Shocked, Amazed, A little confused, slightly refreshed... and ultimately thankful.
These are all things I felt on my way to work this morning when my local talk radio station informed me that Jake Delhomme had been cut.
After nearly jerking the car off the road in initial shock, I settled into a period of "this didn't really happen, this isnt the Panther organization that I know" prompting me to believe they were making a joke. But the joke kept going, and people started calling in offering their opinions... soon enough it was abundantly clear.
Jake Delhomme is no longer a Carolina Panther.
Let that soak in for a moment...
From the moment he trotted out onto the field against Jacksonville and we all said... "who is this... Jake... Dell... Home...May... guy?" to his final start against the Jets. His name was on our lips. He was the anti-hero of our beloved franchise. The guy we all loved, but sometimes loved to hate. The hero of many comebacks, and the goat of many losses. Having Jake Delhomme at Quarterback defined us as "The Cardiac Cats." No game was ever over with Jake at Quarterback... whether up by 14 or down by 10, just a flick of #17's wrist would change the game. For better or for worse. We talked about him constantly. We talked about his flaws and his virtues. We spoke about good times, like our super bowl run, and we spoke about bad times, like the great Arizona meltdown.
But, ultimately, we all spoke about Jake.
Only one man could have a last name like Delhomme, and still every single person in the Carolinas could pronounce it. Everyone from the champagne toasting aristocracy to the backwoods hillbilly could tell you exactly how to pronounce "Delhomme." And every Sunday, whether in front of an old 20" tube set, or a mammoth 60" HDTV, they would sit down and watch Jake Delhomme and his Carolina Panthers take the field... and each would chant "Come on Jake!" or "Dammit Jake!" or "Atta' boy Jake!"
There was something in Jake Delhomme that had us all enamored. Whether you loved him or hated him, he represented hope that seemingly an average Joe could one day pick up a football and throw with the big boys. He brought that down home Cajun attitude and fire to Charlotte, but nary a bad word was ever said about "Jake Delhomme, the man." He was the Carolina's favorite son...
For better… or for worse.
So now as we look ahead to the Matt Moore era, it is only fitting to look back and send a toast to Jake Delhomme. A man who left it all out on the field, and wanted nothing more than to help the Panthers succeed. Yes... he may have lost some of that talent that made us fall in love with him in the first place, but he never lost our hearts. And while some may be relieved to see him gone, and to see another QB controversy squashed before it could get going, they too will settle down, and realize that Jake Delhomme is exactly the kind of man we want this franchise associated with.
*raises a glass*
So here's to you Jake. May you ride your horse "She Hate Me" with pride off into the sunset, and know that in the fans hearts, you'll always be one of the greatest Panthers to ever see the field.