No quarterback controversy in Carolina

There will be no quarterback controversy in Carolina. Coach John Fox made that point clear during Monday's press conference in which he dispelled any notion the Panthers might consider benching a struggling Jake Delhomme for backup Chris Weinke after Carolina's 17-13 loss to the Redskins.

"I think he's proven he's the right guy," Fox said in reference to Delhomme's 34-24 record as a starter since taking over in 2003. "Until he proves otherwise, we'll stay the same. I can't sit here and predict the future, but I don't want to give any inclinations that we're thinking about changing the quarterback."

Despite the fact that Delhomme took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003 and to the NFC Championship Game last year and despite his 5-2 record in the playoffs, his popularity has never been lower.

His performance has tailed off significantly this season, and Internet message boards are filling up with angry fans calling for Delhomme's head after a slew of costly fourth-quarter interceptions this season.

Sunday's effort didn't help his cause.

His heave downfield from the Washington 41-yard line with 1:10 left in the game was intercepted by Redskins safety Sean Taylor, sealing Carolina's fate. Although Delhomme's arm was hit as he threw, the decision to go deep at that time seemed hurried considering it was first-and-10 and the Panthers still had a timeout in the bank. The ball never came close to intended receiver Steve Smith, who was double-covered anyway, and Taylor got the easiest pick of his career.

Delhomme also has thrown crucial fourth-quarter interceptions this season in losses to Dallas and Cincinnati.

For the game, Delhomme finished 23 of 38 passing for 168 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown against the 30th-ranked pass defense.

"When you drop back to pass the ball, it's a team effort," Fox said. "After having a chance to watch (the last interception) on tape, he gets hit as he's throwing it. I'd say it took a little of the accuracy off of it. Whenever you don't play well enough to win, I'm not sure if it's one guy. It's definitely not just Jake."

Fox wouldn't say how much the team's offensive line woes have contributed to Delhomme's struggles.

The Panthers lost starting offensive linemen Travelle Wharton and Justin Hartwig the first game of the season and were forced to reshuffle the line. Delhomme has already been sacked 22 times this season after being sacked 28 times all of last season.

"I'm not going to sit here and point fingers at Jake or the O-line or anybody," Fox said. "The reality is we're 6-5, and (Sunday) was a pretty vivid picture of some other games where we didn't play well enough. We didn't score enough points, and that can be helped by a lot of areas. The kicking game, defense."

Nonetheless, Carolina's offense has been out of sync all season.

Through 11 games last season, the Panthers were averaging 24.1 points per game and had scored 28 offensive touchdowns. This year, despite the addition of wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the Panthers are averaging only 17.1 points per game and have scored 10 fewer offensive touchdowns.

Delhomme's numbers are down, too.

After averaging 24 touchdown passes over the previous three seasons, he's on pace for just 17 this season. His quarterback rating (78.7) is also the lowest it has been during his career, and he seems to be lacking chemistry with his receivers.

Still, if the season ended today, the Panthers would make the NFC playoffs as a wild-card team.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Fox said of the offense's overall decline in production. "We don't have as many turnovers as we had a year ago. I'm not going to sit here and pin that on the defense and say that's why we're 6-5. We're all 6-5. The coaches, the head coach, the players. That's where we are.

"The sky is not falling either. It was said we could get a bye (last week) and all of a sudden we became the worst team on the planet. We are what we are. We've got five games left and a very important one this week against Philadelphia."


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