For a while in Saturday's 23-8 loss to New England, it looked like the Panthers may have a full-blown quarterback controversy. Jeff Lewis went deep for one of the few times this pre-season and badly underthrew Muhsin Muhammad, into the hands of Patriots' defender Ty Law. Boos reigned down from the Ericsson Stadium crowd.
In the second quarter, it looked like Coach George Seifert may be doing his part to create a battle for the position, when he brought Chris Weinke in as scheduled following an interception deep in New England territory. The question was asked at the time, 'Why not let Lewis come in and build some confidence with a short scoring drive?' Seifert's history suggests that he might have rather had Weinke let the drive instead and put a little fire to Lewis instead. Seifert likes to create competition for positions.
Instead, Weinke created nothing but a 40-yard John Kasay field goal attempt that missed. Then, in the following quarter-and-a-half, Weinke did nothing to close in on Lewis' number one quarterback status, much to the dismay of the crowd which began as much more forgiving of Weinke's miscues than of Lewis'. Weinke proceeded to throw errant passes and two interceptions (one of which was a poor decision on a "trying to make something out of nothing play". He also did nothing to win fans when he scrambled on third down and chose to step out of bounds rather than put his head down and try to bull his way to a first down.
Seifert is quick to put blame on lack of experience in NFL game-type situations, and acknowledging that that still doesn't make it acceptable. New England stacked a lot of folks on the line and put pressure on both Lewis and Weinke, gambling that the lack of experience for both signal-callers would result (as it did) in poor decision-making. It also made the rebuilt offensive line look nearly as weak as last years'.
The eternal optimist among Panther fans will proclaim that Carolina didn't want to show much, knowing that these same two teams will meet at this same place in week two of the regular season. The realist accepts a couple of points: 1) Jacksonville isn't nearly as good as folks think they might be (thus minimizing the good feelings both quarterbacks had after their first time out); 2) the quarterback controversy isn't about who starts, but instead (the one we feared all along) who can play at this level period. Both Lewis and Weinke said all the right things in their postgame comments...about how it doesn't matter that it's an exhibition, they need to do better; and about how they let the team down; and how they have to get better.
It won't be long before they get the additional reps that Seifert is talking about, as they take the field again Thursday at Baltimore. Before that though, they'll have just a scant two days of practice to become more familiar with an offense both are having trouble grasping.