Delhomme went into the season opener as the second string quarterback but took over at half-time when starter Rodney Peete couldn’t seem to get the offense moving.
That year, the Panthers went on to win the NFC Championship and play in one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, only to fall to the Patriots on a last second field goal.
Delhomme, although not the most talented guy or the most explosive offense player on the team, was definitely the spark needed to push a mediocre Panthers team over the edge to greatness.
Fast forward to 2010.
A team down on themselves, with a city down on sports in general, the Cleveland Browns are looking for that spark that can pull the franchise out of the darkness of consistent failure and spring them into the spotlight as a great NFL team.
So far, although we are only through OTAs, Delhomme seems to be bringing the same energy and enthusiasm that he brought to Carolina in 2003.
The Browns’ practice field seems to have a buzz that it hasn’t seen in years, with an offense that isn’t holding back at all.
Head Coach Eric Mangini, with the influence of President Mike Holmgren, is unleashing an offense with variety, utilizing the superior athleticism of Joshua Cribbs and Seneca Wallace.
These wrinkles keep the defense honest and give Jake Delhomme the ability to use his biggest weapon, his brain, to read defenses at the line and make changes to burn them.
Delhomme is already developing chemistry with wide receiver Brian Robiskie and tight end Ben Watson and the offense is moving at a pace that the Browns’ fans haven’t seen since a guy by the name of Kosar was under center.
“Jake (Delhomme) has had a really good week,” Mangini said. “He’s really bright. Jake just picks things up. Some of it is just him knowing, understanding.”
Delhomme’s quick thinking and play calling at the line has forced the Browns’ defense to stay alert and on their toes, making for what Mangini calls “better defensive practices.”
With improvement on defense and an offense that can move the ball, the Browns have a legitimate shot at turning things around in 2010.
While a Super Bowl is still a far-fetched idea at this point, it’s not out of the question to see the Browns making the playoffs.
Whatever it is, this new energy from the players and coaches has Browns’ fans hopeful that the some of the magic that Delhomme brought to the Panthers in 2003 might still be in store for them in 2010.