Sports

Give Delhome a last chance

You know those movies in which a guy wakes up and walks outside and everybody is gone and he thinks he's the only human in the world? He's wrong, of course. Eventually he'll be joined by a faithful dog, a woman and a villain. But for a while he believes he's the only one of his kind.

That's how I feel this morning. I believe Jake Delhomme should start Sunday.

Some of you will recall that Delhomme was a good quarterback until Arizona came to Charlotte on Jan. 10 for a playoff game. Then he threw five interceptions, and a 7-0 lead became a 33-7 deficit. Neither he nor his team has been the same.

The Cardinals took Delhomme's confidence. On Sunday in Glendale, Ariz., I'd give him an opportunity to take it back.

Doesn't revenge drive you?

Don't you burn to beat the co-worker who undermined you by spending so much time in the boss's office he ought to pay rent?

Wouldn't you give anything for another shot at the opponent who took you in the huge game, race or competition?

Don't you want to show the spouse who dumped you how much weight you've lost, how much cool you've gained and how little interest you have?

Maybe after getting the rematch you get whipped again. But there's only one way to find out. And I'd offer it to Delhomme.

Until that game at Bank of America Stadium more than nine months ago, he was the guy who led a team with a great running game and an average defense to a record of 12-4. He did fast-food chicken commercials, endorsed a credit union and was as popular as any athlete in town. He was as entrenched at quarterback as John Kasay is at kicker and Steve Smith is at receiver.

Of course, he was flawed. Never a pretty passer, Delhomme always has been Brett Favre light, which is to say that confidence overruled common sense. He made his Panthers debut in the second half of the 2003 opener against Jacksonville and threw two interceptions.

He also threw three touchdown passes, the last of them with 16 seconds left. A 17-0 deficit became a 24-23 victory, and Delhomme became the franchise's signature quarterback.

But to win consistently, the man who plays the position has to believe so deeply in his ability that his teammates also do.

Since Arizona, there has been nothing but doubt. The Panthers will dispute this, but they play as if they expect to fail. Had they mustered any real confidence, they would have beaten Buffalo three days ago despite their quarterback's two game-turning interceptions

To get it back, Delhomme has to deliver a great series, a great quarter or a great half. If I'm Carolina coach John Fox, I postpone Game 1 of the Matt Moore Era and gamble that Delhomme achieves it against the team that finished, or is close to finishing, his career.

The Legend of Jake began in Charlotte on Sept. 7, 2003.

If it's going to end, let it end outside the desert, on the day after Halloween, against the team that's responsible.

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