Robbie Anderson has Sam Darnold's back. And he believes that the former first-round pick would be a successful NFL quarterback if not for the New York Jets.
Anderson kicked off his commentary when he stirred up social media buzz with a social media reply about Baker Mayfield. Prior to Wednesday's trade that sent Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns to the Carolina Panthers, Anderson made his thoughts clear on the fourth-year quarterback. He didn't want him on his team.
The Panthers receiver responded to a report on Instagram that Mayfield might land in Carolina with a succinct retort: "Nooooo."
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) July 6, 2022
Anderson clears the air
That was before Mayfield became a Panther. Now that Mayfield's in Carolina and could very well be throwing passes to Anderson next season, Anderson is looking to clear the air. He did so during an "I Am Athlete" episode that dropped on Thursday.
Per Anderson, his message was about his support for Darnold and had nothing to do with Mayfield.
"That was in defense of Sam," Anderson said (2:42 below). "I feel like at the end of the day, me and Sam do have chemistry. But it's like — I gotta start all over again.
"It wasn't no disrespect to him. It was really in defense of who my quarterback is right now."
Anderson's played with Darnold for three of the quarterback's four NFL seasons. He played with the Jets when New York drafted Darnold in 2018 with the third pick of the draft — two selections after Mayfield went to the Browns. Anderson joined the Panthers in 2019. Darnold joined him in Charlotte a year later and started 11 games of a 5-12 Panthers campaign.
Anderson: Jets 'messed up' Darnold's development
Darnold's struggled at every step of his NFL career and is in danger of losing his job to Mayfield in training camp. Anderson still believes in Darnold and blames the Jets for stunting his career.
"I will say this with Sam though. I feel like his development was all messed up coming into the league," Anderson continued (3:33). "Look at Pat [Mahomes] and look at Lamar [Jackson]. They didn't play right away. I don't think that Sam should have played right away.
"I feel like his career got jumpstarted the wrong way. I feel like — being in the building, the coaches — I was there. In his defense, I don't think he was developed 100% correctly."
Anderson's certainly not the first person to blame the Jets for screwing something up. And like he said — he was there. If he's right, the Jets did quite a hack job on Darnold.
Is there really a Panthers QB competition?
While Mayfield has his rightful critics, Darnold has been nothing short of a complete bust since joining the NFL. In four seasons, he's completed 59.8% of his passes for 212.5 yards per game while throwing 54 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. They're numbers that would have relegated a non top-10 pick to an NFL bench a long time ago.
Mayfield, meanwhile, has completed 61.6% of his passes for 235.4 yards per game with a 92-to-56 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He regressed last season, but his performance across the same four-year time span is appreciably better than Darnold's. If his struggles in 2021 can be attributed to a labrum tear that he played through, the Panthers may have gotten a steal in sending the Browns a conditional fifth-round draft pick in return.
The Panthers are reportedly opening up training camp with a quarterback competition, but all signs point to Mayfield being the better quarterback. There was nothing in Darnold's first season with the franchise that should give head coach Matt Rhule hope that he's the answer. And the Panthers didn't trade for Mayfield because they believe in Darnold.
The Jets may or may not have played a role in Darnold's failure to live up to his first-round pedigree. But that doesn't much matter at this point when it comes to Carolina's quarterback competition.