When the Panthers decided to sacrifice a huge haul to move up to No. 1 overall in March ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, the thinking was that they must have had a slam-dunk pick already in mind.
"It wasn't much convincing," Carolina head coach Frank Reich said during his news conference following the pick, via the team’s website. "You just watched the tape. There's a lot said about the size. At the end of the day, there are a lot of factors that go into it. But we're coaches, we're scouts. We watched the tape. And when you watch the tape, Bryce Young is the best player."
In two years as a starter for the Crimson Tide, Young passed for 8,200 yards, 79 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He left Alabama with a cavalcade of hardware -- a Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien Award and Manning Award, plus recognition as a one-time first-team All-American and a one-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
The height Reich mentioned remained the most significant knock against Young throughout the draft process. He's just 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, but Carolina's new face of the franchise still proved durable in college while missing just one game across two seasons. Plus, the stigma against shorter quarterbacks has waned with the success of signal-callers like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
That was certainly the case with the Panthers, who had a desperate need to fortify the sport's most important position after five straight losing seasons and four straight years employing a different Week 1 starter under center.
According to Reich, he attended a meeting regarding the 2023 class of QB prospects a few weeks after accepting the head coaching job and witnessed unanimous consensus that Young was "the guy."
That conviction only grew stronger after meeting the QB and picking his mind.
"At one point, (general manager) Scott (Fitterer) and I and Mr. (David) Tepper kind of made eye contact, like, 'This is crazy,'" Reich said. "He got into how he was studying the film, and some of the things he said about that. I looked at Mr. Tepper; he looked at Scott. It was like, this is next-level stuff.
"And listen, we've all been around, and we've all heard good stuff. The other guys said good stuff too. But this was just at a level that was different."
Young will be counted on to continue being different as the Panthers attempt to claw their way back into championship contention, and Reich will be hopeful he's beginning his Panthers coaching tenure with a long-term partner at QB after enduring annual turnover at the position in five seasons with the Colts.
During his first news conference as a Panther, Young sounded up for the challenge.
"I'm super grateful," he said about Carolina trading so much to draft him. "That's something that I don't take lightly and don't take for granted. To believe in me is something I'm forever going to be grateful for. I want this opportunity. And I'm excited, I'm focused, I want to do everything that I can to take advantage of that opportunity and help contribute to the franchise."