CHARLOTTE— Bryce Young propped up in front of his locker room, looking lighter and brighter than he has in weeks, as he joked about which sneakers he'd buy, and whether or not teammate Sam Franklin could ever legitimately beat him in basketball.
After a season that swung punch after punch, reaching the finish line lifted a veritable weight from his shoulders. So Young spoke for over 10 minutes, addressing his season and his future. He laughed and teased and reflected on a rookie year that didn't go as he or anyone had envisioned, but could set the foundation for something special.
With that in mind, Young is mapping out his offseason; or at least as much as he can in this suspended time between the end of one year and the beginning of another.
"I haven't really had that time to reflect (yet) and to do that self scout," Young said Monday. "I'll definitely sit down, I'll watch every snap, go through it, chart things, figure out strengths and weaknesses, all that stuff. I don't wanna just say something random and it not be the truth. But, I'll know when I get a chance to do that."
Young called losing Frank Reich as the toughest part of his rookie season, experiencing a head coaching change up close. But from the field level point of view, there is so much of Young's game to scout, over the course of a 17-game season that saw him go through two play-callers but three changes, from Reich, to Thomas Brown, back to Reich, then back to Brown again.
"I mean, it's not just me. That's stuff that we all definitely, as a unit, we all went through," Young said. Despite the whiplash that would understandably accompany that many changes in a short amount of time Young doesn't want to place any excuses on the changes, only himself.
"Ultimately, we had the same people in the building. Obviously, unfortunately, people left, but it wasn't like we brought anything new in. And that's part of the job. It's part of being a pro; you gotta show up every week and what that game plan is, master it and whether it was the same person, or a different person, that was the same process.
"Ultimately, I feel like we were put in the situation, I was put in the situation, to succeed. A lot of stuff that I want to work on and clean up. And that'll, that'll be how I look at it going forward."
Justified or not, Young's self-blame allows him to look at his rookie season through an extra critical eye. When that comes, he'll see a number one overall pick who finished with a 59.8 completion percentage, 2,877 yards, 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and took a franchise tying worst, 62 sacks.
He'll also see a game log that rode peaks and valleys through the season, as he learned both what to do, and what not to do, to be a quarterback in the National Football League.
"I think I've grown for sure," Young pondered. "Just first game and being in the league and just trying to figure everything out to now, there's definitely stuff I feel more comfortable with and feel like I've grown.
"But also I feel like there's a ton more growth to do. And again, right now, we still haven't had really that time to sit back and reflect and have that big picture stuff. That'll be a process throughout the off season. But I'll be excited also to attack those things that I wanna continue to grow in."
Whatever direction Young's career takes from here, beginning as early as this offseason, will largely depend on who takes over the Panthers head coaching position. An offensive minded coach, or a new coordinator, will dictate what Young should "attack" and focus on heading into his second year. However that process unfolds though, Bryce Young is heading into his offseason confident in himself, confident in whatever comes next and confident in who he can be, now that his rookie season is finally over.
"I believe in, myself, believe in this organization. We don't know 100% what everything's gonna look like. But I'm confident, whatever decisions they make and how they choose," Young preached.
"Just as a competitor, I wanna do everything I can to, and really to build that confidence. I feel like for me, it's always kind of a result of the off season, of pushing myself in the off season, feeling good and making sure that it kind of helps hold me accountable so that I can kind of feel like I can earn that confidence and earn that throughout the off-season. So, you know, I'll map out that plan and figure it out. But again, ultimately, I have a lot of confidence in our organization."