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Monday Morning Thoughts: Baker's Last Start as a Panther?

Final thoughts from Carolina's loss to Baltimore.

The definition of insanity is to continue to do something over and over again and expect a different result. And no, I'm not talking about Baker Mayfield head-butting his teammates, although that could be defined as such, but about his on-field play. 

Baker Mayfield has only thrown for over 200 yards twice in seven games, six starts. His completion percentage sits a tick under 58% and owns a passer rating of 74.4, ranking him near the bottom of the league. Batted passes, forced throws, a lack of mobility, and holding onto the ball too long have prevented the Panthers' offense from finding any answers with Mayfield under center.

With Sunday's 13-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Panthers need to move on from Mayfield at quarterback and turn to Sam Darnold - someone that interim head coach Steve Wilks has been wanting to get on the field.

Although there is still a lot of football left to be played, Carolina will need to go on a serious run to end the year to even have a shot at clinching a spot in the NFC playoffs.

We've seen that Mayfield is not the answer and neither is P.J. Walker. The coaching staff doesn't seem to trust either of those two to push the ball downfield and because of it, opposing defenses are feasting on the underneath routes and keying in on the run game. 

Would handing over the keys to the offense to Sam Darnold change anything? I think it can. It doesn't mean it will, but what can it hurt at this point?

Darnold has the best arm in the quarterback room and it's not even close. He had a horrible first year with the organization, some of which can be attributed to horrendous offensive line play. That unit has seemed to have turned the corner with Ekwonu, Christensen, Bozeman, Corbett, and Moton - a lineup that Darnold has yet to play behind in a regular season game. 

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We all saw the flashes of what Darnold could do during the team's 3-0 start a year ago. Could this offensive line be exactly what he and the Panthers needed for this marriage to work? There's only one way to find out. Play him.

Mayfield isn't taking this offense anywhere and if you remember, the draft pick that was sent to Cleveland in exchange for Baker converts to a fourth-round pick if he plays in 70% of the team's offensive snaps. If Carolina decides to bench Mayfield in favor of Darnold for the remainder of the season, it remains as a fifth-round selection.

What does this mean for Mayfield's future? Well, it means it's very unlikely that he will get another chance to be "the guy" in the NFL. I don't know if it's a mechanical thing, a confidence thing, injuries, talent, or maybe a little bit of everything. But for whatever reason, Mayfield just doesn't have it anymore. When Cleveland first made the decision to move on from Baker, I thought they would regret it. Not because I thought they were losing a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but because I thought he was much better than what he was given credit for. It turns out, Cleveland was right. I was wrong. 

The one thing that can't be overlooked, though, is how Mayfield has handled this entire situation in Carolina. He's been an absolute pro from the very first day he arrived and that continued when he backed up PJ Walker the past couple of weeks. Whether it's in Carolina or somewhere else, Mayfield will be a good presence in the quarterback room from a leadership standpoint. Most guys let their ego get in the way which makes for a tough, uncomfortable situation for all involved. Not Mayfield. He's there for his teammates and just wants the best for the team. And right now, what's best for the team is to start Sam Darnold. Will Steve Wilks make that move? We'll find out in the next couple of days.

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