When Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was informed that he needed to call his head coach, John Fox, he mentally prepared himself for bad news. Delhomme tried to ready himself for a conversation about losing the starting job to upstart Matt Moore. The writing was on the wall that a change was coming. After a six turnover meltdown during a 2008 playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, followed by an abysmal 2009, Jake Delhomme would have been a fool to think that he was untouchable as the starter in Carolina. But little could have prepared him for the conversation that actually took place. Fox informed Jake Delhomme that the franchise was moving in a different direction, and that they would be doing it without Delhomme’s help.
This is the Carolina Panthers’ single worst decision in franchise history, which is saying a lot for a franchise that drafted Chris Weinke and signed an aging Keyshawn Johnson to a 4-year contract.
Seriously, this is probably the single worst sports-related decision since the NBA began allowing a franchise to be named the Jazz (doesn’t that name just bring to mind the image of spirit fingers?)
The decision just does not make sense. Let’s examine the financial aspect of the move. It is clear that the Carolina Panthers are trying to clear room while cap friendly cuts are being allowed. This is evidenced by their release of virtually the entire defensive line – Julius Peppers, Damione Lewis, and Maake Kemoeatu – and a couple of serviceable linebackers – Na’il Diggs and Landon Johnson. These are moves that would even make Florida Marlin’s officials say, “Wow, those guys are cheap!” Clearly the Panthers are being cost conscientious, but cutting Delhomme does not erase the fact that the franchise still owes him about $12.5M in guaranteed money. Add to that the more than $3M dollars the team has offered to newly tapped starter Matt Moore, and the team is looking at about $15M in salary committed to the starting quarterback position. Is Moore really worth that much? I will just wait until the snickering dies down, but I think we can safely establish that the answer is no. With so much money committed to Delhomme and Moore already, I am betting the Panthers will not make a move to bring in a marquee starting quarterback ahead of Moore. So, now that it appears the Carolina Panthers are putting all their eggs in the Matt Moore basket, what about the backup job?
The Carolina Panthers need a quality backup quarterback. The team probably needs someone with experience to mentor Moore, maybe someone with playoff… or even Super Bowl experience. They should probably find a guy who is a fan friendly, considering owner Jerry Richardson and general manager Marty Hurney do not like divas. Plus the Panthers need a player with presence, a locker room leader. Where in the world will the Panthers find a guy like that? Well I have heard that Michael Vick has shown interest, but that was probably because he heard that the Charlotte Animal Shelter was within walking distance of the stadium. Or maybe the Panthers can dial up Vinny Testaverde for another season… unless the NFL has a “no fossil” rule. Or, and this might be really out there, but how about Jake Delhomme? Oh yeah that’s right, they just cut him.
The Panthers should have thought through this decision through because Jake Delhomme is the best option out there. I am not the only person that thinks so. A group of ESPN analysts have dubbed Delhomme the “best free agent quarterback on the market.” Cutting the best free agent quarterback does not make sense. As one of these analysts, Mark Schlereth, points out that there are several teams that need depth at quarterback – the Buffalo Bills, the St. Louis Rams, and the Arizona Cardinals just to name a few. Certainly the Panthers could have held onto Delhomme and offered him as trade bait for picks, especially since the Carolina brain trust traded away this year’s first round pick. Or, dare I say it, kept him on the roster.
Another supposed benefit of cutting Jake Delhomme is to eliminate the quarterback controversy that might happen if he were to stay, and Matt Moore were to struggle. A brilliant move, because competition has never brought out the best in athletes. And we would not want to have to two decent options on the same team. That would just be crazy.
I realize that Jake Delhomme was not winning any fans over with his large number of interceptions, but cutting him was not the answer. Cutting Delhomme only makes the situation worse. Like putting out fire with gasoline, it only intensifies the situation. I wish the Panthers luck this year, with Moore under center, and the other holes they now have to fill, they are going to need it.