Panthers stand by Delhomme
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Jake Delhomme is still Carolina’s starter ó even after 11 turnovers in two games.
He does have a new backup, however, with the arrival of A.J. Feeley to replace the injured Josh McCown.
Coach John Fox defended Delhomme on Monday, saying his beleaguered quarterback’s status “hasn’t changed” a day after he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the Panthers’ 38-10 loss to Philadelphia.
Pressured all game, but also making poor throws and decisions, Delhomme nearly matched his six-turnover performance in Carolina’s blowout playoff loss to Arizona in January. His turnovers Sunday led to 24 Eagles points, and Fox pulled him after he threw consecutive interceptions in the third quarter.
In Carolina’s last 22 possessions against the Cardinals and Eagles, Delhomme has thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles.
Yet, Delhomme will start next week at Atlanta.
“It’s like Tiger Woods doesn’t win every tournament. (Roger) Federer doesn’t win every tournament,” Fox said. “There’s a lot of people out there that practice and get paid, too.”
Delhomme is soon to have a new teammate. Feeley, a free agent who was cut by the Eagles earlier this month, agreed to a contract and was on his way to Charlotte late Monday. He’ll replace Josh McCown, who was headed to injured reserve after injuring his left foot and knee in relief of Delhomme Sunday.
McCown was in a protective boot Monday and was using a crutch as Delhomme said he “took his medicine” in a film session that had to resemble a horror flick.
“Did I beat myself up last night? Absolutely. But it happens. That’s just how this business is,” Delhomme said. “That’s why these seats are so precious. There are only 32 of us in the world.”
Delhomme, who was booed unmercifully by the home fans Sunday, still has a seat at that table.
Three months after his playoff debacle, the Panthers gave the 34-year-old Delhomme a new five-year, $42.5 million contract. It immediately freed up needed salary-cap space this year, but it also included $20 million in guaranteed money. The Panthers then didn’t sign another QB and Delhomme had no serious competition in training camp.
McCown beat out Matt Moore for the No. 2 job ó and the inexperienced Moore will likely remain No. 3 behind Feeley, a nine-year veteran who was in his second stint in Philadelphia. He’s also been with Miami and San Diego.
But while Feeley may eventually replace Delhomme, several teammates rushed to their teammate’s defense Monday.
“Jake, we didn’t give him a chance,” left tackle Jordan Gross said.
Added center Ryan Kalil: “In all reality, it’s kind of tough for him to make plays when he’s got guys in his face.”
The offensive line, with all five starters returning from last season, was considered Carolina’s strength coming into the season. But it crumbled against the Eagles’ relentless blitzing, which included several looks the Panthers weren’t expecting.
Fox even hinted Carolina’s more freewheeling style hurt Delhomme. His sack and fumble that was returned for a touchdown and one of his interceptions came on screen pass calls.
“A couple of those third-and-longs I wish we had run our patented draw instead of screens,” Fox said, referring to criticism that they’ve been too conservative in the past.
Still, Delhomme clearly faces one of the most difficult weeks of his career. After going from an unknown backup in New Orleans to leading Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in his first season in town in 2003, Delhomme has had a love-hate relationship with fans.
He’s played in two NFC championship games, was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and has led 12 game-winning drives in the final 2 minutes or overtime.
But Delhomme has had his share of clunkers, too ó only nothing compares to the past two games.
“I think you go through stretches where maybe you’re not seeing the field as well as you’d like,” Delhomme said. “I think that happens during the course of a season. … But these two, they were separated by a bunch of time. For whatever reason, those are the cards that have been dealt.”