Former Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl QB and current Panthers Radio Analyst Jake Delhomme said that ex-USC Football QB Sam Darnold has the "upper hand" in the QB competition that Darnold is currently in with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was just traded from the Cleveland Browns to Carolina.
Delhomme cited the fact that Darnold has been able to work with new Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo all offseason, where as Mayfield just came over to the Panthers this month. It's also true that Darnold has some continuity with the Panthers, as he was their starting QB last year.
That continuity could be very beneficial to him in his quest to win the starting job for a second year with Carolina. Heck, he's even played with No. 2 Panthers Wide Receiver Robby Anderson for two years before he even got to Carolina (when they both played together on the New York Jets).
Sam Darnold hasn't had the chance to succeed in the NFL after his time with USC football.
Sam Darnold's numbers have not been good in the NFL, but no QB in the NFL has had a worse situation than Darnold has in this last four-year span (since Darnold entered the league).
Darnold was drafted to the New York Jets, where he had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL every year to of course go along with being in one of the most dysfunctional franchises in general in the league. He had nobody to throw to in his time there as well.
Braxton Berrios and Chris Hogan aren't going to do the trick, especially when Darnold had the consensus worst head coach in the NFL in Adam Gase to work with. In Carolina last year, he had another coach on the hot seat in Matt Rhule, and an offensive coordinator in Joe Brady who was so bad he got fired in the middle of the year.
He continued to have to throw behind one of the worst O-Lines in football there, and while he at least had a very good receiver in D.J. Moore to throw to, there was no running game. Panthers franchise player Christian McCaffrey was hurt for all but the first three of the 12 games Darnold played in, and one more in Week 9.
Darnold won all three of those first three contests, completing 68.2% of his passes for 888 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. Scoring three more touchdowns on the ground, it's clear that Darnold has the potential to succeed when he is given any resemblance of a competent supporting cast.
Mayfield, on the other hand, was sent out of Cleveland after a disappointing run while he certainly had a dominant supporting cast.
Mayfield had a top-end offensive line in 2018, 2020, and 2021 there to go along with an elite back in Nick Chubb in his backfield every year. From 2019-2021, he even had a second elite back behind him in Kareem Hunt.
Working with standout WR Jarvis Landry all four years there, elite WR Odell Beckham Jr. from 2019 to 2021 (until Beckham was traded after expressing displeasure with Mayfield), a good tight end room headlined by David Njoku and Austin Hooper, and 2020 NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski for his last two years in Cleveland, Mayfield underachieved in that offense in his four years there.
That being said, Mayfield does have better overall statistics than Darnold has in their careers. Take a look at Mayfield's statistics (on the left) and Darnold's statistics (on the right):
29-30 W-L Record//////////17-32 W-L Record
61.6% Completion Percentage//////////59.8% Completion Percentage
92 Touchdowns//////////54 Touchdowns
56 Interceptions//////////52 Interceptions
7.3 Yards per Attempt//////////6.5 Yards per Attempt
3.6 Rushing Yards per Attempt//////////3.9 Rushing Yards per Attempt
5 Rushing Touchdowns//////////10 Rushing Touchdowns
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Mayfield's numbers are a bit better overall, but they still are poor, and that's with him working with a top-tier supporting cast and Coach of the Year. Darnold's never had the chance to work with a competent supporting cast and coaching staff, so it's tough to write him off in this league.
As Delhomme pointed out, too; Darnold has been with this team and system longer than Mayfield. He also does not have the off-the-field and locker room concerns that have traveled with Mayfield dating back to his time in college.
It has the chance to be a tight competition between the two, where the former No. 1 overall pick in 2018 (Mayfield) and the former No. 3 overall pick in 2018 (Darnold) will be battling for the same job. Not many would have expected that back when the two were drafted so high.