Delhomme to remain Panthers starting quarterback

BY foxsports • October 28, 2009

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 start for Carolina on Sunday against Arizona - the same opponent in which he began the worst slump of his career. After a couple of days to think about it, coach John Fox said Wednesday 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 he threw three more picks against Buffalo Sunday, two of which led to 14 Bills points in a 20-9 loss that dropped the Panthers to 2-4. Fox was noncommittal on Monday, and Delhomme acknowledged he would have understood if Fox benched him. "If he would have went that way, how could I blame him? I mean, let's be real here, how could I blame him?" Delhomme said. "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 Arizona in the NFC divisional playoffs The Panthers gave the 34-year-old Delhomme a five-year contract extension in the offseason that includes $12 million in guaranteed money over the first three years. Rip Scherer replaced Denver-bound Mike McCoy as quarterbacks coach and vowed to focus on Delhomme's fundamentals. 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 Philadelphia, and the bad throws and decisions have continued. He has an NFL-high 13 picks to go with only four touchdown passes - none to star receiver Steve Smith. His 56.5 passer rating ranks 32nd in the league, and Carolina's minus-14 turnover margin is the worst in the NFL. Delhomme said minutes after the Buffalo loss 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 questions that Delhomme 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 may be because he has no attractive alternative. Feeley was signed last month to replace Josh McCown, who was placed on injured reserve with knee and foot injuries. The nine-year veteran has started 15 games in stints with four teams, but has acknowledged he's still learning Carolina's offense. Moore started three games as an undrafted rookie late in the 2007 season when Delhomme was recovering from his elbow surgery. He's played in only one game since, throwing an interception after Delhomme was yanked in 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 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 San Francisco. They were built to win now, but Fox has acknowledged they're fortunate to have two wins with 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."

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