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Is Bryce Young a bust?

Debating Bryce Young’s NFL future with Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers might have only had one game they could win left on their schedule, and they squandered it. On Thursday Night Football the absolute inability of Carolina was on full display in front of a national audience as the Bears managed to take out the trash.

Bryce Young is a tiny lightning rod for criticism. The Panthers QB is struggling, and it’s time to ask whether or not he has a future in the NFL.

On today’s docket of Football Court: Case No. 23-43186 “Is Bryce Young a bust?”

No, Bryce Young isn’t a bust — James Dator

I still have faith Bryce Young is going to be an excellent NFL quarterback, but I’m not sure that will happen with the Carolina Panthers. This disaster of the franchise has been so bad it’s almost actively worked to hurt their rookie quarterback.

Every decision they’ve made leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, and since that time has been damaging. Head coach Frank Reich is clearly out of touch with the modern NFL, and his offensive sensibilities are trapped in concepts that are almost a decade old, when the league has moved light years since then.

The Panthers have no speed in their receiving corps. The team’s “weapons” have hands of stone on critical downs. There’s no reason to respect Carolina’s run game, because the team only calls one run play up the gut. The offensive line has been hit with injuries, and regressed majorly in ways that make it impossible to succeed.

I don’t think this is a “Young or Stroud” conversation, because ANY quarterback would be getting demolished with this team as constructed. It’s the most damaging unit we’ve seen for rookie development since Urban Meyer almost destroyed Trevor Lawrence during his rookie season in very similar fashion.

The shared DNA between those 2021 Jaguars and the 2023 Panthers is remarkable. In Lawrence’s rookie season his best target was a 31-year-old Marvin Jones — Young’s best target is a 33-year-old Adam Thielen. Jacksonville’s offensive line was a mess, allowing Lawrence to be sacked 32 times — Young has ALREADY been sacked 32 times and there’s still eight games left. Neither team could consistently run the ball. Jaguars receivers dropped 33 passes on the year, while the Panthers are on pace for 32 drops. Hell, D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault were on both teams.

If you went back and looked 10 games into that season everyone was talking about Mac Jones and how he looked like the second coming of Tom Brady. Lawrence was the promising QB developing horrible traits because of his staff, and the Jaguars seemed to be on path to ruin one of the best quarterback prospects we’ve seen.

  • Trevor Lawrence (2021): 3,641 yds, 59.6% cmp, 12 TD, 17 INT — 71.9 passer rating
  • Bryce Young (projected): 3,131 yds, 62.8% cmp, 17 TD, 15 INT — 75.9 passer rating

The Jaguars were able to make smart decisions. They knew they had to pull the plug on Urban Meyer before he destroyed everything — and it saved Lawrence’s career. I don’t know if the Panthers have the guts to do the same.

Nobody is denying that Bryce Young is struggling right now, but it’s impossible to blame this situation on him. The Panthers are truly one of the worst NFL teams we have ever seen, and it could detail this fresh start before it ever begins. That said, we have seen enough truly special moments and a majority of great decision making that foreshadows NFL success for Bryce Young. He’s not a Zach Wilson, he’s not a Baker Mayfield. He’s a solid, smart passer stuck in a disastrous situation too.

As for his size and physical traits: Don’t forget the Chargers let Drew Brees walk so they could find a quarterback with better physical traits. We know how that worked out.

Bryce Young is showing major red flags — JP Acosta

So, it’s incredibly hard to call someone a bust after 10 games. Development isn’t linear and the surrounding talent in Carolina would cause anyone to look bad. However, this offense has arguably been the worst for Bryce Young and it’s causing him to develop some scar tissue that could be an issue in later years.

The issue with Bryce Young and Carolina is that Young isn’t good enough or physically talented enough to make people right when everything around him is wrong. Trevor Lawrence’s rough start as a rookie in Jacksonville might be used as the example here, but even then Lawrence was showing the physical talent and traits that made it worthy of sticking with him, even through all the muck. Not to say Bryce Young isn’t showing those traits, but it’s being bogged down by some really bad things he’s picking up, chief among them the middle of the field passing and anticipation.

Even though he was the same Young in college that he is in the NFL, the middle of the field passing has taken a major downturn. If we were to compare his heat maps from his final year at Alabama to a passing chart from his recent NFL games, it’s an alarming trend.

Now, from his most recent NFL game:

Young is barely taking and making those throws anymore, and it’s constricting the offense as well as the play of everyone else. He doesn’t seem to trust where his eyes are telling him to go, and it’s leading to some bad decisions as well.

In an offense built on hi-lo’s and pick a side passing, Young isn’t executing in that area, a rather surprising development because he was good at it in college.

Like I said, proving he’s a bust is a fool’s errand, but there is some problems here being developed that will need to be hardwired out of him going forward. Will it be the current braintrust that does it? Highly doubt it. David Tepper is very impatient, and head coach Frank Reich and co. might get the short end of the stick after one year, possibly hurting Young’s development track even more.

The ruling - Mark Schofield

First I want to thank both counsel for their passionate arguments. Their time and attention to this matter certainly came through, and I commend them for their hard work.

Part of being a good judge, or at least what I’ve been told about such a position, is acknowledging when you need more information. To that point, I turn now to a treatise from the learned Bill Walsh, from his impressive work Finding the Winning Edge.

Coach Walsh knew more about developing quarterbacks than I ever will. As such, I quote from his treatise at length:

The second year of training camp is a much more realistic measuring stick for evaluating the development and the abilities of most NFL players. By this point in their careers, these athletes should have a relatively clear understanding of the sequencing of practicing, what is expected of them during practice, and what is involved in playing in the NFL.

Players are also changed physically before the start of their second training camp. Not only have they undergone a natural “spurt” of physical maturation that tends to occur in most individuals between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-three, they have also participated in a rigorous off-season strength development program, supervised by the team’s coaching staff.

In addition, in his second training camp, a player does not have to deal with the paralyzing sense of anxiety arising from unfamiliar surroundings. By their second year, most players have familiarized themselves with their environment enough to enable the coaching staff to realistically assess their abilities to perform at a professional level.

Coach Walsh’s point?


He stressed the importance of patience even knowing full well that the game had changed. As he noted on subsequent pages, by the time he wrote Finding the Winning Edge — 1998 — the days of a QB waiting three or four years to play had long passed the NFL by. “The traditional approach of a team drafting a quarterback, developing him over a period of three to four years, and positioning him to be the team’s eventual starter is no longer consistent with the philosophy of many teams.”

As such, NFL teams need to put in place a rigorous, well-planned program for developing the young quarterback focused on “sequential learning.”

And practice patience.

Bryce Young may end up a bust. But we are nowhere near a definitive declaration on that point. The team needs to help him more, the coaching staff needs to help him more, and he needs more time.

Does he need to improve? Absolutely. Is what we are seeing right now worrying? Certainly. Is there a growing fear that Young is developing some bad habits, due to a lack of talent around him and a lack of protection up front? Yes.

But a bust?

We are nowhere near such a declaration.

We have seen other quarterbacks struggle as rookies, flirt with the “bust” tag, and then take a leap forward in their second or third seasons. Much like the path outlined by Coach Walsh above.

We can certainly revisit this in a year — and I know we will — but for now, it is much too early to make such a declaration.

See you all in 2024.