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#pounditMonday, May 16, 2022

Video: Matt Rhule had cringeworthy response to Sam Darnold question

Matt Rhule in Panthers gear

The Carolina Panthers understandably don’t have much confidence in Sam Darnold heading into 2022, and Matt Rhule was barely able to hide that while speaking with reporters on Monday.

After the Panthers acquired Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets last year, they immediately showed how committed they were to him by not drafting a quarterback and picking up the fifth-year option on Darnold’s rookie contract. A reporter asked Rhule on Monday why the Panthers were so quick to commit to Darnold beyond 2021. Rhule tried his best to say the right things, but he seemed totally caught off guard.

“(We were) bringing him here to be the starter,” Rhule said. “Knowing that if he had a great year he would be a high-priced guy, and if he’s a starter at that number that’s low-end starter money. It was a collective decision.”

The thinking made sense at the time. Teams have until early May before a player’s fourth season year to decide whether they want to exercise the fifth-year option. Carolina was obviously optimistic that the Darnold trade would work out, and they felt the risk of guaranteeing him nearly $19 million in 2022 was worth the potential reward.

Rhule gave Darnold a chance to prove himself over the final three games of the season, and the 24-year-old continued to struggle. It’s hard to imagine the Panthers sticking with Darnold as their starter heading into 2022. If they do, it may not be long before the unflattering chants we heard from Carolina fans start back up.

Photo: Aug 27, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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