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New Panthers OC Ben McAdoo declares Sam Darnold as starting quarterback, then walks back statement

Ben McAdoo is once again in charge of an offense, this time in Charlotte with the Carolina Panthers.

He didn't get off to the smoothest start. McAdoo spoke with reporters on Tuesday and was predictably grilled on the future of quarterback Sam Darnold, who like McAdoo once called New York home, and is currently attempting to reclaim his NFL future with the Panthers.

McAdoo responded affirmatively when asked if Darnold would be Carolina's starting quarterback in 2022 before realizing he'd made an early mistake.

"One of the things I've been working on is being better talking to you people [media], so announcing the starting quarterback here I just put my foot in my mouth," McAdoo said, via ESPN. "That wasn't something I should have said."

Unlike McAdoo, Darnold might already have lost his best remaining chance of orchestrating a comeback. Darnold flopped in his first season in Carolina, struggling when healthy and losing the starting job due to injury. He only got his job back when Cam Newton -- signed to fill in for Darnold -- experienced his own difficulties late in the season. Even then, Darnold wasn't able to help the Panthers turn things around.

The risk Carolina took on Darnold didn't pay off, leaving the Panthers in a familiar position: searching for a new quarterback.

Carolina might do so by selecting one in the first round of the draft. The Panthers currently own the sixth-overall selection and would likely be in prime position to take a top quarterback.

With this in mind, it's too early to declare any player the starter under center. As it currently stands, Darnold and P.J. Walker are the only two QBs on the roster, meaning Darnold (and his roughly $18 million guaranteed for 2022) would be the logical first choice.

"Sam does have some magic in his game," McAdoo said. "He's got some athleticism to him. I'm excited to work with Sam. We've been working the last few days here to get up to speed on offense, and he's shown flashes of being a good player in this league."

But drafting a quarterback on Day 1 of the draft would change matters, which is why McAdoo had to walk back his initial statement. The top two candidates at this point offer different advantages when they would theoretically enter the Panthers' facility: Liberty's Malik Willis might need more time to adjust to the NFL before he's capable of leading an offense, while Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett is seen as the most pro-ready quarterback in the class.

McAdoo doesn't seem to be content with taking a player more capable of handling the job upon arrival.

"I'm a big 'swing for the fences' kind of guy," he said. "So just because you're ready doesn't mean you're going to be the best. But ready does factor in some scenarios. Experience obviously helps. What type of system you played in may help some guys over others.

"But at the end of the day, you have to pick a player that you're going to be happy with at that position, hopefully for the next decade."

If the season started today, Darnold would be the starter. If Carolina takes Willis, perhaps Darnold is the starter, at least initially. But the season certainly does not start today, and by the time it arrives, another player could be in the mix for the job in both the short and long term.

McAdoo is still getting his feet under him as offensive coordinator in Carolina. He learned Tuesday to take a moment to consider his response before answering a question about his team's most important position. It could look very different come August.

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