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Interview with the enemy: 5 questions with Cat Scratch Reader

We have the courage to ask what is a Sam Darnold.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

1. You know what the aching question is surrounding the Panthers and I won’t hold back. The Panthers have one of the best cap situations in the league despite a sizable amount of dead cap space which should disappear in 2022 thanks to Teddy Bridgewater, Kawann Short, and Luke Kuechly. Will the Panthers be able to use this flexibility to be heavy spenders in free agency in the next few seasons?

That really depends on how much they want to spend at the quarterback position. If they dump $40M on Aaron Rodgers then they probably won’t spend a ton of money elsewhere. Rodgers isn’t exactly a guaranteed option, but the Panthers are funny with guarantees. Like when they picked up Sam Darnold’s fifth year option before he played a snap and guaranteed him $18,858,000 next season. See, funny? I’m laughing. Why aren’t you laughing?

The truth of the matter is that the Panthers will probably overpay an offensive lineman or two. Whether or not they are actually good or just journeymen will depend on who is actually in the market. The team knows that it has a lot of weaknesses that could maybe, just maybe, be covered up by a quality OL. They probably need another guard and will be open to a new center, but their real need is a true anchor at left tackle. That has been their need since Jordan Gross’ retirement in 2013. Fortunately, the Panthers do finally project to have some cap space and also an owner who isn’t afraid of covering money in kerosene to see if it burns a different color *this time*.

2. Just kidding, I don’t care about that. I really care about Sam Danold (ed. - oh no, I’m going to pay for this misspelling). Sam Darnold is bad. I’m sorry, I guess that isn’t a question but more of an indisputable fact.

Ahh, yes. Sam Danold. Yup. That’s the guy. He did that thing where he threw the touchdown balls real good for a couple weeks and made us happy. Then he did the thing where he threw the touchdown balls to the other team a lot and that made us sad. That is the deepest analysis I can give you on his season because the difference between Weeks 1-3 and Weeks 4-7 is incomprehensible. Danold apparently sat down with head coach Matt Rhule this week to go over his tape and figure out what went wrong. Like remedial quarterback class or something. Which, I guess if they hadn’t been coaching him before might explain why his season took a running leap off of a cliff.

It’s OK, though. We don’t really have hope for this season. I point you to the answer above and the $18,858,000 guaranteed cap figure he carries next season as reasons why we don’t have a lot of hope for next season, either. What we do expect is that Matt Rhule and Joe Brady will get one more chance to identify a quarterback. Three strikes

3. The Falcons interviewed Joe Brady for the Falcons HC job this offseason. Now Brady’s responsibility to call plays is coming into question. Did the Falcons actually make a good move by passing on Brady or is Darnold so bad he can ruin any coach’s career?

I wouldn’t put a fork in Brady’s head coach ambitions just yet. I think the question is why did Danold lose the ability to throw with even a hint of anticipation? Where did Danold’s accuracy go? What happened to his footwork? Matt Rhule has specifically called out him rushing his feet on three- and five-step drops. That’s a lot of ways of getting around the same idea. I suppose the ultimate question is who is Sam Danold? Panthers fans sure as hell hope they don’t know yet.

The biggest, most potentially damning question that can be levelled at Brady at this juncture is ‘does he know how to evaluate quarterbacks?’ The evidence in Carolina is that he and Rhule might not. They have been looking for a quarterback not named Cam Newton since they got here and, in their defense, they have been doing so without a lot of resources and an underwhelming quarterback market. Were Teddy Bridgewater and Danold the cream of that crop? It’s hard to say, but it is clear their search for a new quarterback will extend into a third season.

4. Have you seen Kyle Pitts? He’s awesome. Talk about how good Kyle Pitts is.

I have willfully not seen Pitts. His success saddens me because it is the Atlanta Falcons success. No good can come from that. I don’t mean that in a “we’re rivals and y’all should suffer” kind of way. I mean that sports success in Atlanta is just the prelude to chaos, to heartbreak, to madness. I swear, I view y’all as friends. You are one of the select few professional fan bases that knows your way around a biscuit and understands that kindness is as much a weapon as a virtue. I hate to see you given hope when the gravity of the Atlanta curse has proven to be largely inescapable.

It’s not that the Panthers are in a different boat or that I pity you. I empathize. Pitts destiny is to be the bright spot in a sore situation. Pain and brightness speaks of optimism to some, but most doctors would call that the start of an infection. I know how much it hurts to have a franchise defining player be, instead, defined by their franchise and I don’t wish that on you. If you could have a superstar whose career is ruined by injury before he reaches his fullest potential or you could have a beer with me while we laugh at the New Orleans Saints falling so far that they are actually, statistically a better team with Taysom Hill on the field than off, which would you choose? One of those scenarios is better for your heart. I believe it to be the same one that is better for your soul.

5. I am sure in a tough spot because there aren’t five things about the Panthers I could possibly care about. Do you think the one and only bright spot for Carolina, its defense, is enough to win against Atlanta? Also, are we still pretending Bo Biscuits aren’t disgusting?

See, here I thought we were friends. I just spilled my broken heart across your page and you come back and slander the Bo Berry Biscuit? That dish is the height of southern, fast casual culinary achievement. There is no more oxymoronic pastry. It has a sweetness to be savored, yet it must be eaten quickly. Allowed to cool it metamorphoses into a meditation on the Atlanta and Carolina sports fan experience. As such, it is both a kindness and a warning to the world at large. Come, but do not linger.

Also, yeah, I think the defense is good enough to win this game if—and that if is doing Atlas level work here—the Panthers get Shaq Thompson, Juston Burris, and anybody else possible back from their myriad of injuries. If they don’t, or if Thompson is on a pitch count? Well, then I guess I won’t be able to willfully ignore Kyle Pitts for much longer.