Back to the Future

John Fox made another QB change on Monday when he restored Matt Moore to the top of the depth chart and benched rookie Jimmy Clausen. While the move will stunt Clausen's progress, it was the right choice for the team and for Fox.

The Panthers made their first change at QB prior to Week 3, when Jimmy Clausen took over for a struggling Matt Moore. Carolina was 0-2 at the time and it was already clear this was not a playoff team (perhaps that was made clear in the offseason when GM Marty Hurney stripped the roster of several veterans and assembled the youngest squad in the NFL).

The initial move to Clausen signaled this season is about player development more than wins and losses. That's a tough decision to sell to a team and fan base, let alone a lame-duck head coach. Yet Fox had no alternative given the youth of his roster, especially in the passing game.

So why make another change if the season's primary objective is to groom young talent? The answer is Clausen's slow development was hindering the development of other young players, particularly the trio of rookie wide receivers: Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards.

QB Jimmy Clausen
Streeter Lecka/Getty
Clausen and Gettis were developing chemistry, yet it was clear Clausen and LaFell were out of sync. That makes sense, seeing as LaFell spent much of the offseason working with the first-string offense, led by Moore.

The other concern was creating a culture of losing. Losing, like anything else, can be habitual. It is crucial that this young roster notches some wins over the final 11 games so that these players learn how to be successful in the NFL.

Moore, for all his struggles protecting the football, gives the Panthers the best chance to win right now. He has won in this league, winning four of five starts at the end of last season. Clausen's next NFL win will be his first.

Clausen's growth will be stunted by this change, but that may not be all that significant for a couple reasons. First, for all the talk about Clausen playing in a system similar to the one he used at Notre Dame, odds are offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson will not be back next season. That means Clausen is in for a big transition next offseason no matter how much he plays over the next 11 weeks.

Secondly, despite Clausen's unofficial title as the "quarterback of the future," it should be noted the team selected him No. 48 overall, so it's not as if the Panthers are tied to him the same way the Raiders were with JaMarcus Russell or the Chargers were with Ryan Leaf.

A new coaching staff will likely be in place next season and that group will have to decide if Clausen is their guy. It is very possible a new coach will want to bring in his own quarterback. Even if a new coach allows Clausen compete for the starting job and "The Kid with the Golden Arm" fails, the loss for the Panthers is minimal.

After all, Hurney gave up more for Edwards than he did for Clausen.

But all that talk can wait for another day. While Clausen may or may not be the future, the present is back in the rightful -- albeit shaky -- hand of Matt Moore.

What are Panthers fans saying about the change-up? See in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.

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