BREAKING NEWS: Panthers to Start Clausen Next Sunday

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 19: Jimmy Clausen of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Panthers head coach John Fox said in his Monday morning press conference that the team would start rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen next week, bringing a heated debate to an end just hours after it began.

Fox said that the team “(has) to spark our offense, in particular the passing game.”  An obvious declaration from the head coach, but a refreshing one given Fox’s past of hedging for days on end about decisions like this.  Since he came to town in 2002, Fox has been infamous for his press conferences, mostly because you can listen to the man talk for twenty or thirty minutes and realize when he walks off the podium that you haven’t, in fact, learned anything at all.

The decision to take the team away from Matt Moore so early is startling in my eyes.  While I’ve spent the last two weeks doing my best to stay away from the panic button, it seems the team is already pressing it.  Sure, Moore has looked painfully ineffective under center so far this year, but he doesn’t exactly have an eye-catching arsenal of weapons to throw to either.  The Panthers running game has sputtered somewhat so far, and we have worked our way into deficits early in the second half of both games, which ties the hands of the offensive play calling, at least to some extent.

Moore looked like a defeated man when he was pulled from the game Sunday, and for good reason.  His last pass as the starter of the Panthers came almost from one knee, and was more of a fumble than a forward pass.  He completed less than half of his passes and had a 2:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio.  He spent more time rolling out of the pocket looking for someone to get open than he did anything else, and when he got tired of that he tried to force balls into nearly impossible places, providing some harsh looking picks.

Clausen completed one more pass than Moore during his few minutes of fourth quarter action, with the team throwing on nearly every play to try to claw back into the game.  He also tossed an interception on a ball that was too high for Mike Goodson.  Clausen looked calm and confident on the field, which is a good sign moving forward.  Most of his completions were quick, short dump-offs to the backs because realistically they are the only ones who could get open.

I do not believe Clausen will be able to come in and rattle off an earth-moving performance, especially against Cincinnati, a team who just nabbed four interceptions from Joe Flacco.  Moore’s game to prove he wasn’t a bust was the Tampa Bay game, as their defense is supposedly fragile.  Either that assumption is wrong, or our offense is just that bad–either way, Moore didn’t capitalize.  Clausen’s  best chance for a “breakout” game will probably be San Francisco or St. Louis in late October.

I don’t see any scenario outside of injury that would lead to Clausen forfeiting the job back to Moore, and don’t really see Tony Pike’s name finding a way into the conversation either.  So, for the foreseeable future, Jimmy Clausen is the starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.

Another new era is underway.

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