It's not often you can say a game played in the second week of the NFL season could be a make-or-break game for a team or a player.
However that's exactly the case for Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers.
No matter how you look at it, the outcome of their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome could determine their fate for 2009 and beyond.
Delhomme has what plenty of Panthers fans never wanted him to have after his opening-day performance against the Eagles, a second chance. What he does with that second chance could define his career, for better or for worse.
Delhomme has been known as a fiery, gritty player who in the past, has led his team to plenty of come-from-behind victories in the final seconds of the game, when the pressure is on him to deliver.
A lot of Panthers fans can barely remember what the old Jake looked like after his last two meaningful performances, but he has yet another chance to deliver when the odds are stacked against him and his team.
If Jake comes out and has another turnover-laden performance, it will be almost impossible to label his past few games an "aberration " and avoid calling it a "trend."
He very well may not get another chance after another terrible outing, and so either the A.J. Feeley or Matt Moore era will begin in Carolina, as the front office scrambles to find a solution in the search for their future starting signal-caller.
While there is always a chance the Delhomme era could end much in the same way it began, with an unheralded quarterback stepping in and leading his team deep into the playoffs, the chances of this happening are slim.
Uncertainty at the the quarterback position almost never equals success in the NFL. If Delhomme goes, that could also spell the end for head coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, the ones responsible for granting Jake a contract extension after his playoff meltdown against the Cardinals.
Also, since Fox and Hurney have mortgaged their future for the present in the past two drafts, we could be looking at dark days ahead in Charlotte for the 2010 season unless the front office can put together a package to trade up for a first-round pick.
Of course none of this would be nearly as important if Delhomme comes out and redeems himself against the Falcons.
This doesn't necessarily mean he would have to throw three or four touchdown passes or even come out of Atlanta with a win. He just needs to show he is capable of playing mistake-free football and not putting his defense or his team in a tough position, the way he has in his past two games.
If he can do this, it will at least be a glimmer of hope that all is not lost for the Panthers in 2009, and that Delhomme's performances of late aren't becoming a weekly routine.
Pretty much everyone who knows Delhomme knows that he is a great guy, one of the best in the NFL, who has never placed blame on anyone's shoulders but his own, and never hid from criticism of the media after a terrible performance.
We hate to see something like this happen to a great teammate and a true class act. This isn't how franchise quarterbacks are supposed to go out. You would like to think a guy who led the Panthers to the most success they've ever had would be able to go out on his own terms.
There's no question that Delhomme is down right now. He has pretty much lost the trust of the majority of the Panthers' fan base, and he has already put a damper on their high hopes for back-to-back winning seasons.
However, Delhomme has been down before, and with the trust of his teammates and coaching staff still intact, his performance against the Falcons will potentially be his greatest comeback ever.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!