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OP: Will Delhomme win or be benched first?

The Carolina Panthers have a quarterback crisis on their hands. After a six-turnover meltdown against the Cardinals in the playoffs last year, Jake Delhomme had a deja vu performance with four interceptions and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in Week One against the Eagles. Delhomme apparently can’t handle pressure anymore, and teams that have seen that are sure to pin their ears back and hit Delhomme as often as possible. Delhomme simply doesn’t have enough confidence, enough arm, or both to make teams pay now, and his disturbing tendency to frequently turn the ball over in the face of the rush. Even though he signed a big new deal in the offseason, his time in Carolina should be done.

But the Panthers are sticking with Delhomme, at least for this week. They did add A.J. Feeley, the former Eagle, as a veteran backup with starting experience to replace backup Josh McCown, who was placed on injured reserve and lost for the season. But can Feeley supplant Delhomme? Which will happen first – will Delhomme win a game or be benched for good?

When I was watching the Panthers/Eagles game on Sunday, I kept having flashbacks to 2003. That year, Rodney Peete, who had a solid season the year before the Panthers, entered the season as the starting quarterback in Carolina, beating out Delhomme, a free agent who had a terrible camp. But in the home opener against Jacksonville, Peete struggled, and head coach John Fox went to Delhomme, who led an improbable comeback and threw the game-winning touchdown to Ricky Proehl in the game’s waning seconds.

Throughout the game Sunday, I kept waiting for Fox to make a similar move. Like Peete, Delhomme has a good history in Carolina. But like Peete, Delhomme is done. Still, Fox didn’t pull Delhomme Sunday until the game was out of reach. And that was a mistake.

The outlandish prediction? Delhomme will have to be benched before he wins a game. The next two games for Carolina – at Atlanta and then at Dallas – provide hostile environments and enough pass-rush pressure to keep Delhomme’s meltdown at Code Red levels. And eventually, John Fox will have to turn to Feeley, who might have seen what was coming enough to turn down the Eagles’ offer to be a backup in the short term for the chance to become a starter in Carolina in the longer term.

Jake Delhomme will be benched before he leads the Panthers to another win. Panther fans just have to hope that the benching comes sooner rather than later.

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