Despite Panthers quarterback Bryce Young being the 2023 NFL Draft's first overall pick, head coach Frank Reich isn't all in on utilizing his 5-foot-10, 204-pound quarterback in all game situations. Multiple times in short-yardage scenarios in the Panthers' 20-17 home loss on "Monday Night Football" against the Saints, Reich replaced Young with 13-year NFL veteran Andy Dalton (6-2, 220).
One instance ended in a false start and another was a run play where Dalton pitched the football to running back Miles Sanders.
"There are a lot of different things we could do, but I just feel very comfortable in Andy," Reich said Tuesday. "Some of those things you just want to limit the exposure of Bryce to ... and Bryce can do any of it, but you've got an experienced veteran. There's no golden rule that says he can't come in and play a couple plays in the game. I mean, look at what the Saints do. I know Taysom Hill is a different story. But why not do that to a lesser extent if it can be utilized in a positive way?"
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Young's stature was the most scrutinized element of his pre-draft process, and Reich's decision to manage his quarterbacks this way only adds questions about Young's long-term viability as an NFL quarterback. The head coach attempted to defuse such questions by pointing out he subbed in backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett for a 39-year-old Philip Rivers in the 2020 season when he was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
"That's not unprecedented by any stretch of the imagination," Reich said. "We had Jacoby Brissett, we brought him in on some short-yardage situations."
However, given that Young is 22 years old and not on the doorstep of retirement like Rivers, the arrangement is curious. Other teams do look for ways to use other players for quarterback sneaks instead of their actual starter. The Chiefs have used tight ends on such plays after Patrick Mahomes injured his knee on a sneak in 2019. If Dalton's usage is predominantly for that purpose, it makes sense. Otherwise, Reich's decision to pull Young in short-yardage scenarios will only create more questions.