Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold would be the first pair of top-3 QBs to play for same team since 1980

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Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold have a chance to do something no pair of quarterbacks has done in 42 years.

If both Mayfield and Darnold play a snap for the Carolina Panthers at some point this season, they'll be the first quarterbacks picked in the top three of the same draft to play for the same team in one season since Jim Plunkett and Dan Pastorini did so for the then-Oakland Raiders in 1980, per Elias Sports and ESPN.

That year, Plunkett took the Raiders all the way to a Super Bowl XV win after taking over when Pastorini broke his leg in Week 5. Pastorini started the first five games of the regular season after being traded from the Houston Oilers before the 1980 season, while Plunkett had been the Raiders' backup since 1978.

Plunkett and Pastorini were both members of the 1971 draft class: Plunkett went No. 1 to the then-Boston Patriots while Pastorini was drafted No. 3 by the Oilers.

Plunkett was traded twice over the next nine years before landing with the Raiders as a backup and retiring there in 1986 with two Super Bowl rings (he won his second in 1983). After nine solid seasons with the Oilers, Pastorini was traded to the Raiders for Ken Stabler in 1980. He only last a year in Oakland, though, and only played two more seasons in the NFL — seven games for the Los Angeles Rams in 1981 and three games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1983.

The situation that landed both Mayfield and Darnold in Carolina is similar to the Raiders', but the Panthers would be lucky to enjoy the same fate.

Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold in Carolina

A little more than four years ago, Mayfield and Darnold were taken with the Nos. 1 and 3 picks in the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. But the Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers in 2021 after three bad seasons in New York, while the Browns moved Mayfield for a conditional fifth-round pick after acquiring Deshaun Watson this offseason.

Darnold didn't enjoy a good debut season in Carolina in 2021. He went 4-7 as a starter, missed five games with a shoulder injury, threw 13 interceptions to just nine touchdowns and was benched twice. He remains the Panthers' starter — for now — but Mayfield could easily supplant him in training camp.

While Darnold floundered in New York, Mayfield actually progressed as a quarterback during his stretch in Cleveland. In 2020, Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994 and only threw eight interceptions that season. A shoulder injury derailed his 2021 season, though, and the Browns struggled once more before trading a king's random and paying a king's fee for Watson.

What happens next is up to Darnold and Mayfield, but their situation in Carolina at least offers an intriguing storyline for the rest of the summer.

Baker Mayfield could be the solution to the Carolina Panthers' problems. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Baker Mayfield could be the solution to the Carolina Panthers' problems. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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