As most of you already know, the Cleveland Browns recently made moves at the quarterback position that raised some eyebrows.
Cleveland’s President Mike Holmgren and staff made the decision to first release Derek Anderson, largely because of an upcoming roster bonus that was due to him, then sign career backup Seneca Wallace and struggling veteran Jake Delhomme, and then finally trade Brady Quinn to Denver for Peyton Hillis and draft picks.
While Holmgren firmly insists that he and his staff never promise starting jobs to any free agent signees, it is pretty clear that Delhomme was brought in to start and Wallace to back him up.
This move has a lot of Browns fans shocked and confused.
The first thing that everyone notices and remembers is the stats that Delhomme posted last season. The 18-interception to eight-touchdown ratio scares fans, making them wonder why the Browns would sign a quarterback who is past his prime.
To the casual fan, this thinking is normal and, quite frankly, understood.
However, if you look a little deeper and examine Delhomme’s career, as well as Holmgren’s, the move seems a little more logical and less risky.
Yes, Delhomme is coming off a terrible season by anyone’s standards. Though he has had a tendency in his career to force passes now and then and in turn throw interceptions, he has never had a season as riddled with interceptions as 2009.
Many analysts blame his surgically repaired elbow. Some say he is just too old and done. But let me point out a few reasons why these prognoses are untrue.
First off, if you ask Delhomme himself, he would undoubtedly tell you that the woes of 2009 had nothing to do with anything physical. His elbow has never felt better, and his throws have never had more zip on them.
Although he is 35 years old, Delhomme is still in great physical condition. Physically, he is not far from where he was in 2003, when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
Delhomme’s 2009 issues were simply mental. Plain and simple, he had a bad season.
Delhomme defenders are quick to point out that 11 of his 18 interceptions came in three games. This is true, but still not an excuse. It is not an excuse that I will use to defend him, and it certainly would not be an excuse that Delhomme would use.
As an NFL quarterback, you do not have the luxury of having three terrible games in a season.
But before we drop the axe on Delhomme’s career and write off Cleveland’s season, let me remind the critics that he is not the first “aging quarterback” to have a bad season.
In 2002, Kurt Warner had 19 turnovers and three touchdowns. In 2004, he had 16 turnovers and six touchdowns. Finally, in 2005, 34-year-old Warner had 18 turnovers and 11 touchdowns.
Warner’s 2005 stats were incredibly similar to those of 34-year-old Delhomme in 2009, and lest we forget, Warner played in a Super Bowl last season.
My point to Browns fans is to just give the guy a chance.
He has been a proven leader and winner at every stop along his football journey, and anyone that knows Jake Delhomme knows that his passion and competitive nature are infectious.
He not only gives 100 percent every time he steps on the field—he also inspires the guys around him to do the same.
The Cleveland Browns still have a lot of work to do.
There is not an individual free agent or draft pick that is going to make them an instant contender. But Holmgren knows what he is doing, and ownership seems to be giving him the green light to spend what he needs to make things happen.
Look for the Browns to improve dramatically in 2010 and maybe even shock a few people along the way.
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