Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result
-- Albert Einstein
Every man has a breaking point, and yesterday we saw John Fox's. It has been a long time since a named starting QB had been pulled out of a game for a backup for any reason other than injury, and with a chorus of "Put Clausen in" ringing across the open thread we saw Jimmy Clausen warming up on the sideline getting ready to take his first real snaps with the first team. The result: There's a good chance we wont see Matt Moore as the Panthers' starting QB again.
Was Clausen incendiary? Did he light up the Charlotte skies with the flashes of brilliance and poise that some imagined? Not quite, but he was far and away the better quarterback on Sunday, and showed enough to prove that even as a rookie he's the more naturally talented QB when directly compared with a 3rd year vet.
Not to take anything away from Tampa Bay, because like I said on CSR Radio this week they will be formidable in the future, but there was no reason the Panthers should have lost Sunday's game. The Panthers generated more offense (278 yards to 273) they ran the ball better, they threw for more yards but lost the game in the only place it matters- on the scoreboard. In a lot of ways the game echoed the Panthers' loss to Buffalo last year.
So... I know some of you are wondering how I can pull anything positive out of this game, and I'll do my darndest...
After the jump
I postulated this off season that we could see a regression from Matt Moore as teams had more film on him and the opportunity to learn his tendencies. I was mostly shouted down for this and labeled as a 'Clausen lover' or 'Moore hater' (take your pick), I say this not to relish in an 'I'm right, you're wrong' fashion, but rather to have full disclosure to those not familiar with my stance. At one point in time I called a 15-20 pt reduction in Moore's QB rating inevitable, where again I was called a 'hater'. As it stands Moore has imploded from his 2009 final rating of over 100 now sitting at a 46.65 and wondering if he will remain the starting QB of the Carolina Panthers.
Not all of the blame can be leveled solely on Matt Moore as yet again the Panthers offensive line didn't give him adequate time to go through his progression, but at the same time one needs to adapt to the game conditions making the reads faster and going for the short routes rather than always looking for the #1 target. It's that last element to Moore's game yesterday that resonated the most with me: He was simply missing open targets while staring down his primary. Couple this with an unwillingness/inability to change the play at the line of scrimmage and you have a bad situation. The Panthers were 5/16 on third down, and it's here where a QB needs to show their stripes. I understand the 4th down conversions were impressive, but it never should have gotten to that point.
Enter Jimmy Clausen: With 10:03 left in the game the Panthers turned to their rookie QB in what I believe to be a move with myriad goals:
a) To put him in a stressful situation and see how he runs the offense.
b) To show Tampa something different and hopefully grind out a win.
c) Prove a point to Matt Moore that he wont get the same level of faith and confidence Jake Delhomme got.
To these ends we learned a lot about the Carolina Panthers' both as an organization, a mindset and their feelings on the QB situation. The best we can liken today's situation to is when Fox pulled Rodney Peete week one of 2003 and put in Jake Delhomme.
If someone didn't see the game and asked me to describe the difference between the two QBs I would do so thusly:
"Matt Moore was looking for the big play and trying to make a difference in the game. Sometimes to his own detriment, because of this he was missing a lot of easy throws while going for the big one. They gave him 1 or 2 opportunities to make a throw each series, and more often that not he failed.
Meanwhile Jimmy Clausen entered the game with far less pressure on his shoulders. The team expected him to be ready if needed, but not win the game. He was a little jittery on his first few throws but settled down and starting moving the chains. He was busier in the pocket and better at avoiding the pass rush. His one interception wasn't really on him it was more of a miscommunication."
So, that's my long winded way of saying 'it is what it is'. For what it's worth Moore has used up the slack in his rope and it's time to go with the young guy, but none of us get to make that decision. It looks like we'll have another week of 'will he, or won't he' but this week it will be because of performance, not injury.
Jimmy Clausen- Extremely Optimistic: See above.
Mike Goodson- Extremely Optimistic: I wont hold the Clausen interception against him, only because I like the fact he was trying to make a play and do so in desperate times. Goodson keeps showing more and more why the Panthers like him as a multi-faceted weapon. He's our poor man's Dexter McCluster and he keeps getting better.
Steve Smith- Extremely Optimistic: Ugly drop aside it's Steve-freakin'-Smith... without him the Panthers have no passing game and despite dealing with good coverage he made the most of the meager chances he got.
Derek Landri- Extremely Optimistic: Talk about a guy making the most of his chance. 7 tackles at DT this week, and one for a loss. He's making a strong point to get more playing time.
Jonathan Stewart- Extremely Optimistic: But why didn't we see him more?
Gutsy calls- Extremely Optimistic: Two 4th down conversions AND a QB change? I don't know what was in the water, but I want to see more of it.
David Gettis- Somewhat Optimistic: There's something there with Gettis, he has a 'spark'. In time Gettis could become the third part to the triumvirate of thievery in the 6th round (Hardy, Gettis, Pugh).
Linebackers- Somewhat Optimistic: A combined 25 tackles are great, but they struggled with Kellen Winslow... so this is as high as they can be rated.
Matt Moore- Extremely Pessimistic: See Above
Pass Rush- Extremely Pessimistic: It would be one thing if nobody got into the backfield, but when you have the QB in your arms you bring him down... it's as simple as that and several different players were guilty of this on Sunday.
Geoff Schwartz- Extremely Pessimistic: I love him to be the RG when Otah is back, but he was garbage at RT yesterday. It makes me wonder if he and Bernadeau have an agreement on who is going to be garbage each week.
Secondary- Extremely Pessimistic: They all get lumped together for their bad arm tackling their poor execution and being beaten by a lackluster Tampa passing attack.
Tony Fiametta- Extremely Pessimistic: Bad game, missed some costly blocks in both the passing and run games. He needs to channel Brad Hoover fast.
I said before Clausen entered the game that I would gladly take a loss if it meant that Clausen was a standout, and for the most part that's what I got. In a way I'm much more optimistic now that we've seen Clausen in an NFL game, but my overall optimism on the Panthers comes with a caveat:
80% Optimistic if Clausen is named starter
35% Optimistic if Moore is named the starter