Tepper hasn’t been around very long in Carolina, but 2022 produced enough headaches under center to sap him of patience regarding quarterback. Tepper sat and watched as his first coaching hire, Matt Rhule, bumbled his way through the first five weeks of the 2022 season before Tepper decided he’d seen enough, firing Rhule. The quarterback Fitterer acquired in the offseason — former 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield — flopped, too, sending the Panthers down a winding road to nowhere that included starting appearances from PJ Walker and Sam Darnold, and even a Jacob Eason cameo.
By the time Tepper and Fitterer reached the offseason, the priority became clear: Find a concrete answer at quarterback in 2023, even if he needs time to work through growing pains.
A portion of Panthers fans might be wondering why Carolina made this move when it spent a third-round pick on Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral in last year’s draft. In order to understand this decision, those same Panthers fans should take a trip down memory lane to 2011, when Carolina ignored the fact it had spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen in the 2010 draft and used the No. 1 overall pick on Cam Newton in the ensuing draft.
Sometimes, when an obvious upgrade is available at quarterback, past moves don’t matter. Corral could return from his season-ending knee injury to play a minor role on this team, but make no mistake: As it was with Newton in 2011, this will be the next No. 1 pick’s team.
Tepper has the financial might to make things happen quickly, and Fitterer answered the call by swinging a deal that appears incredibly lopsided in terms of assets. The No. 1 pick cost Carolina its leading receiver in 2022, the ninth-overall pick and a host of other valuable picks that will be spent on Day 1 and 2 of this and future drafts.
But if Carolina’s chosen messiah, a franchise savior projected to lift the Panthers from the doldrums of mediocrity, pans out, it will all be worth it.