Wow. Talk about a blindside hit on the quarterback.
The Carolina Panthers’ move to release veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme Thursday night was a stunner (see the story here).
I know Delhomme would have cost a lot of money to retain. I know he had his worst season ever in 2009 after getting a huge contract extension. But I still believe the Panthers just made a big mistake.
The Panthers can spin this one all they like – and certainly they will. That it was a difficult decision but it had to be made for financial reasons. That they love Jake and they didn’t want to do it, but that they simply had to because of the young nucleus of players that is going to be clamoring for contract extensions soon.
But you know what? This decision really didn’t have to be made. Not now. The NFL just entered new territory – a 2010 season with no salary cap. Any “salary-cap reasons” for this move are utterly hypothetical, because right now there is no salary cap.
No, I don’t necessarily think Delhomme should have started in 2010. But are the Panthers really ready to hand the keys to the offense over to Matt Moore on a permanent basis?
Panther head coach John Fox did everything he could possibly think of to keep Moore out of the starting lineup last season until Delhomme’s broken finger finally forced Fox’s hand and Moore went 4-1 as a starter.
So now, suddenly, Moore is the savior? Hey, maybe he is. But what if Moore gets hurt? Who plays then? (This obviously means the Panthers are going to have to sign another QB or, more likely, draft one).
I’m all for the Panthers keeping Moore. The high “tender” they placed on him this week was a good move that will just about guarantee the restricted free agent will still be a Panther in 2010.
But Delhomme, 35, should have been kept around as the ultimate, gold-plated insurance policy. We all know how great a leader he is in the locker room. We all know how smart he is and what he means to the franchise. You don’t fire a guy like that if you don’t have to.
This dismissal will please a certain faction of Panther fans, of course. The “Jake haters,” as they came to be known, have wanted Delhomme to be benched or fired for years.
But until calendar year 2009 -- which Delhomme began with an awful six-turnover game against Arizona from which he never recovered – No.17 was the best quarterback in Panther history. He won five playoff games here. He had a dozen game-winning drives in the final two minutes or in overtime. He would have been the MVP of the 2003 season’s Super Bowl had Carolina’s defense been able to stop Tom Brady.
This reminds me a lot of another March day, when Carolina coach George Seifert abruptly released Steve Beuerlein in 2001. That was an even more ridiculous decision, because Seifert picked Jeff Lewis over Beuerlein.
Moore is a lot better than Lewis. But I’m still wondering why you would do this.
Carolina has done it now, though. Delhomme is gone – and a part of all that loyalty claptrap the Panthers talk about constantly just walked out the door with him.