Archive for October, 2009

The Panthers are facing a definite must-win this week

31 October 2009 2 comments

I know it’s corny, and clich√©, and any other negative adjective that you can think of, but this Sunday’s game against the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals (wait, did I really just say that?) is a must-win game for the Panthers. If they want to have ANY chance of making the playoffs this season, they must walk out of Glendale with a victory.

And, like always, the Panthers’ hopes of victory will rest in the decrepit arm of Jake Delhomme. Panthers head coach John Fox has, for some unknown reason, named Delhomme the starter for this Sunday’s game with the Cardinals in favor of both A.J. Feeley and Matt Moore, much to the ire of Panthers fans.

Perhaps Fox is giving Delhomme one last chance to exorcise his demons, because it is against these same Cardinals that Delhomme began the downward spiral he is on. The only thing that remains to be seen is how much patience Fox will show if Delhomme continues to struggle. Will he continue his undying loyalty to Delhomme even if he has thrown several interceptions and put points on the board for the Cardinals, or will he actually make the right move and pull Delhomme to the bench if he isn’t getting the job done?

Or, will Delhomme pull himself out of this inexplicable funk he has been in since the end of last season and perform like an NFL quarterback is supposed to perform? It has been reported recently that the coaching staff has promised to stop tinkering with Delhomme’s throwing mechanics, and that they will allow him to play the game his way (the way he’s done it for 7 years) without emphasizing proper footwork, etc. to him from the sideline.

It is possible that Delhomme’s biggest problem has been the fact that the coaching staff (primarily QB coach Rip Scherer) has changed his way of thinking and made him too technical, causing him to be too aware of how he is throwing the ball, instead of where he is throwing it. (I still cannot fathom why they would do this with a 7-year veteran.)

A lot of people don’t realize that one of the biggest assets a player in any sport has is comfort. When a player (especially a quarterback) is uncomfortable on the field, poor play is almost always the end result. Perhaps Delhomme doesn’t have any real problems at all with his arm, but the over-coaching has made him uncomfortable and turned him into an over-thinker — causing him to try and make throws the right way, instead of just stepping up and slinging the ball downfield.

Regardless of the game’s final result, it should be interesting to see if Delhomme climbs out of his abyss or if he is still the same old crappy quarterback Panthers fans have grown used to seeing this season. But, if the Panthers want any chance at a playoff spot, he better figure out his problems quickly, or the Panthers will be playing the rest of the season for no reason other than obligation and to discover if any of their bench players are worth keeping on the roster for the long haul.

I really hope that Delhomme snaps out of it, but I’m holding my expectations in check until I see the product on the field. Because like I’ve always heard; if you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed.

Categories: Regular Season

This can’t be true

29 October 2009 2 comments

I just saw this tidbit of information about the Panthers’ coaching staff and their treatment of Jake Delhomme this season. (This absolutely cannot be true — it just cannot.)

The Panthers have agreed to stop tinkering with Jake Delhomme’s mechanics and will allow him to play a more spontaneous style. … Quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer was brought in this offseason to emphasize the technical part of the job to Delhomme. It hasn’t worked as Delhomme has thrown 13 picks and four touchdowns. Allowing Delhomme to go back to improvising and side-arming can’t hurt at this point, but we doubt it will help enough to turn the Panthers’ season around.*

Someone please tell me that the cause of Delhomme’s problems this season isn’t from the QB coach trying to change the way he throws the football. This can’t be happening. Why in the world would anyone want to convince a 7-year starter who has been to 1 Super Bowl and 2 NFC Championship games that he needs to change his mechanics?

I know, I know — he came off Tommy John surgery and they wanted to make sure his arm held up for the long run, but still — you can’t change a quarterback’s mechanics. He’s not a relief pitcher — he’s a freaking quarterback. Sure, he hasn’t been Peyton Manning, but he’s been decent enough to lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance and 2 NFC title games when doing it his way. Why would any coach want to change that?

If Delhomme comes out against Arizona this week and throws the football his way (the way he’s been throwing his entire career), and the Panthers look like the team they were last year (you know, the team that went 12-4 and won the NFC South), then Rip Scherer should be ran out of town — after he is blindfolded and tied to the goal post at Bank of America stadium for every Panthers fan to come by and punch him in the gut, that is.

(On a side note, this would be a great way for Jerry Richardson to add revenue — he could charge fans a $20 fee to stand in line. It would probably make him enough money to sign a big-name free agent in the offseason, so it would definitely be worth it.)

* – Information courtesy of Rotoworld.

Categories: Regular Season Tags:

Apparently, John Fox just doesn’t understand

29 October 2009 1 comment

That’s the only explanation I can come up with. After 7 of the worst possible performances by an NFL quarterback (dating back to last season’s playoffs) and no signs of improvement, Panthers head coach John Fox has said that he is sticking with starter Jake Delhomme because he “gives us the best chance to win”.

Ummm — is this some kind of joke? He can’t be serious can he? Delhomme gives the Panthers the best chance to win?!? Hello, McFly — HE’S THE REASON YOU’RE LOSING!!!

Someone please tell me that Fox isn’t this stupid. He actually thinks that Delhomme gives this team the best chance to win? What part of the 18 interceptions and 3 fumbles over the last 7 games has Fox missed? What part of the overthrown and underthrown passes leading to the interceptions that give opposing teams excellent field position can Fox possibly think aren’t Delhomme’s fault?

I really hope that Fox is just trying one last time to restore some confidence in his quarterback, giving him that one final try to get it together (because he will be facing the team he played when this horrid turn of events began). I hope this is just a “you better get your shit together quick, son — otherwise you’re out” decision, because if not the Panthers are no longer hopeful of a playoff spot, but rather guaranteed to sit at home in January while 6 other teams from the NFC compete for the Lombardi Trophy.

But we all know that this isn’t the one last time for the old gunslinger trying to make one last comeback game — this is a prime example that Fox is loyal to a fault, and he is bankrupting his team’s chances at making the playoffs because of his loyalty to one player.

I hope when Fox is sitting at home next season after the Panthers have hired a new head coach that he still feels his strong loyalty towards Delhomme, because that might be the only way he is able to forgive his old quarterback for costing him his job.

Categories: Regular Season

Julius Peppers finally gets it

28 October 2009 3 comments

It’s about time he figured it out. Julius Peppers apologized to his teammates before the Tampa Bay game in a stunning five minute speech where he took full responsibility for his lack of production in the first part of the season.

According to a report by FOX Sports columnist Jay Glazer, the majority of the Panthers players were shocked by Peppers’ speech because he is well-known to be one of the least vocal players on the roster.

“It was unbelievable because it was so out of character for him”, said one Panther. “Pep NEVER talks. He’s just never been a vocal guy. In all the years he has been here he’s never opened up in front of the guys. This was so well thought out though, like it was half-psychologist, half-coach suddenly got into Pep. It really was incredible. We were shocked because, like I said, it’s not him. It was great to hear”.

After reading the article, I must say that it is nice to know that Peppers has finally seen what a lot of fans have complained about over the course of this season. The man simply has not put forth the effort that should come from a player who makes $16.7M for one season (an astounding 18% of the team’s cap space).

In fact, it can be partially blamed on management for putting the franchise tag on Peppers, because his hefty salary is part of the cause for the lack of depth on defense and special teams (they simply couldn’t afford any decent back-ups).

Hopefully Peppers was serious about his apology and he really understands that his lack of effort has been detrimental to the success of the team this season, and hopefully he continues to pick up the pace as he has done over the past two weeks and he can return to his on-field dominance that he has shown in years past.

Perhaps this speech is what the team needed to step up and start making plays, because now that I think of it, the defense has looked better over the last few weeks of the year.

Maybe Jake Delhomme can come to the same realization, and this team can finally turn things around and make a push for the playoffs.

Not likely, but hey — a guy can dream can’t he?

Categories: Regular Season

Can the Panthers win with Jake Delhomme?

27 October 2009 2 comments

The Carolina Panthers are at a point in the season where decisions have to be made. Through the first 6 games of the season the team is sitting at 2-4 and in third place in the NFC South (thanks to the Buccaneers being in rebuilding mode — otherwise they could be in the cellar), and there are no signs at this point that this team will climb out of the deep ditch they have dug for themselves.

One of the main problems the Panthers have at this time is the poor performance from the quarterback position. Jake Delhomme has been nothing short of terrible through the first 6 games, and for his efforts he is leading the NFL in interceptions thrown (13) and has the 5th-worst passer rating in the league (56.8).

Of course, not all of the blame can be laid on Delhomme’s shoulders. The coaching staff has not been top-notch this season and has failed to make proper halftime adjustments in most of the team’s losses, and the offensive play-calling has been atrocious for the majority of the season. The special teams unit has been everything but special and has been directly responsible for the offense having poor field position and the defense being trapped on a short field, leading to too many deficits on the scoreboard.

Even though the coaching has been sub-par and the special teams have been terrible, the team’s ability to win still lies on the shoulders of the quarterback. Teams with good quarterbacks win in the NFL, plain and simple, and the Panthers do not have a good quarterback (hell, they don’t even have decent one anymore). Jake Delhomme is a shell of his former self, and even though no one knows what the cause is for his total meltdown, the fact still remains that he is nowhere near the quarterback that led the Panthers to a 12-4 record and NFC South title last season.

Since the playoff game against the Cardinals last January, Delhomme has thrown 17 interceptions and lost 3 fumbles. His biggest problems have been his constant attempts to force passes into a double (and sometimes triple) covered Steve Smith’s hands, and his consistent over-throwing of routes, leading to easy interceptions for opposing defensive backs. When Delhomme tries to prevent himself from over-throwing a receiver downfield, he ends up under-throwing the pass and has it picked off by a linebacker, further compounding the problem.

What is the most mind-boggling, however, is the fact that even though Delhomme’s struggles and statistics are well-known by everyone who follows football, Jeff Davidsion (the offensive coordinator) continues to call pass plays in situations when a running play would be the best option. The Panthers have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL, yet they are not being used properly by the coaching staff who instead decides to put the ball in Delhomme’s hands (thus causing the interceptions or lost fumbles).

Calling a 2:1 pass-run play ratio with two of the best running backs in the league is questionable, regardless of who is behind center. Add in the fact that the quarterback in question is a fading semi-star who has lost his ability to lead a team to victory, and the 2:1 pass-run ratio becomes downright absurd. But, as long as the Panthers continue to play the style of football that they have played over the first 6 games of the season, the losses will continue to pile up in the standings, and all playoff hopes will be gone.

It is time for the coaching staff to make a move and put Matt Moore at starting quarterback, if for no other reason than to evaluate his talent-level so the front office knows what to do on draft day in April. The Panthers have 10 games remaining on the schedule, many of them against upper echelon teams in the league, which is a perfect opportunity to make something good out of a non-playoff season.

Until the coaches realize that the team cannot win with Jake Delhomme at quarterback, the Panthers are going to continue to struggle and will not compete for a playoff spot this season — and unfortunately for Panthers fans it doesn’t appear that any changes will be made before it is too late.

Can the Panthers win with Jake Delhomme? Yes — as long as he’s not under center.

Categories: Regular Season

It is time for a change

25 October 2009 5 comments

I know a lot of fans get reactionary when their favorite team loses a winnable game. The first thing that is usually said is “fire the coach”, or “change the quarterback”, or some other outcry from the fanbase.

But, the fans of the Panthers have a legitimate beef with the way things are going in Charlotte at this point in the season. The Panthers had a chance to get back to .500 and back into the playoff hunt with a win against an inferior Bills team, but once again they were set back by the ineptitude of their starting quarterback.

Now, I am not a fan who goes off the deep end following a loss, and I’m not a fan who uses hyperbole to make my point. So, I am not going to say that Jake Delhomme is the worst quarterback in the league, because he isn’t (statistically). But, he is one of the worst. The chart below illustrates the 5 worst quarterbacks in the league, based on passer rating.

(These ratings do not include today’s games.)

Derek Anderson 40.6 35
Josh Johnson 50.9 34
JaMarcus Russell 51.0 33
Mark Sanchez 56.7 32
Jake Delhomme 56.8 31

As one can see, Delhomme is certainly poor at the quarterback position so far this season. So poor, in fact, that two of the four quarterbacks that have worse ratings than Delhomme are rookies, and the other two play for the two laughing-stocks of the NFL.

So what do these numbers and rankings mean? Apparently they don’t mean much to John Fox, because he is adamant in his desire to stick with Delhomme at quarterback. Obviously Fox doesn’t look at statistics, because if he did he would feel the need to make a change at the most important position on the offense.

And what has Delhomme brought to the table this season? Take a look at his stats below.

(These stats do not include today’s game against Buffalo.)

J. Delhomme 79 133 59.4 847 4 10

Clearly these are not statistics of a top-level quarterback in the NFL. If this were any other team, Delhomme would have been benched in favor of the backup. But why is Delhomme still the starting quarterback? What is it about Matt Moore that prevents him from getting a chance to lead the team?

At this point in the season, the Panthers must make a change before they are completely out of the playoff race. As it stands now they are a long shot to make the playoffs, but if they can get a some wins on the board over the next few weeks they can find themselves back in the hunt.

Unfortunately they will not be able to do that with Delhomme under center, and I believe that John Fox will realize that Delhomme was the wrong man for the job next season when he is watching the Panthers play on Sundays from his recliner at home.

The Panthers have a tough road ahead

22 October 2009 5 comments

The Panthers are sitting in 3rd place in the NFC South and are at 2-3 after the first six weeks of the season. Needless to say they have a comfortable lead on the hapless Buccaneers, so there isn’t much concern that the Panthers will wind up in the basement of one of the most competitive divisions in the league.

But, it is troublesome that a 12-4 team from last season is still under .500 and below 2 other teams in a division that has never seen back-to back champions (heck, until last year the team that won the division in one year finished dead last the very next season, which just shows how competitive the NFC South really is).

Now, I’m not saying that it’s impossible for the Panthers to come back and win the division. In 1992, the San Diego Chargers started the season 0-4 and won 11 of their next 12 games to win the AFC West (and subsequently blew it in the playoffs like they seem to do every time, but that’s another story for another day).

It must also be noted that the 1992 Chargers are a major exception to the rule. This hardly ever happens in the NFL, so the Panthers starting out 0-3 certainly doesn’t help their cause from a historical standpoint.

Even though it’s not impossible for the Panthers to come back and win the South, it’s almost a given that the Saints are going to win the division. They are that good. They are scary good, in fact. The simple fact that they are 5-0 and won 2 games without Brees even throwing a TD pass is enough to tell me that they are for real.

Their offense is dynamite (as it always is), but the big difference this year for the Saints is the improved defense, led by coordinator Gary Gibbs (the man that led Sean Payton to take a pay cut so the Saints could afford to keep him on the staff).

The defense is making huge plays this season — holding opponents to 83 rushing yards per game (5th best in the league) and 18.6 points per game (10th best in the league), and have amassed 11 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries (with 2 interception touchdowns). They have the best offense in the league (total yardage and scoring per game) and the best turnover ratio in the league (right now it’s at +9). Based on this information, I would say that it’s safe to assume they are for real this season.

With that being said, the Panthers should focus their attention on the Falcons and the other teams in the NFC that will be fighting for a Wild Card spot. It is possible that the NFC South will become the new NFC East, where 3 of the 4 teams make the playoffs year in and year out. But, this won’t be possible unless the Panthers remain focused on their ultimate goal — a return trip to the playoffs and a run for the Super Bowl.

It will be a fight for the Panthers to make the playoffs — with the Falcons, Cowboys, Eagles, Bears, Packers, 49ers, and Cardinals all in the mix for the Wild Card (and some of these teams are still fighting for their divisions, so there could be even more Wild Card potential teams added to the mix in the coming weeks).

All 7 of these teams are playoff worthy, (the Cardinals or 49ers won’t be in the hunt for a Wild Card because one of them will win the West) so needless to say it will not be easy for the Panthers to knock out all of these teams to earn a playoff bid.

I would say that in order for the Panthers to make the playoffs, they will have to finish at least 11-5. I really don’t believe that 10-6 will get it done for the Panthers (because of tie-breakers — they’ve already lost to the Cowboys and Eagles, and still have to play the Cardinals), so if they want a realistic shot at the playoffs they have to finish the season with a 9-2 record. (Of course, an 11-0 finish and a division title would be nice, but I don’t see that one happening.)

I’m not proclaiming that all the problems in Charlotte are corrected (because I don’t believe they are — they need a new QB before they can truly fix everything), but I do believe that this Panthers team has the guts and the moxie to pull out a 10-6 or 11-5 season and clinch a wild card spot.

And if we pay attention to history, most of the recent Super Bowl champions have been teams that were Wild-Card berths in the playoffs — so anything is possible once the playoffs begin. (Just look at last year’s Arizona Cardinals for proof of that statement.)

Before the Panthers can think about playoff aspirations, they have to focus on the task at hand — beating the Bills this Sunday when they visit Bank of America Stadium. A win puts the Panthers at 3-3 with an opportunity to be above .500 when they take on the Saints at the Superdome in 3 weeks.

It only takes a couple of wins to get momentum going in the right direction, and the Panthers have done that — so hopefully we will see this team put together some more wins and get back in the playoff hunt.

They have a tough road ahead, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

Categories: Regular Season