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It's too soon for the lessons of Bryce Young's rookie year

Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE — Panthers' rookie quarterback Bryce Young was not in the mood to reflect or think about what might be next. 

Too soon, clearly, in the moments after a second straight shutout loss to close the season.

Others, on the other hand, were willing to take the long view on his career.

"I think that when he's in Year 12, winning a lot of games and slicing people up a little bit, dicing it around, throwing it around," interim coach Chris Tabor began. "I said, you'll remember this first year, and you'll probably look back and say, you know what, it stunk at the time, but this really helped me get to where I'm at.

"He has a really bright future."

But it was hard to see anything bright Sunday after such a dark rookie season.

In 16 games (he missed the Week 3 loss at Seattle with an ankle injury), Young completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 2,877 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 73.7 and was sacked 62 times. That tied a franchise record here (Steve Beuerlein was sacked 62 times in 2000) and is tied for sixth-most in league history (since Washington's Sam Howell was sacked four times Sunday to move him to 65 and fourth on the list). Sunday, other than a 42-yard strike that DJ Chark Jr. fumbled, his long pass of the day was an 8-yarder, and oh yeah, they didn't score any points for the second week in a row. 

In short, it was rough.

"Right now, like you said, it's tough," Young said in the moments after the game. "There hasn't really been a sit down and think about the big picture and reflect. We just got off the field not too long ago.

So really, I don't want to just tell you something just to say it and not be true."

It's difficult for him to come up with any honest answers immediately, in part because he knows they might not apply.

The Panthers were in the market for a new head coach after firing Frank Reich following Week 11, and Young's quarterbacks coach, Josh McCown, went with him. Now, there are weeks of uncertainty afoot, which makes it hard to zero in on any particular lessons. 

Are there specific things he needs to improve? Of course. Can he identify them until he knows whose priorities he's working around? Not really.

"Just as a competitor, I just want to grow," Young said. "Of course, there's going to be things that are better. There's the process of not just, hey, I want to be better. I want us to get the specifics. And again, there's going to be a time after this to self-reflect and to watch the film, do a self-scout, and figure out the things so I can put a plan together.

"But that hasn't happened yet."

Bryce Young

Young isn't the first rookie quarterback to struggle, or even the first No. 1 overall pick to do so.

Peyton Manning led the league in interceptions with 28 and went 3-13. Troy Aikman didn't win a single start (0-11) and threw twice as many picks as touchdowns (18 of the bad ones, nine of the good ones). Trevor Lawrence also survived a head coach firing in the middle of his rookie year and went 3-14 with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. 

It actually gets worse. 

But Young was having a hard time seeing it at the moment. 

Adversity isn't an abstract concept when you're last in the league in total offense. Or when you take 62 sacks. Or when you absorb back-to-back shutout losses to close a season in which you were already 32nd in total offense. 

It's real, and it's going to take time to sink in. He admitted he hadn't figured out what the coming weeks looked like or how he'd handle it.

"Just dealing with adversity, you're not entitled to anything," Young said. "You're not entitled to any sort of success. You know you've got to keep showing up, keep making sure that you're pushing yourself. 

"You can't lean on success to be your motivator. You have to be internally motivated. And that's something that obviously got put to the test throughout the year."

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 18.

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