The Carolina Panthers played what may have been the worst game in franchise history, as they got manhandled by the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday afternoon 38-10.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the loss.
Coughing the ball up wasn't Delhomme's fault (he hadn't even come out from his pre-snap position under center before the Eagles pass rusher was mangling him), and one pick could have been the fault of the offensive line, while another can be somewhat attributed to an oddly released ball.
But as much as head coach John Fox defends Delhomme, it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't say No. 17 is an average starter on the best of days if he weren't Delhomme's coach. Delhomme's issues lie within his fundamentals.
One interception Delhomme threw was embarrassingly underthrown. WR Steve Smith had a beat on his man, and Delhomme underthrew Smith so badly that the defender was in perfect position to pick the ball off.
There are two reasons why Delhomme's fourth interception happened.
1) He telegraphed the throw—he stared down his receiver for several seconds, waiting for him to "get open", and 2) He threw into triple coverage. It was a poor read, and he tipped his hand so obviously that he may as well have been pointing the Eagles to the spot.
To use a baseball term, he was "tipping his pitches". But he wasn't just telling the Eagles what kind of pitch he was going to throw. He also told them the exact location. If you do that, you're going to give up a home run.
A starting quarterback in the NFL should be able to throw a pass longer than 30 yards. He should also be able to make reads, find the open receiver, and get the ball to the receiver. If there isn't a receiver open after five or six seconds, he should throw the ball away if he can't run (and Delhomme can't).
Delhomme, on Sunday afternoon, showed he may not be able to do those things anymore (if there was a time when he could do them in the first place).
Delhomme is starting to give even his most loyal supporters (of which I used to be one) reason to give up on him. That may sound harsh because the season is only just barely a week old.
But the problems of his worst games from 2008 (at Oakland Raiders, at Tampa Bay Bucs, vs. Arizona Cardinals) are still blatantly there. If months of offensive training doesn't give you the time to fix your game, you have to ask yourself if your game is ever going to be fixed.
As bombastic as Delhomme's effort against Philadelphia was, there will still be some fans who defend him. But even those fans will feel compelled to switch over to the other side of the Delhomme debate, once he throws another two or three interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons' average defense...or against every other defense the Panthers face, until Fox eases up on being headstrong and starts Matt Moore.
If Fox is going to start Moore before late October, though, he needs to make his debut next week in Atlanta. The Falcons' weak pass rush and secondary would maximize Moore's chances for success.
Even with one of the most dangerous running games in the NFL, the Panthers' offense will have only limited success unless Delhomme miraculously picks himself up and starts playing like a QB who knows a thing or two about being a quarterback.
Opposing defenses will put eight or nine defenders in the box, except in obvious passing situations, until Delhomme proves he can consistently throw well enough to get by. Even when you have perhaps the best duo (or trio) of running backs in the league, it doesn't matter, once three defenders come racing through the offensive line untouched, they will drop whoever is in for a loss.
With no reliable way to score points, the defense will have to keep the team in games. Even though the defense looked much better than fans had reason to believe, based on the preseason and coordinator Ron Meeks' history during his former job in Indianapolis, this is by no means a NY Giants-caliber defense.
Simply put, Carolina's success depends wholly on Delhomme. He doesn't look competent. So the Panthers will lose at least nine games.
Do you hear that, (insert name of college QB the Panthers could take in the 2010 NFL Draft)? Panthers fans are already chanting your name in hopes that the Panthers will draft you.
You're the missing piece to the Panthers' puzzle.