CHARLOTTE – Carolina Panthers fans had high hopes the team might do well with the first overall pick Bryce Young, especially under Frank Reich’s tutelage.
Young was a high school football national star who committed to play for Alabama. He played in nine games behind Mac Jones for the national champions in 2020 (13-22-59.1%, 156 yards, one TD). Young took over the starting job in 2021 and won the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award as the nation’s top player, as well as the Davey O’Brien and Manning Awards as the nation’s top quarterback. He was also an Associated Press first-team All-American and SEC Offensive Player of the Year. The 15-game starter was also the SEC Championship Game Most Valuable Player after passing for 421 yards and three touchdowns and running for 40 yards and a score. Young’s production in 12 starts dipped a bit in 2022, but he still ranked ninth in the FBS in pass efficiency. He was the Sugar Bowl MVP (15-21-71.4%, 321 yards, five TDs) in the win over Kansas State.
During the 2023 NFL Draft, the talk was between Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Young for the number one draft pick for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers chose Young, keeping in mind his 5’10 height, which is a limitation that previous quarterbacks have been able to overcome.
The thought was that Reich, a former NFL Quarterback and considered a “quarterback whisperer,” would get Young into NFL playing shape in no time.
But that wasn’t the case.
After a dismal start to the season, the Panthers fired Reich and a pair of offensive assistants—QB coach Josh McCown and assistant HC/RBs coach Duce Staley—after winning only one game in the first three months, as the team started out 1-12.
The win-loss record stands out, of course, but so does the lack of offensive production. The Panthers’ offense ranks in the bottom five of the league in points (15.7, 29th), total yards per game (265.9, 30th), and pass yards per game (173.3, 30th).
Young has struggled behind a bad offensive line, throwing just nine TDs to eight INTs and getting sacked 40 times in his 10 starts.
The harsh reality in Carolina is that the offense is not very good from a talent standpoint, with a shallow pool of weapons in the pass game and an inconsistent run game. Young is being asked to do a lot, and he doesn’t have many answers to turn to. The focus should be on developing Young if the Panthers want him to be the long-term quarterback.
Young showed mastery of Alabama’s system during his college career, but that hasn’t been the case this season in Carolina.
He’s been under duress constantly, and to make matters worse, he has only one reliable receiver to get the ball to—a 33-year-old Adam Thielen. There is a narrative already building that the Panthers picked the wrong guy. Stroud is off to a phenomenal start to his career, throwing for 3,266 yards and 19 touchdowns to five interceptions thus far, but the truth of the matter is, he has better talent surrounding him, and it’s not even remotely close.
“First, you’ve got to talk about what they’re doing wrong for Bryce Young. Forty sacks that they’ve given up. He’s been pressured on 33% of his drop-back passes, which is 9th in the league. So when you talk about the comparison between him and CJ Stroud, it’s inevitable because they were drafted right after each other. But when you look at the tape and actually watch the game film, you will see that they’re not giving this man any help upfront, and that’s what he needs.
Young is going to have to tough out the season because there doesn’t seem to be any help on the way.
He does have the talent to be on the field, but until the team settles after the firing and gets its act together, well, there’s always next year.”