In the short time that has passed since the Carolina Panthers were eliminated from post season contention by the Arizona cardinals I have had a chance to revisit some of the things that made this season one of the best in franchise history. Carolina finished with a great record of 12-4 matching their 1996 regular season performance. The offense looked great all year with an improved running game, a steadfast Steve Smith, and a physically healthy Jake Delhomme. Julius Peppers even returned to true form and had a great year on the defensive side of the ball. The sum of these and a few other pieces add up to an overall successful year when I actually look back and reflect. So why do I share the sentiments of most Carolina fans in thinking that we failed to achieve our potential once again?
Maybe it was the coaching.
Overall the coaching job was fantastic. Right up until the point of actual games. The staff took care of seemingly every position in need of an upgrade and bolstered that effort by bringing in good mix of hungry vets looking for new life in this league. Training camp went great (aside from the star of the team sucker-punching a starting league veteran on defense) and Jake Delhomme, the major question mark, progressed swimmingly through rehab. So the stage was set. This staff built all the weapons around them and the future was as bright as it has been since the point right before Steve smith broke his leg in 2004 on Monday night against the packers. Then the season started and the staff went back to its old habits of being too conservative and repeatedly letting teams back into games after building initial leads. They consistently resorted to that conservative “bend don’t break” defense that i hate, and continued dropping Julius peppers into coverage more than turning him loose in opposing backfields. They stayed true to form in neglecting the entire chapter of screen pass plays in the Carolina playbook. They also failed to get other receivers involved to take heat off of smith and following the brilliant Rosario catch to beat San Diego, completely forgot that tight ends can catch footballs. I am still not sold on John Fox. Either his choice in assistants or his failure to lead them is at fault and both of those things lie squarely on his shoulders. But in the end, there isn’t anyone out there better than him available (or so we’ve been told) and 12-4 gets him yet another chance to finally bring one of these talented teams to the promised land.
Maybe it was the quarterback.
The play of our fiery and fearless leader Jake Delhomme remains an anomaly wrapped in a riddle and then sealed within a giant chinese puzzle box. I picture Monty Hall waiving his arm in front of a giant orange curtain and preaching to my greed through a long slender microphone every time Jake drops back to pass. I have seen brilliance and i have seen total failure. We all have. The idea of a gunslinger is charming. It’s flashy and dynamic. The main problem with it though is that with Jake it just does not work. Jake Delhomme is a guy who has swings but the bad outweighs the good in the way that he continues to develop the unfortunate ability to play the poorest when it matters the most. In the 2003 and 2005 playoffs Jake amassed a passer rating across 5 games that ranks third overall in nfl post season history. 95+. On Saturday night, January the 10th in Charlotte he threw 5 picks and lost a fumble. His performance Saturday single-handedly crippled any chance the team had of accomplishing its goal. And despite this embarrassing effort Jake's coach stayed with him.
In the end unfortunately there will likely be no serious changes made but any along the lines of staff and QB would be welcomed in my opinion. I personally cannot foresee any improvements that can be made anywhere on the Carolina roster that will get me excited in the least if i know that Jake Delhomme will take the field next season as the starter. He has proven, yet again, to be able to completely tank the efforts of all activated players on game day and his coach has proven that he believes that to be acceptable which makes him even more dangerous. THAT Panther fans is the deadly combination that I am convinced has kept a Lombardi trophy from making its home somewhere in the bowels of Bank of America Stadium.
Edited by carolinarolls, 21 January 2009 - 02:42 PM.