The Carolina Panthers benched starting quarterback Sam Darnold early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 25-3 loss against the New York Giants. However, it doesn’t look like Matt Rhule plans to make the move permanent.
In his postgame press conference, the Panthers head coach maintained that Darnold would be the team’s quarterback moving forward, despite his poor performance against the Giants.
“Just felt like we needed somewhat of a spark,” Rhule said of benching Darnold in favor of backup P.J. Walker, per ESPN. “Sam will be our quarterback next week. He will be our quarterback moving forward.”
Darnold struggled to deal with the Giants pass rush through the first three quarters and the Panthers slowly watched the game move out of reach. When he was pulled, he’d completed 16 of his 25 passes for 111 yards and one interception. He also took three sacks.
#Panthers HC Matt Rhule said after today’s game that Sam Darnold is still his starting quarterback.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 24, 2021
Rhule tried to breathe some life into the Panthers offense by inserting Walker, but the backup didn’t fare any better. He went 3-of-14 for 33 yards, while also taking three sacks.
Carolina traded for Darnold this offseason, striking a deal with the New York Jets before the 2021 NFL Draft. He seemed to be embracing the change of scenery quite well through the first three weeks, but his performance in the Panthers last three games has been far from adequate.
Another underwhelming showing will have many wondering if Carolina will once again engage the Houston Texans on a trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Panthers were connected to the 26-year-old Pro Bowler earlier this year, but backed off after allegations of sexual misconduct were levied against Watson.
Earlier this week, with just over 10 days to go until the NFL’s trade deadline, Rhule was asked if there was any possibility of Carolina trading with Houston. He responded by saying he had “bought in” on Darnold.
“I believe Sam is going to be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, and I haven’t done any work on anyone else,” Rhule said Thursday to reporters. “He’s my focus, and I expect him to play his best football moving forward. I’m not looking anywhere else.”
We’ll have to wait and see if Darnold’s abysmal performance on Sunday changes Rhule’s mind and reopens the door for a change at the position.
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