Can Matt Moore handle the pressure this year. (AP)
CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers didn’t intend to put added pressure on starting quarterback Matt Moore this weekend.
But they did.
When Jimmy Clausen fell to the Panthers at No. 48 general manager Marty Hurney couldn’t believe his team’s good fortune. So he took him. The same theory applied to Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike at the end of the sixth round.
Suddenly Moore has gone from having almost no competition to being smothered by it.
And competition is fine. But it's ironic considering one of the reasons the Panthers released veteran Jake Delhomme last month – perhaps the main reason, in fact – is they didn’t want Moore looking over his shoulder every day to see if he was gaining ground and ready to take his job.
If the Panthers thought there was pressure on Moore then, you can just imagine what it might be like now with a pair of rookie quarterbacks right behind him. As popular as Moore is right now we all know that if he gets off to a rough start in 2010 a lot of folks will be screaming for Clausen (or Pike) to take his place.
You can’t blame the Panthers for making the moves.
They needed to upgrade at quarterback. They had nothing.
But the bottom line is the decision to draft Clausen – along with their frantic attempts to trade up in the second round to get him -- prove the Panthers aren’t completely sold on Moore being their quarterback of the future. At least not yet. You don’t draft a quarterback with your first overall pick in the draft when you’re convinced about the young starter on your roster. You only do that because you want a backup plan, because you want another option.
And it’s OK to admit that.
After all, we don’t know all that much about Moore. Sure, he’s won 75 percent of his career starts, but all of those came when the Panthers were already eliminated from playoff contention -- or at least close to it -- in 2007 and ’09.
On Saturday Hurney and coach John Fox went out of their way to emphasize that drafting not one, not two, but three quarterbacks (if you include Armanti Edwards, of course) isn’t an indictment on Moore. “To draft well, you have to train yourself to go by the board, and if there's separation, you take the best player, and it's worked for us. It makes it harder at the quarterback position. Matt and Hunter, we can't say strongly enough how we feel about those two guys. It had nothing to do with them. We just got into a draft that surprisingly, in the second and sixth rounds, the board just dictated, 'This is the pick; this is the best player to take.' ... There was a significant gap."
Added Fox: "I'm a firm believer that competition at positions brings out the best in guys. We've got that going on,” said Fox.
Fox wouldn’t declare his early depth chart at quarterback yet, although it will likely look something like this: Moore first, Clausen second and either Pike or Cantwell third.
Well, at least for now.