Carolina Panthers  


Panthers coach Fox stands by Delhomme as his starting QB

  • By Associated Press
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A miserable seven-game stretch of 18 interceptions and three lost fumbles wasn't bad enough for Jake Delhomme to lose his job.

Delhomme will be the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals -- the same opponent against which he began the worst slump of his 11-year NFL career.

After taking a couple of days to think about it, Panthers coach John Fox said Wednesday that he determined the beleaguered Delhomme remains the best option ahead of backups Matt Moore and A.J. Feeley.

"The 48-hour rule, you go back and you look, and there's no question that we've struggled in that area," Fox said. "Going through and looking at some of our mishaps, I don't think it's one guy. I still think he gives us the best chance to win."

Delhomme was facing the first uncertainty with his status since he replaced Rodney Peete at halftime of the 2003 season opener and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl berth. Fox wavered after Delhomme threw three more picks against Buffalo on Sunday, two of which led to 14 Bills points in a 20-9 loss that dropped the Panthers to 2-4.

Fox was noncommittal Monday, and Delhomme acknowledged that he would have understood had the coach benched him.

"If he would have went that way, how could I blame him?" Delhomme said. "I mean, let's be real here, how could I blame him?. But I was hoping it would be me. I'm going down swinging. I don't know any other way to put it."

Delhomme's downfall has been sudden and striking. He successfully returned from reconstructive elbow surgery last season and led the Panthers to a 12-4 record and the NFC South title. But then Delhomme threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in a stunning 33-13 home loss to the Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoffs

During the offseason, the Panthers gave Delhomme, 34, a five-year contract extension that includes $12 million in guaranteed money over the first three years. Rip Scherer replaced Denver Broncos-bound Mike McCoy as quarterbacks coach and vowed to focus on Delhomme's fundamentals.

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Instead, Delhomme has picked up where he ended the 2008 season.

Delhomme threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in a Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the bad throws and decisions have continued. He has an NFL-high 13 picks to go with just four touchdown passes -- none to star wide receiver Steve Smith. Delhomme's 56.5 passer rating ranks 32nd in the NFL, and Carolina's minus-14 turnover margin is the worst in the league.

Delhomme said minutes after the loss to Buffalo that he was "almost numb" and called it a "crushing" defeat. Fox for the first time didn't throw all his support behind Delhomme, and there were concerns that the quarterback had lost his confidence.

"Would I sit here and tell you it's through the roof? I mean, that would be a lie," Delhomme said. "I still do have a lot of confidence, but it's frustrating."

Part of Fox's decision to stick with Delhomme might be because he has no attractive alternative.

Feeley was signed last month to replace Josh McCown, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with knee and foot injuries. The nine-year veteran has started 15 games in stints with four teams, but he has acknowledged that he's still learning Carolina's offense.

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Moore started three games as an undrafted rookie late in the 2007 season when Delhomme was recovering from his elbow surgery. Moore has played in just one game since, throwing an interception after Delhomme was yanked during the loss to the Eagles.

"My role on this team is the backup right now," Moore said. "That's how it was and that's how I figured it would be. I'm 100 percent behind Jake."

Fox, whose future is uncertain with Carolina's struggles this season, is gambling that Delhomme will find his way. The Panthers returned 20 of 22 starters from last season and traded next year's first-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The Panthers were built to win now, but Fox has acknowledged that they're fortunate to have two wins after all the turnovers.

Now Delhomme hopes to turn things around against the team that started his misery, the Cardinals.

"Something you have to think about is it can't get much worse, so don't worry about nothing," Delhomme said. "Go out and do it. That's kind of the mentality that you have to take. That's how I'm taking it. Hey, it couldn't get much worse than last week. Let's go, forget about it and go on."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press


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