The Carolina Panthers' 2021 season is completely spiraling out of control. Despite starting the new campaign in incredibly impressive fashion (3-0), the Panthers now find themselves at an utterly disappointing 4-5 after losing five of their last six contests. Depending on your interpretation of their quarterback situation, things went from bad to worse when head coach Matt Rhule announced that starting quarterback Sam Darnold will miss the next 4-6 weeks after the former USC signal-caller suffered a fractured scapula in his right shoulder.
While speaking with the media on Wednesday, Rhule claimed that Carolina would explore "any and all" options at the quarterback position in Darnold’s absence. That statement prompted The Athletic's Joe Person to ask Rhule about a potential reunion with star free-agent quarterback Cam Newton. Rhule expectedly dodged the question in a rather impressive fashion.
Although we don't anticipate it coming to fruition, the Panthers should absolutely explore the possibility of welcoming Newton back into their quarterback room. The former MVP and three-time Pro Bowler spent the first 11 seasons of his successful career in Carolina and would almost certainly provide them with better quarterback play than what they’re about to receive from their in-house candidates.
Speaking of which, Darnold will seemingly be replaced by backup quarterback and former XFL star P.J. Walker, who is now preparing to start Carolina's Week 10 against the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals. Walker last made a notable appearance back in Week 7, when he completed just 3-of-14 passes in Carolina's humiliating loss to the New York Giants. General manager Scott Fitterer also signed veteran journeymen quarterback Matt Barkley off Tennessee's practice squad and Barkley is expected to backup Walker on Sunday.
There are several reasons why it’s difficult to envision Newton donning the Carolina colors in 2021. Firstly, it's worth noting that Rhule was part of the regime that released Newton from his contract in March of 2020. The former Baylor head coach was relatively new to his role, having taken over the Panthers just two months prior, but undoubtedly had an influence on the future of Carolina's quarterback position.
The 32-year-old Newton started 15 games as a member of the New England Patriots in 2020. Newton completed nearly 66% of his passes, and accounted for 20 total touchdowns (eight passing, 12 rushing). Newton has recently reiterated his interest in continuing his NFL career and has the appearance of a player that still has something left in the tank.
If history is any indicator, the Panthers will almost certainly choose to move forward with the quarterbacks they currently employ. Carolina's brass will likely want to avoid the media frenzy that a Newton reunion would create, but that doesn't mean they aren't doing a disservice to their chances of turning around what is increasingly looking like yet another lost campaign.