Carolina head coach John Fox announced today that Jake Delhomme will stay on as the team’s starting quarterback. How is that possible — especially when the Panthers have to play the high-flying Cardinals on Sunday? The same Cardinals team that started this awful streak of games for Delhomme in the playoffs last year. The first time he throws an interception or a bad ball, won’t his teammates think the worst is yet to come?
This move by Fox is a clear indication to me that he feels his job is on the line and he must salvage something from this season or there might not be any more for him as head coach. Fox is a smart man and a very good coach, but he knows he doesn’t have the right player at quarterback, and making a move to Matt Moore or A.J. Feely might look good on paper but send a signal to his team that the season is over. I know, you’re all saying with Delhomme the season is over, but in reality, Delhomme is a security blanket for Fox. A bad one, but the only one Fox knows.
Last offseason, Fox changed his entire defensive staff, and the front office has made moves as if there is no tomorrow, trading away next year’s picks and spending a ton of money on one player (Julius Peppers), so clearly there is no tomorrow. Sticking with Delhomme tells me that they would rather live with his mistakes and try to avoid them than learn something new about a player — and that something new might be good, or it might be even worse.
Now, to lay all that ails the Panthers at the feet of Delhomme is unfair. Their offense is rather pedestrian and their lack of a significant No. 2 wide receiver makes it difficult to feature Steve Smith properly week in and week out. However, the Panthers clearly have not recovered from their playoff failure, and the memory of Delhomme throwing the ball to the Cardinals is still fresh in every player’s (and fan’s) mind.
What is Fox holding on to? He’s hoping that the streaky Delhomme breaks his bad streak and starts a good one. Delhomme is 14-8 in the regular season the past two years but has thrown 19 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions in that span. His has only seven pass completions over 25 yards this season — and as we all know with Delhomme, he must make big plays down the field to be successful. His last three games of the 2008 regular season, he threw 10 25-yard pass plays alone.
Delhomme is a different player in ‘09 than he was in ‘08, and Fox must be hoping for the bad streak to end. We all know never to confuse hope for a plan, and in this case, the plan is to stay employed as a head coach.
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