C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young have had their careers intertwined since they were both in high school in Southern California — but their rookie seasons couldn’t have been more different.
Young, who went first overall to the Panthers in the 2023 NFL Draft, struggled mightily at the helm in Carolina. The Panthers finished a league-worst 2-15 on the season, and first-year head coach Frank Reich was fired after just 11 games.
On the other side, Stroud compiled one of the best rookie campaigns by a QB in NFL history with the Texans, who selected him at No. 2 overall in the same draft. He’s the overwhelming favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Stroud’s 4,108 passing yards are the third-most in a rookie season in NFL history, and his 23 touchdown passes put him in the top 10 all-time for first-year signal-callers. What’s more, the Texans engineered a stunning turnaround to a 10-7 record, AFC South title and playoff win over Cleveland behind Stroud and first-year head coach Demeco Ryans.
While Young seems as destined for bust territory as Stroud is for superstardom, the Texans QB urged observers recently to not give up on his longtime friend.
“A lot of stuff didn’t go his [Young’s] way that was out of his control,” Stroud recently Stroud said recently. “You can’t make a play if somebody [doesn’t] block. You can’t make a play if somebody [doesn’t] catch the ball. When you watch the tape, Bryce did a lot of great things. He’s going to be a great player, but it takes time.”
C.J. Stroud wins NFL on FOX Pod’s Offensive Rookie of the Year
Stroud contrasted Young’s situation with the Panthers with the environment that he walked into with the Texans, saying that Houston had a lot of good pieces despite their struggles before he arrived. Stroud also praised the job Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio did in building and coaching the team around him this past season.
Stroud also said he believes Young could have a great season next year under new Panthers coach Dave Canales, and that he has reached out to Young directly with words of encouragement.
“Everybody’s path is different,” Stroud added. “I know everything is going to be fine for him. I told him, ‘You the one, bro. You the one for a reason. Don’t ever’ — and he’s not going to — ‘don’t ever look at yourself different.'”
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