over the offseason was about getting the ball out quickly and letting Young distribute. That’s his strength. So far, there have been issues making that translate.
I think they’re working on solutions as we speak. In fact, I know they are because Bryce is hanging around the building today and not just for the snacks.
The things that made them draft him are still the things they value. It’s just going to take time, as it does with all rookie quarterbacks.
I need your help, Old Wise One. What was our All-World Offensive Genius Coaching Staff thinking running the $10 million dollar man, Miles Sanders, on one dive play after another straight into the middle of a depleted offensive line, putting us “behind the chains?” Also, they didn’t target a tight end until the 4th quarter in garbage time. Sure expected more creativity after the coach said in preseason that they were saving the good stuff for the real games! I need called off the cliff. I know it’s too early to worry about Bryce being a bust, but it’s hard not to have that thought to creep into this 25-year-old-PSL mind! — Steve, Landrum, SC
Creativity is when it works. And Miles Sanders is more of a $6.35 million man, but decimal points make for lousy talking points.
Also, the Saints have gone 10 straight games allowing 20 points or less, the longest such streak in the NFL. They have the kind of pass-rushers to get after you with their front four without blitzing a lot (which was evident Monday).
As the even older and wiser Eastern philosopher John Fox said, “the other team practices too.”
I’ll say it again (and again, and again), it takes time to develop a personality. Certainly more than two weeks. I’m in my 50s, and I’m still working on mine. Some days it’s better than others.
Darin, is it wrong that I feel hopeful tonight? Maybe I’m still riding the high of my first-ever game in the Bank after having been on various exiles to the lands of Edward Jones, Soldier Field, and AT&T-Jerry World, but I feel like we are laying the foundations of a great team.
Yes, we lost Shaq tonight, and from what it looked like from the 510s we lost him for a while, but our defense still held the Saints to 20 points while keeping the pressure on Carr (who didn’t throw a touchdown) and snagging our first takeaway.
Yes, our offense still looked, . . . well, it looked rough, but Bryce showed flashes of good, dare I say great, decision-making throughout the game. He is a rookie in a first-year system, but both he and that system are looking like they could pop off sooner rather than later.
So cheers to the Bank! Thanks for a great first game, hopefully, my voice doesn’t crack too much through my first round of interviews tomorrow morning. — Nate, Grand Prairie, TX
Best of luck to Nate on those interviews, as he plans to move here from Texas. And I commend him for trying to light a candle rather than cursing your darkness (there has been plenty of cursing already). That’s why I look forward to him living here. He brings the light with him.
They really did get after Carr last night. It felt like the only two times they didn’t hit him was when he made the two big plays downfield.
I’m distrustful of patterns after only two weeks (then again, I have trust issues), but the Panthers have gotten steady pressure through the first couple of games. We’ll see how it holds up.
I’m not saying you have to be Pollyanna, but not yelling all the time will certainly help with your sanity.
I’ll say it again (and again, and again), this is a learning process. Losing it about a quiz score the first week of the school year seems misplaced.
What happened to Jeremy Chinn during the second half against New Orleans? He wasn’t in the field at all. When Shaq Thompson went down you would think you would see him stepping up. — Henry, Gibsonville, NC
Yeah, that stood out to me, too, when we published Snap Counts this morning.
Chinn is always going to have a mix-and-match role, depending on the opponent and the game plan. The Saints want to spread you out anyway, especially after running back Jamaal Williams left with a hamstring injury.
And when the Panthers are in passing-down nickel situations against multiple receivers, they like veteran corner Troy Hill as their third corner, as if they have a passing-down nickel and a run-down nickel.
Chinn’s going to have to play a role, especially with Thompson out for the rest of the year. It’s worth seeing how that role develops because his unique skill set (and his deficiencies in certain areas) mean he’s a very particular matchup.
Oh-and-2. Last place in the NFC South. Both losses were to division rivals. Yet here I sit in my recliner, wearing my black Luke Kuechly jersey – and I am strangely content with my Panthers. The defense was mostly outstanding. Special teams were acceptable. And the offense, yes our offense led by our QB of the present and future, was mostly offensive. (I’m gonna leave it to you to decipher my meaning there.)
Bryce never looked flustered, never looked bewildered, never looked like the game was too big or too fast for him. In short, I think he looked like a promising rookie in his second NFL game – on a national Monday Night stage – would most likely look. So, am I crazy, or have I matured somewhat in my team outlook? (And I didn’t need Grammarly for this week’s letter!) I know it’s still early in the season, but I’ve chosen to become a BELIEVER and ride this Cat to the end – no matter what! Can I count on your support, Darin? Can I get an Amen?! — Jeff, Concord, NC
I don’t know how all of this is going to work out any more than the rest of you.
But if I commend Jeff for anything (other than his consistently improving spelling and punctuation), it’s that he’s choosing the path of perspective. It’s certainly not the path most traveled lately.
If he wasn’t already a FOTM, I’d make him one just for that.
The defense played well against the Saints, but Brian Burns didn’t make much noise. Too often, I think he’ll pull a disappearing act in important games. It doesn’t happen all the time, but enough for me to notice. I think that’s the difference between him and the elite edge rushers like Bosa, Watt, and Parsons. Those guys don’t have games where you forget they’re on the team. What will we do about this in terms of his contract if he wants Bosa money but clearly doesn’t deserve as much? — Grant, Gahanna, OH
I’ll make Brian the same promise I make every other player. I’ll stay out of their pockets if they stay out of mine.
The compare and contrast with contracts is a dangerous game, so I’ll stick to what I see on the field.
Burns didn’t have the same kind of game against the Saints he did against the Falcons. Among other things, he made reference to his ankle bothering him a bit last night after the game. He wasn’t making excuses, but if that was a factor, it helps explain some things.
Brian is very good at rushing the passer already, and he’s getting better. Bosa’s one of the best in the game, which is why he won defensive player of the year last year.
One of the problems with big, talented football players is that fans expect them to hit max productivity every time they’re watching, or he “disappears.” I heard it with Julius Peppers in the early 2000s. It was unfair then, too. And for the record (though sacks are an imperfect measure), Burns has had 31 games without a sack in 66 career appearances (46.9 percent). Nick Bosa has 22 sackless games in 53 (41.5 percent). A difference, but not so broad as Grant’s point would seem to suggest.
First-time writer. I’ve been a Panthers fan since day one. Flew out a few years ago to watch a game and was rather surprised how many Charlotte natives didn’t know Wyoming was a state in the U.S. Anyway, on to my question. I know we got a lot of new faces, and it takes time to get things clicking, I also know I only see what’s shown in the broadcast. It just seems to me like the offense is OK with their play. I don’t see any frustration with small mistakes, dropped balls, miscommunication, blown routes, or anything. I just see them kinda go, oh, well we made a mistake, we’ll fix it, with no emotion behind it. It’s like they’re resigned to this kind of play after two games. I see the potential, but no emotion, and that makes it seem like there’s no will to reach for that potential. Maybe I’m not seeing it. You would know better. Are they getting frustrated with their play? Are they holding each other accountable and pushing each other to play better? — James, Sheridan, WY
Not only do I recognize Wyoming as a state, it’s perhaps one of the best ones. Except this week, when Appalachian State plays the Hated Cowboys in football.
This is a pretty curated-by-others view of what’s going on if you’re only basing it on TV coverage. The Monday Night Football broadcast didn’t show Young in a coach’s office on Tuesday, putting in extra time trying to fix this thing. It didn’t show the hours upon hours spent on and off the practice field.
You can really get into trouble trying to read body language. There was a whole cottage industry based on it when Cam Newton was the quarterback here. Also, ask Derek Anderson and Kent Somers how hard it is to have a civil conversation about it.
I can tell you, based on talking to players in and out of the locker room, that they are not OK with this. The crowd of players who were in there on the one day off Tuesday suggests as much.
But for acknowledging his limited window into all this, and because James is a good sport who hails from the fine state of Wyoming, I’m making him this week’s Friend Of The Mailbag and will send him the appropriate honorarium soon.
Unless Wyoming beats ASU in football, in which case he can go kick rocks. Which there are plenty of there.
Hey Darin! School has been going well so far (especially English!) My question for this week is this: Why did the Panthers hire Thomas Brown if Frank Reich is calling the plays? Isn’t the OC supposed to be calling plays? I know Brown created the new playbook and all, but since he made it, isn’t he naturally the best candidate to call plays? — Zach, Charlotte
We like Zach; he’s a bright kid. But he’s still working on the pronouns.
That playbook wasn’t really a “he” thing; it was more of a “they” thing. Brown and Reich worked together, putting it together. Their relationship is strong; they trust each other’s intellect. But they’re still two people learning each other’s languages.
(In a related story, the wife and I are having a heck of a time deciding what color to paint the house. Asked the marketing department if they’d pay for it if I went Process Blue. The answer came in emojis, which may or may not have included a certain finger. But when one of you wants to go Highlighter Green, and the other one is thinking something “tasteful” instead, it takes a minute to come to a conclusion that works for everyone. That’s a story about housepaint and also playbooks.)
The Panthers had only ever had coaches who were mostly defensive guys, so they hired Reich for his offensive background, which included assembling a staff of smart people with diverse backgrounds.
They’re working through this together, and Reich said he wants Brown to call the plays someday. But that day is not today. So GET BACK TO CLASS, ZACH.
Let’s go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.
Actually, let’s don’t. Enough has been said about what was supposed to be a short Mailbag already. Some people never know when to shut up. That person is me.
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