It was at this time last year, when the media and fans alike were questioning the large extension given former Panthers’ quarterback Jake Delhomme; questioning Delhomme’s ability — or stating his inability — to return to 2008, pre-playoff meltdown form, and also wanting to see what backup (third on the depth chart) quarterback Matt Moore was capable of.
All those questions were answered throughout the excruciatingly long 2009 season, and a record of 8-8.
Delhomme was absolutely unable to recover from his post-season meltdown, throwing 16 interceptions in 11 games (I won’t count pre-season); he was not worth the contract he signed, however the club is forced to eat that loss, and we got to see how Matt Moore looked, after Josh McCown was thankfully (sorry, Josh) injured shortly after taking over for Delhomme in the home opening loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Matt Moore played a handful of snaps before the game ended, and looked the way he should look, about as rusty as an old tin can.
From that week on, everyone was calling for Delhomme’s head, his job, whatever came to mind first. Fans did not want him in the driver’s seat any longer.
At that early point in the season, I was reluctant. He had another bad game, but surely this too would pass. I feel pretty confident in saying I don’t need to remind you how the season began for the first few — five weeks. It wasn’t pretty.
The Week Four Bye was more of an ally than I would have imagined prior to pre-season.
As I’ve stated in previous write-ups, I was pulling for Jake until Week eight or so. At that point I began to question the logic of him starting. I became impatient, I wanted the coaching staff to do something different in an attempt to salvage the season.
The win against the Washington Redskins was bitter-sweet. Comforting would be an overstatement.
The Week 11 loss at the New York Jets was a travesty. There were a couple of questionable calls — one in particular that was complete BS, that helped Carolina lose the game.
Mysteriously — miraculously to some, Delhomme would not return to the field after that game, due to what was termed a hairline fracture on one of his fingers. Enter Matt Moore.
For a while, some of us were referring to Moore as “Matty Suffice,” or “Matty Lite” (a poor man’s Matty Ice — Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan).
The win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was expected. So I won’t get overly emotional about that one. But Moore passed for 161 yards and threw one pick.
After the loss –albeit close — at the New England Patriots, Fox decided to open up the passing game for Moore a little bit (doesn’t speak too much about the confidence once held in Delhomme), and would you believe it? It seemed that somehow, for the past two seasons, this team had a potential starting quarterback waiting in the wings. In this game, Moore threw for 197 yards and a touchdown. His QB rating improved from 73.1 to 82.2.
A week later, in a highly-touted and high profile (I think Julius Peppers showed up for this game, too) Sunday night game against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, Moore had the single best game of his career. He threw for 299 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and his passer rating improved to 123.2
In the Panthers final road game of 2009, Moore and his teammates traveled back up I-95 to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. In this meeting, Carolina closed down Giants Stadium with a resounding 41-9 win. In that game, Moore yet again rose to the occasion, passing for 171 yards, three touchdowns, and improved his quarterback rating once again, to 139.8!
Of course the latest trend, is to micro-analyze every little bit, just short of Moore’s oral temperature, as to why the Panthers were winning games. For the first time in a long time, everyone got what they wanted. Moore was and is the starting quarterback, but now it’s time to start bashing the guy. I won’t do it. I want to see this guy get every chance under the sun that he rightfully earned by pulling this team’s and John Fox’s fat — at least for his final year — out of the fire and leading the club to a record of 8-8.
Many believe that had Delhomme been pulled from the starting lineup sooner, the Panthers may have at least improved their overall record, and may have snuck into the playoffs. But that’s all subject to debate and more what-if’s. What we do have, and what we all witnessed, was a young man succeed and quite convincingly in his first five full-time starts against three playoff-caliber teams that were still very much alive and in the playoff hunt (not counting New Orleans’ scrubs).
The Patriots were in a neck-and-neck race with the New York Jets and still had a chance to steal the division away or at least garner a Wild Card. The New York Giants were in a race with the Philadelphia Eagles for a remaining Wild Card slot — it’s hardly Carolina’s fault that the G-Men decided to take a big ol’ day off when the Panthers came to town. It’s their own fault for being lazy, complacent, and sloppy.
Finally, Moore was put to the truest test and passed it with flying colors, when he guided the offense to a solid 26-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The win over New Orleans while meaningless in the grand scheme of things, was a nice way to cap off the regular season at least for the overall team morale, and a break-even record of 8-8.
All-in-all, during Moore’s five fulltime starts, he averaged 198 yards passing per game. No, I don’t count the partial starts where Moore was shoved into the oven like a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
So why the sudden and uncalled for disdain of Matt Moore? Is it because there’s a new, shiny “sportscar” in the garage now? Because if it wasn’t for sheer luck — perhaps dumb luck — that Jimmy Clausen was passed over 47 times before Carolina was able to snatch him off the board, the media would be singing their praises of Clausen elsewhere, and we’d all be back where we were at the end of 2009, looking forward to what this season will hold as our still new starting quarterback returns and looks to pick up right where he left off.
We’d be more concerned with important things like, will John Fox open up the playbook a little more for Moore? Will Tony Pike beat out Hunter Cantwell for the No. 2 quarterback job, and would you believe that this team might have a three-position player in Armanti Edwards? Receiver, return man, and quarterback!
This team is extremely fortunate to have four promising quarterbacks on it’s roster. It’s extremely fortunate that all four of these quarterbacks are young and show a lot of upside. It’s even more fortunate that the guy who’s starting, already has some important playing time under his belt and isn’t going into this thing with cold feet.
So play the “when will Moore get canned” game all you like. For once this team has a position filled with a decent amount of talent and lots of potential. The guy who started the last five games of a destitute season for Carolina — a season in which I actually hated quarterbacks — is the starter, and unless he screws things up royally, you can keep the shovel and dig yourself a nice deep hole. Week Five is his projected date to be replaced by Clausen (who, coincidentally has already leap-frogged Cantwell on the depth charts, apparently). Until then, I’ll keep the told-ya-so’s ready and the humble pie warm.
Tags: Armanti Edwards Carolina Panthers Giants Stadium Hunter Cantwell Jake Delhomme Jimmy Clausen John Fox Josh McCown Julius Peppers Matt Moore Minnesota Vikings New England Patriots New Orleans Saints New York Giants NFL Philadelphia Eagles Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tony Pike