Scott Fowler

Panthers mailbag: Should Carolina sign Kaepernick to shake up QB depth chart even more?

Before Colin Kaepernick (7) became known more for his national anthem protests, he was a very effective NFL quarterback. In January 2014, he engineered a 49ers playoff win over Carolina in Charlotte and mimicked Cam Newton’s “Superman” celebration in the end zone.
Before Colin Kaepernick (7) became known more for his national anthem protests, he was a very effective NFL quarterback. In January 2014, he engineered a 49ers playoff win over Carolina in Charlotte and mimicked Cam Newton’s “Superman” celebration in the end zone. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

You ask, we answer. The latest installment of our Panthers mailbag includes questions from our readers via Twitter and my email. Topics include Colin Kaepernick, Joe Webb and Carolina’s curiously empty Hall of Honor.

Since the Panthers were in the market for a backup quarterback, as they were once they released Joe Webb, shouldn’t they sign Colin Kaepernick instead of an untested rookie like Brad Kaaya? Wouldn’t Kaepernick be a far more effective backup to Cam Newton than Kaaya?

This is an interesting question, and the answer has some layers. The first is this: Carolina made a somewhat questionable call over the weekend that Derek Anderson should once again be their backup quarterback (see next question). They think Anderson can do the job despite his very unimpressive preseason.

This meant the Panthers weren’t in the market for a second-string quarterback. They wanted a third-stringer – a young player they could train in the system.

They weren’t thinking at all about this year with Kaaya, the former University of Miami quarterback. They were thinking a year or two down the road, with the idea that if Kaaya develops he could ascend and replace Anderson, who is 34 years old, as the primary backup.

The backup to the “Kaaya as backup” plan is Garrett Gilbert, incidentally. Carolina has decided to put two quarterbacks in its pipeline – interim general manager Marty Hurney thinks you should always be developing at least one.

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Brad Kaaya shakes hands with Miami head coach Mark Richt after a game in 2016. The Panthers signed Kaaya off of waivers on Saturday -- he had been a sixth-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions earlier this year. Al Diaz Miami Herald

Gilbert is on the practice squad and Kaaya is on the active roster, but neither is going to play in 2017 unless there is a serious emergency. They are both practice players – and cheap ones, which Kaepernick would not have been – for now.

As for the Kaepernick issue itself: I think there’s no doubt that some NFL teams have second thoughts about signing him and/or have avoided it entirely. The social awareness protest he started last season by kneeling during the national anthem rankled many, including some NFL owners.

However, in this case I do believe the Panthers’ decision regarding a non-pursuit of Kaepernick came down to football reasons, not social ones.

If Newton or Anderson gets hurt, though, and the Panthers don’t at least kick the tires on Kaepernick? Then that would be negligent, and that would be a whole different story.

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The Carolina Panthers chose Derek Anderson (3) to back up Cam Newton (1) in 2017, even though Joe Webb (14) had outplayed Anderson in the preseason. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Why was Joe Webb released instead of Anderson? Webb had a better preseason. He could have been Newton’s backup instead.

I totally understand this argument. Webb did play better than Anderson.

But from the Panthers’ point of view, they put a lot of stock in Anderson playing decently as Newton’s backup over the past several year, believed Webb (at age 30) no longer fits the profile of a developmental quarterback and think they can survive on special teams without him.

Anderson can’t run, but he’s an accurate passer if given enough time. In this case, Anderson was kept because of having a longer track record for Carolina than Webb (who quickly signed with Buffalo). I will tell you that the move to release Webb was not a popular one in Carolina’s locker room.

Who was the Panthers’ best all-time special teamer?

I’ll give you two. John Kasay, who may remain the team’s all-time leading scorer for 50 years, was the best kicker or punter of any type the team has employed.

And Michael Bates, who made multiple Pro Bowls for Carolina as both a kick returner and a coverage guy, was the best non-kicker.

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In this 1996 file photo, Panthers’ special-teamers Michael Bates (standing) and John Kasay posed for The Observer. File photo Charlotte Observer

Why have the Panthers never had back-to-back winning seasons?

It’s quite an oddity, isn’t it? This is about to be Carolina’s 23rd NFL season -- I’ve covered them all, which is mostly a blessing but sometimes a curse. And the team has never, ever finished with a winning record two years in a row.

The short answer is that through most of the Panthers’ history, they have usually been average or just below. They made the playoffs only four times in their first 18 years. They were usually a 7-9 team waiting to happen. That’s a bad spot to be. You’re not awful enough to draft a difference-maker like Cam Newton in the draft but you’re not good enough to make the postseason.

Carolina actually kept the stat alive while making the playoffs three straight times from 2013-15 because in the middle year of those three years, Carolina went 7-8-1 and still won the NFC South.

The earliest Carolina can put this stat to bed would be at the end of 2018, since the Panthers went 6-10 last year.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith (89) -- shown in 2008 after a win -- both deserve a spot in the team’s Hall of Honor, which is a ludicrously small hall at the moment. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Why is the Panthers’ Hall of Honor so empty and who will go in it next?

The Panthers’ ludicrously empty Hall of Honor includes only one man who ever played an actual snap for the team – linebacker Sam Mills. That will change. The Panthers quietly plan to induct several more players by or before the 2019 season -- which will be Carolina’s 25th in the NFL.

The Panthers do have a “You Must Be Retired For At Least Five Years” rule to make their Hall, however – a rule that was not in place when Mills (before cancer, before the “Keep Pounding” speech) went into the Hall.

I wrote a whole column on this issue in January, but I will shorten it here by saying that I believe these 10 players should all get in at some point: Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme, Julius Peppers, Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Muhsin Muhammad and John Kasay.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140; @scott_fowler

Hundreds of supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are rallied outside the New York City headquarters of the National Football League to support him on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. Kaepernick kneeled during the nationa

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