An awful game. Five interceptions along with one fumble for a quarterback that had once led his team to a Super Bowl appearance.
So, what did the Carolina Panthers do after their quarterbacks meltdown in the divisional playoffs? General manager Marty Hurney decides to reward Jake Delhomme with a five-year, $42.5 million contract of which $20 million was guaranteed. Just a few months later after struggling in Week 1 of the 2009 season, Panthers fans beg for the old, consistent Jake Delhomme.
After starting his career as an undrafted free agent with New Orleans, Delhomme signed with Carolina in 2003. Rodney Peete was the starter, but the former NFL Europe back-up to Kurt Warner soon took over the job. Delhomme proceeded to lead the Panthers to an incredible Super Bowl journey, which culminated in a crushing loss to New England on Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal.
He continued to improve steadily in his NFL career, setting franchise records across the board. In 2007, an injury suffered against Atlanta caused Delhomme to undergo re-constructive elbow surgery and miss the remainder of the year. Miraculously, Jake Delhomme returned in 2008 and appeared to be fully healthy. He led Carolina to a division title along with the Number 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs. In the divisional round, the Panthers were favored to beat the Arizona Cardinals, but Delhomme imploded on the national stage. Suddenly, his job security was in question.
Week 1, Carolina is at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. After months of working to improve his mechanics, Delhomme struggled again. He attempted 17 passes, but completed only eleven. Unfortunately, four of those eleven happened to be the Eagles.
Delhomme added one fumble, 73 passing yards, and a passer rating of 14.7. Head coach John Fox, the original supporter to sign Delhomme in 2003, benched his starting quarterback. Backup signal caller Josh McCown filled-in, but left the game early due to foot and leg injuries. He was later placed on injured reserve. Fox then turned to emergency quarterback Matt Moore. The former Oregon State star was no better. He managed just 63 yards passing.
For now, Delhomme’s starting quarterback job is safe. However, Carolina did sign former Eagles and Dolphins quarterback A.J. Feeley as an insurance policy.
The bad news continues for Carolina. Against a Philadelphia defense that was without starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and was still transitioning to new defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, stud running back DeAngelo Williams rushed for just 37 yards. In addition, the schedule does not ease up for the Panthers. Their opponents this season had a combined winning percentage of .592 last year, giving the Panthers the NFL’s second-toughest schedule.
Hopefully, Delhomme’s benching will help the quarterback to lead the Panthers back to the playoffs (remember Donovan McNabb getting benched for the Eagles last year?). If not, will head coach John Fox be on the hot seat?