The Carolina Panthers travel to New Orleans for their 11th game of the season today. And barring injury, it will be the 11th game of the season rookie quarterback Will Grier won’t see action.
It’s not that the former WVU star has gotten off to a bad start to his NFL career. He hasn’t gotten off to one at all. And what’s unsettling for Grier’s future prospects is that circumstances were firmly in his corner.
Grier was taken in the third round by the Panthers in the 2019 draft, the fifth quarterback selected. It was a bit of a curious selection by Carolina, taking Grier when the Panthers had their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, firmly entrenched and, at 30 years old, in the prime of his career.
But Newton is a rough 30. He’s battled injuries his entire career, and it’s likely Carolina tabbed Grier with the idea that he would sit and learn for a season. Then, if Newton’s injuries continued and worsened, perhaps in a season or two Grier would be the Panthers heir apparent to the position.
The 2019 season has proven Carolina correct to worry about Newton’s health. Newton played just two games this season before a recurring shoulder injury first sidelined him for multiple games then surgery did so for the season. This would appear to be an ideal situation for Grier to accelerate his ascent to becoming next starting quarterback of his hometown Panthers.
That hasn’t been the case. As he has for the past eight games, second-year quarterback Kyle Allen will lead Carolina. Allen is an undrafted free agent just one year Grier’s senior in terms of experience. The fact that Grier, with a far superior pedigree and a much higher level of team investment, was unable to usurp the No. 2 role from Allen out of preseason was a bad sign.
The fact that Allen is coming off of a four interception game in Carolina’s loss to Atlanta and there is nary a peep about Grier replacing him is a worse one.
Allen initially played well replacing Newton. But he has gotten steadily less effective, culminating in his disastrous performance in Atlanta last week. If the Panthers don’t go to Grier now, they aren’t likely to later.
Maybe Grier makes a giant leap between year one and year two. It happens. But the trend in the modern NFL is that young quarterbacks play and they play early. If Grier is unable to seize this opportunity, it’s not likely he’ll get a better one.