Jeff Garcia to Replace Jake Delhomme: Heady Prediction or Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer ISeptember 14, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers stands on the field in the second half of the NFL season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Until Jay Cutler didn't show up in prime time, the No. 1 goat from Week One of the NFL season was Carolina signal caller Jake Delhomme.

Delhomme, against a good Philadelphia defense, looked miserably bad. His timing was bad, but his decision making was worse. In all, he ended the day with five turnovers (four picks and one fumble lost).

In fact, he was replaced twice in the game.

So where do the Panthers go from here? Their defense got destroyed by the Eagles, but it didn't get any help from the offense. That doesn't mean the weapons aren't there for this team to be successful.

Steve Smith is still an All-Pro receiver. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are still one of the better running back tandems in the league. And Muhsin Muhammad is still a quality possession receiver.

The cupboard is certainly not bare.

But Delhomme has been questioned a number of times in the last couple years. As he said in his post-game comments, when it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's awful.

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Sunday, Delhomme was awful.

There's a problem with Delhomme performing poorly, though. This is a big season for the Panthers. Franchise player (both in contract and the eyes of many fans) Julius Peppers has only this year left on his contract and wants to play for a competitive team. Also, the window for success with Muhammad and Smith isn't getting bigger.

Which is why my first prediction from the Knee-Jerk Reaction Department is that Jeff Garcia will be the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers by Week Six of this season.

The next two weeks won't get any easier for Delhomme. He gets to travel to both Atlanta and Dallas before the Panthers have their bye in Week Four.

Delhomme might need a break before then.

Garcia has been a solid veteran for a handful of franchises over the last decade and has been a good game-managing quarterback for years. Frankly, he's a professional "Just Don't Screw Up" quarterback at its best.

Which is precisely what the Panthers need, and Garcia happens to be available.

There's a good chance that, after Donovan McNabb got hurt and Delhomme looked as bad as he did, a phone from somewhere in the stadium called Garcia on Sunday already.

For my money, Carolina and Garcia could be a perfect marriage. He's athletic enough to make up for some issues with the offensive line and has a track record that would indicated he won't make the deal-breaking mistakes that Delhomme has recently.

Maybe it's just a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe it's a bold prediction. Either way, I think Jeff Garcia could, and should, start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers this year.