In a somewhat surprising and almost bizarre football move, Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox named Brian St. Pierre the new starting quarterback when the Panthers face the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.
St. Pierre has to know he will likely face more blitzes coming from the Baltimore Ravens defense than probably anyone else seen since the days when names like "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh or the Galloping Ghost, Red Grange saw their names in the daily sports page. The point is, that is long time! There are no ifs-ands-or buts about it this time. The Ravens are coming and they are bringing the house. The Ravens defense will chase St. Pierre like a group of starving sharks chasing a sinking Red Cross ship. There will blood in the water early and if St, Pierre is not adept at getting the ball out his hand in a flash he could actually wind up getting hurt.
The Ravens have to literally be licking their chops at this point. The ways to defeat the blitz are with screen passes, running the ball or sometimes using a quick release to pass the ball to the open receiver on a "hot" route.
The problems with running a screen play or simply running the ball is, the Panthers just placed DeAngelo Williams on IR and their second and third string running backs have both been out with injuries. This likely leaves Mike Goodson as the running back destined to carry the load for the Panthers this Sunday.
Although Goodson will have some relief, in the form of former practice squad running back Josh Vaughn, do not look for any hundred yard games this week while the Panthers backfield faces the league's No. 8 ranked rushing defense.
If the screen play and running game are limited due to lack of experienced personnel then that leaves the Panthers new quarterback having to find the "hot" route. Now we are not talking some backup from another team, who has been through a recent training camp or a quarterback from some other team's practice squad, who has be running plays all week.
No, the player Fox is inserting to face one of the most vicious defenses in all of football is a guy who was admittedly playing "Mr. Mom" two weeks ago. Now, in St. Pierre's defense, he was throwing balls to members of a local prep team. Does this sound familiar, a la Brett Favre?
It was not that long ago when John Fox and Marty Hurney called upon a 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde to get off of his couch and get under a Panthers center. Testaverde responded and won a game with the Panthers.
However, Testaverde finally came up with back problems and in an odd twist, St. Pierre has struggled with back problems as well. St. Pierre believes the reason he lost his backup role in Arizona was due to the back problems he had battled.
For Panthers fans wanting to see if their current draftees can actually play quarterback at the next level, well, for now, let's just say that St. Pierre's back may just have something to say about that. If St. Pierre's back gives him trouble the Panthers faithful may be one step closer to seeing more of Tony Pike and even some of Armanti Edwards possibly getting to take a few snaps if Tony Pike were to falter.
When John Fox was asked what had St. Pierre done to impress him in such a short amount of time, Fox said, "Just a presence. The fact he's been in a huddle a number of times and called plays in an NFL game...that would be it."
Well, St, Pierre must have had the voice of Clint Eastwood and the strut of Deion Sanders in order to snatch away a starting job from rookie quarterback, Tony Pike. Pike was a player the team was supposed to have actually felt "good" about when they were scouting him and as he has progressed along this season.
The sad thing is, Fox and his logic tend to not fly at this point.
As of this very moment, Tony Pike has over two times the pass attempts that St. Pierre has, Pike has better than triple the completions St. Pierre has and Pike is just one yard short of having four times the passing yardage that St. Pierre has accumulated. It only took Pike one game to garner his statistics while it took St. Pierre eight years to put together his humble resume.
Now, what many Panthers fans want to see is Armanti Edwards lining up in the shotgun and throwing the ball or handing it off or running with the ball. It may well be a huge failure but the consensus is, Edwards efforts cannot be any worse than those efforts already pitched in by Moore, Clausen and Pike to some extent.
Panthers fans are not wanting to see Edwards run out and take one snap, run three yards behind the tackle, fall down then go back to the bench for the rest of the game. Edwards is a special athlete with deceptively fast speed and a strong enough arm to get the ball wherever he wants to place it on the field.
So what, if he has no experience under center? Even with Edwards working on becoming a wide receiver, with all of the quarterback injuries, Edwards most pertinent value is now and has been for some time, as a signal caller.
After Matt Moore's shaky start and Clausen's flop as a backup, most head coaches in the NFL would have been working with the former two time Walter Payton Award winner by having Edwards taking snaps under center before, during and after each practice in order to develop the young man into a pro-style quarterback.
If Edwards can get comfortable under center then he can begin to run the play action pass and then have a real shot at making himself a viable, passing quarterback. But not until recently, when Fox was utterly forced, by injuries, did he have Edwards practice taking snaps under center. Little good that will do Edwards or the Panthers at this point, as the season is now decided.
There will be a time when Edwards enters a game and makes a big play. He is simply that kind of football player. Edwards does not really know how to lose football games. He probably has a hard time trying to stomach being part of a losing effort, week-in-and-week-out.
Edwards is all about winning championships and he has shown he is capable of going into the most hostile of environments and playing against all odds, then engineering a comeback win and beating one of the most storied teams in all of college football.
That is the kind of character the Panthers have in Edwards: A winner. Not a punt or kickoff returner nor a wide receiver, though I can see him having success from the slot receiver's position in certain packages, Edwards is an option the Panthers have, who can play the quarterback's position and bring something totally new to the table.
If Edwards does have any degree of success it is then likely the questions will begin about why the Panthers did not try to catch lightening in a bottle earlier this season, before the season was already lost.
After the Panthers second or third game this season the Panthers staff knew they were probably on a sinking ship and they should have reacted and looked into what Edwards could have brought to the table, instead of standing around and watching the team fall apart. Those are the kinds of things that happen when an owner allows a head coach to enter a season as a "lame duck" coach.
John Fox probably has to believe that his new best friend, Brian St. Pierre, is someone the other players will follow and listen to in the huddle and someone he can trust to go out and get a win in spite of the team's youth and injuries. Fox is the one who will be looking for a job next season and trying to see if he can hit "pay dirt" with Armanti Edwards has just not been on his radar so far.
Who knows, St. Pierre could easily fail due to a weak offensive line and then maybe Fox will turn to the more mobile Edwards.
Hopefully the Panthers next coach "gets it." These seasons come and go by very fast.
Guys like Steve Smith have a limited window of success they are operating with and there is really no such excuse for losing because your team has injuries (look at Green Bay, multiple injuries but they are a playoff team) or the excuse of the team is still rebuilding (see Tampa Bay, the youngest team in the league and now a winner after one season of adding a quality quarterback and drafting wisely).