Scott Fowler: With KFC quips and QB options galore, the Panthers are taking a break from irrelevance

Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

For the past five years, the Carolina Panthers have never had a chance to sit in the NFL’s catbird seat.

For the next 38 days, though, that’s exactly where they are perched, holding the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft after a monumental trade with Chicago.

And you better believe that the Panthers are enjoying this temporary respite from irrelevance.

“When you’ve got the No. 1 pick, you don’t have to play games, right?” Panthers coach Frank Reich said Monday at a press conference. “I mean, it’s not like we’re trying to fool anybody.”

Maybe not, but the Panthers aren’t in any hurry to say which of this draft’s top four quarterbacks they will pick at No. 1. Reich demurred when asked to talk about what characteristics in a QB he values most, saying: “That would be like giving the proprietary formula for Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

That question came up in particular due to the vertically challenged former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who measured 5-foot-10 at the scouting combine. The other three contenders for the No. 1 pick — Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis — all measured at least 6-3.


Reich’s previous history shows that he has preferred taller QBs in general. But then again, Reich said of 5-foot-11 former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson that he “had a very high grade on him” when Wilson was drafted in 2012 in the third round.

“All these people putting this label on me that I only work with big quarterbacks,” Reich said, smiling. “Don’t read anything into that. ... I’m trying to play reverse psychology.”

With that said, I still think the Panthers — who traded up from No. 9 to No. 1 — will end up choosing Stroud. But they’re not saying, and they’re not about to say, even though they conceivably could do so, given the “not like we’re trying to fool anybody” mindset.

That’s the NFL by nature, though. There’s a streak of paranoia that runs through every team official and coach, a close-to-the-vest mentality that has always been there but grew worse given the success of Bill “Don’t ever tell ‘em anything” Belichick and the New England Patriots. Although I believe the Panthers already have a strong idea who they are going to take at No. 1, they aren’t going to admit anything for sure.


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