Carolina Panthers Retrospective
What does Fox like so much about Delhomme? E-mail
Written by Steve Reed   
Saturday, 07 November 2009 19:04
Jake

Jake Delhomme leads the Panthers into New Orleans. (AP Photo)

   NEW ORLEANS – Jake Delhomme may not be your idea of the ideal quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, but after all of these years he still suits coach John Fox just fine.
   Fox has stood by Delhomme through good times and bad, repeatedly saying he gives his team the best chance to win. 
   And while Fox may have wavered for a day or so early last week, he ultimately went with Delhomme as his starter against Arizona and the 10-year NFL veteran responded by leading Carolina to a 34-21 victory, one that, at least temporarily, keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive at 3-4 although a grueling schedule lies ahead beginning today with the unbeaten New Orleans Saints.


   Some might argue Delhomme did little to “win” that football game, even though he led three first-half touchdown drives and completed a 50-yard scoring strike to Steve Smith.
   Some judge a quarterback’s day not on whether he wins or loses, but it he throws for 250 yards and a couple of scores. Those people are called Fantasy Football players. Delhomme is not a great Fantasy quarterback -- and never has been – and shouldn’t be viewed in that light.
   Delhomme accumulated just 90 yards passing before exiting midway through the second half with a bruised sternum, but ultimately did his job. Carolina’s running game, which racked up 270 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and an opportunistic defense, did the rest.
   Truth be told, in Fox's world that’s a perfect blueprint for success.
   Still, some can’t understand why Fox remains so loyal to Delhomme, whose interceptions drive fans crazy. To comprehend that, it’s first necessary to understand what Fox looks for in a quarterback. Earlier this week, I asked him just that question.
   His reply?
   “The way I look at it, I think one of the most important qualities is a guy that's got some command, got some leadership,” Fox said. “The second thing would be smarts. And third might be how he throws and all those measurable things. That's how I look at the quarterback position. Everybody's different. I feel like Jake's all those, and he's won a lot of games.”
   He certainly has.
   Even with this year’s rough start, Delhomme has won better than 60 percent of his starts (57-37) with the Panthers and only once since 2003 has he finished the season with a losing record.
   He’s experienced success in relatively unspectacular fashion.
   He's only thrown for 300 yards 13 times in his career, losing eight, including Super Bowl XXXVIII.
   In fact, those critics who suggest the Panthers are a better team when Delhomme doesn’t throw the football, well, they’re right.
   Consider this: Delhomme is a remarkable 44-8 for the Panthers when he attempts less than 30 passes in a game and is only 13-29 when he attempts more than that.
   Completing 7 of 14 passes for 90 yards never looked so good.
   On Sunday, Delhomme’s quarterback counterpart Drew Brees will probably throw for 300 yards on his way to another 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season.
   Delhomme’s numbers won’t sniff that.
   And yet, he doesn’t seem to mind.
   “No, no, no,” Delhomme said with a smile. “What (the Saints) do is awesome. And it's fun to watch, there's no doubt. On some Mondays, you pull up film from around the league, and I'll pull up some Saints film and just watch what they're doing. I think it's awesome to watch sometimes.”
   Delhomme knows that’s not his world.
   It’s not the way Fox built this team and, argue all you want, but the Panthers have won a lot more games than the Saints have since Fox arrived in 2002.
   “That's not our system,” Delhomme said. “That's not what we do. Ours is controlled passing game, run and take the shots downfield off play-action passes.”
   Strangely enough, when Delhomme once had a chance to run that type of a system.
   When he became a free agent after the 2002 season, two teams showed interest in him – the Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys. When he visited with the Cowboys, Delhomme spent a lot of time with then offensive coordinator Sean Payton, now the head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
   And you have to wonder if Delhomme’s career might have ended up different if he hadn’t noticed a secretary’s nameplate – it said “Charlotte” – at the Cowboys facility prompting him to return here to sign with the Panthers.
   But Delhomme has no regrets about not going to a heavily pass-oriented offense.
   “To say it's frustrating? No. I'm not that guy,” said Delhomme. "I can't stand the guy that sits back and says, ‘Oh if I played on that team, I could do that.' I hate that person, I can't stand that person. That's never something I do. Over the course of my time, I've seen it and heard it (from other quarterbacks). It’s like, OK, whatever… just do what you have to do.”
   Delhomme knows he’s not “doing” enough this season.
   Not yet.
   The Panthers have a ton of work to do, especially in their dysfunctional passing game. He’s well aware he leads the NFL in interceptions, and he makes no excuses for his play. It has to improve.
   But that said, Delhomme believes the Panthers made some positive steps last Sunday against Arizona after he experienced what he described as the low point of his career the week before in a loss to the Buffalo Bills.
   “We did some decent things, especially that first drive,” Delhomme said. “We were able to get a couple third downs and we got into somewhat of a rhythm. I think the second half was very different in how it was played out for us. But you know, I thought we did all right. We did some decent things.”
   And those things were just fine with Fox.
   “It's pretty much the ratio we'd like to go by,” Fox said of the team’s 44 runs and 15 passes. “We'd still like to throw it, and throw it efficiently. We were able to convert the third-and-8 on the first series, and we were at 50 percent on third-down (conversions), which is a pretty good number. We kept it relatively manageable, but there were at times some third-and-long situations that we were able to execute and keep the chains moving.”