My how the times have changed. Most fans favor giving Clausen his opportunity to start next week, and that includes most of those who supported Matt Moore initially. That seems really ironic to me, because there were so many people who felt Moore could have taken us to the playoffs if Fox had replaced Delhomme with him earlier last season. Be that as it may, Moore has two bad games, one of them possibly affected by a concussion, and both of them certainly affected by more factors than just his own play (i.e., lack of decent receiving corps, really bad O-line play, let downs on defense, really poor playcalling and game-time adjustments by the coaching staff, etc.). Regardless, I believe Clausen should start over Moore. Why? I'll get into it, after the jump...
Set aside the fact that we have all these other problems with the Panthers right now, I think everyone can acknowledge we drafted Clausen for the future. He quickly established himself as the #2 guy in training camp and the preseason. He's widely regarded as a better NFL prospect than anyone else we've got on our roster, and in some circles, better than anyone else in this year's draft class. As loyal as any of us may have felt towards Matt Moore, the immutable fact is that he's never shown the same kind of skillset. He's a game-manager, not a game-changer. With all the right pieces around him, he could certainly steer Carolina to a successful season, maybe even a successful post-season. We had those pieces last year. We let many of them go (for a variety of reasons from age and injury to performance meltdowns and looming labor negotiations). Regardless, we don't have those pieces now. And I think it becomes evident really quickly that Matt Moore can't win games on his own.
Now, does that mean Jimmy Clausen can? Not necessarily. But I do believe, because of his skillset, Clausen has more potential as a game-changer than a game-manager. He's young and inexperienced right now. But, as long as we DON'T have the pieces a game-manager would need...why not go ahead and start a potential game-changer and let him acquire that experience now? We went through this same situation when Carolina drafted Kerry Collins. Originally, we figured we'd sit him and give him time to learn as #2 on the depth chart. And we would start the guy who gave us "the best chance to win" over the rookie. Eventually, however, it became clear that we probably wouldn't do any worse with the rookie. So, why not go ahead and play him. Toss out any plans for making the postseason. Look at it as a rebuilding year. And get him some experience at the same time so that, come next season, everyone's that much better and ready to go.
I think we're seeing the same thing play out with Clausen now. This team is off to an 0-2 start. We've got glaring problems in a LOT of areas on this team, not just at QB with Matt Moore. Despite our supposedly "soft" schedule this year, I don't think anyone feels really strongly about making the playoffs this year. Next season is going to be a lockout year (maybe the full season, maybe not). There's no guarantee we were going to keep Moore as a free agent. And maybe less now, given how he started this season. But regardless, why not go ahead and start developing your future franchise QB now?
And that brings me to the wild card reason for why it makes the most sense to start Clausen now. And that's John Fox. I'm 90% certain we've seen the last of him as our head coach. He and Jerry Richardson aren't that close. The Big Cat has already shown plenty of veterans the door going into the lockout situation. I don't think he has any intention of retaining Fox (or his coaching staff) once the season ends. Maybe he'll work out a deal with Ron Meeks (or promote him to head coach...which I doubt). But, regardless, it WILL be important for whatever coach replaces Fox to have an idea of what he's got in terms of players and their capabilities. Right now, I think he'd have plenty of film to assess Matt Moore and whether the Panthers should retain him. But our future coach wouldn't have any insight into Clausen...unless we play him now.
We also have little to lose by playing Clausen. The kid doesn't strike me as someone who will suffer by being "thrown to the wolves" too early. He pretty much already went through a situation like that with a pretty bad Notre Dame team in college. He took his lumps and still did some exciting things for them from the standpoint of an individual performance. True, he had Golden Tate as a receiver. He also has Steve Smith with the Panthers. So, let him start developing some similar chemistry at the NFL level. And, get these other young players on our team a lot more game experience. Make the most of this season. Ride out the lockout. Bring in a new coach with a new philosophy, and hopefully better creativity with regards to the offense and a coaching staff that can make good half-time adjustments. And, after all that, I think Richardson will have put in place the building blocks for a successful long-term strategy for the franchise. For fans who want to win now...or who feel betrayed by a "cheapskate" owner...I don't think they'll be satisfied with that. RIchardson will certainly take some lumps of his own making if he's pursuing this course and lets Fox walk. But I think the writing is already on the wall with regards to that. And I think, in time, this approach will be better for the franchise.
But that's just my two-cents,