Matt Rhule on passing on QB: I just believe in Sam Darnold

The Panthers were seen as a potential landing spot for quarterbacks heading into the first round of the draft despite the presence of Sam Darnold and they had a pair of them on the board when the No. 8 pick came up last Thursday night.

Neither Justin Fields nor Mac Jones was the team’s choice, however. They took cornerback Jaycee Horn and cemented their commitment to Darnold by exercising their option on his contract for the 2022 season.

During a Tuesday appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Rhule explained that the rationale behind the Panthers’ pick was that they’ll be better with Darnold and Horn than they would be by doubling down at the quarterback spot.

“I love those guys and I think they’re gonna be great NFL players. I just think for us, when we got Sam and knowing he’s 23-years-old, just turned 24, we just felt like Sam plus another player would be better for the team overall,” Rhule said. “Bill Parcells once said one player can’t do it alone. We’re just trying to build the whole team and I just believe in Sam, I believe that he deserves the opportunity to go out and play with us. I think those other young quarterbacks are gonna be fantastic players, but the hit rate on first-round quarterbacks isn’t real, real high, and to have a chance to get Jaycee Horn and have Sam Darnold, we just kind of felt like, ‘Hey this is two for one.’ Now, we just have to make sure Sam’s a great player for us.”

After taking Horn, the Panthers selected four straight offensive players who can fit around Darnold in the Panthers’ bid to make sure that his Carolina tenure is more successful than his time with the Jets. If that doesn’t work and the other quarterbacks flourish, hindsight won’t be kind to the Panthers. If it does, the rebuild in Carolina should pick up a lot of speed.