Beyond Cam Newton, Panthers' QB options no clearer after Will Grier's debut

INDIANAPOLIS -- Will Grier has a tattoo on his chest that says: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.' And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’"

The Carolina Panthers' rookie quarterback showed in his NFL debut, a 38-6 loss to the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis, some of the warrior mentality his tattooed phrase by an unknown author suggests.

The storm remains the one this team has been embroiled in during a seven-game losing streak. After a 5-3 start, the Panthers tumbled into last place in the NFC South.

“He was thrown into an impossible situation," tight end Greg Olsen said of Grier. “Let’s be honest. He’s aware there have been countless issues. And now throw him out there and play incompetent football around him. It’s impossible to get any sort of judgment based on his performance today.

“There were failures all around him. Failures leading up to it. I hope no one passes judgment on Will’s ability as a player in the future. There were a lot of things in play. He had to suffer the consequences."

Carolina’s situation at quarterback beyond 2019 is no clearer now than it was before. Kyle Allen didn’t prove to be the answer in going 5-6, and Grier didn’t prove to be the answer on Sunday with his three-interception, no-touchdown performance on 44 pass attempts.

And there’s still no clarity on Cam Newton’s health since surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury. The team still expects him to return to full health, and he has said he wants to stay with Carolina.

So all options are on the table.

As for Grier, here are five questions that remain:

Can he be an effective game manager? He played catchup from the get-go Sunday because the punt-coverage team was horrible, giving up touchdowns of 84 and 71 yards and allowing a 40-yarder that set up Indy’s first touchdown. On the surface, it doesn’t appear fair to judge Grier for having to do more than he might normally be asked to get Carolina back into contention. But according to interim coach Perry Fewell, “Those circumstances arise in a ballgame, and you have to take that into account. You have to be able to bring your team back and make them answer, and that just comes with the job." Grier wasn’t able to bring the Panthers back despite having a couple of opportunities in the red zone before the score got out of hand.

Can he play clean football? Grier threw three interceptions, but on two of them, Carolina receivers appeared to have their hands on the ball and got it ripped away from them. Grier also played most of the game without top wideout DJ Moore, who left in the first half with a concussion. “We’ve got to help Will. Everybody has to help Will," Fewell said. “We have to go up and compete for the ball." Grier didn’t have a history of throwing a lot of interceptions in college, with 81 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 28 games.

Can he beat you with his legs? In today’s game, in which pass-rushers are almost as fast as receivers, a quarterback must be somewhat mobile. Grier kept many plays alive with his legs and rushed for 17 yards on four carries despite being sacked five times. He’s deceptively fast, so from that standpoint, he passed the eye test.

Does he have a big-time arm? Grier’s arm strength was questioned by some before the draft. Fewell said Grier has a “cannon" of an arm, and Grier proved it with several deep throws that appeared effortless, even though his longest completion gained 28 yards.

Does he have the mental strength to succeed? This goes back to the tattoo. Grier didn’t crumble under pressure. He looked and felt comfortable. “It kind of motivates me," Grier said of his debut. “I have a lot of confidence. I’m a really good player, and I can play really well in this league. ... I know there’s a lot left out on that field, and I know we can be better -- and I know I can be better."