It takes as much talent to go 14-2 as it does failure to go 2-14, and never was this more prevalent that the 2010 Carolina Panthers' season at the quarterback position. At this point abundant excuses have been made for the lack of performance from the position that encompassed bad play-calling, offensive line issues and a lack of a dominant running game. In the end through Occam's razor we get the truest issue with the position- none of them are very good. Clearly, the Carolina Panthers organization felt the same way when they selected Cam Newton with the #1 overall pick.
Trying to think of the perfect analogy, or turn of phase that highlights just how poor the Carolina Panthers quarterbacking was is almost impossible. So, in the end I elected to return to Occam's razor and simply present one stat line- this is from the Carolina Panther with the highest QB rating in 2010, Armanti Edwards.
1/1, 0 yards, 79.1 rating
I think that sums it up perfectly. After the jump we'll look at Matt, Jimmy, Brian and Tony to see how they all did in 2010.
Season Stats: 79/143 (55.2%), 857 yards, 5 TD, 10 INT, 55.6 QB rating
Prior to the 2010 season it was fair to say that Matt Moore didn't get a fair shake of the stick. He was a backup who didn't make waves, and who made plays each and every time he took the field. That's why it was understandable why there was so much optimism in Moore as he entered 2010, we saw him close out the 2009 season in dominant fashion and it was reasonable to assume he'd at least be a decent facsimile of his former self... alas that didn't occur.
Chances are few and far between in the NFL sometimes, and you need to make the most of the opportunities you have. Undoubtedly there was a great deal of pressure on Moore to follow in the footsteps of fellow un-drafted QB Jake Delhomme and lead the Panthers to greatness, but ultimately he emulated Jake Delhomme following his elbow surgery.
In the pocket Moore never looked comfortable in 2010, and he began forcing passes in a manor we hadn't seen from him before. Routinely he was throwing into double coverage, failed to account for the safety on a majority of plays and didn't display any ability pre-snap to adjust the offense at the line of scrimmage. I'd love to have a beer with Matt Moore, and if there were 53 guys on a team with his personality then it would be a pleasure to root for them- but in the end he just doesn't have 'it' to be an elite QB at the next level, and for this Panthers regime that isn't good enough
Letter grade: F
Season Stats: 157/299 (52.5%), 1,558 yards, 3 TD, 9 INT, 58.4 QB rating
Being able to draft a QB of Clausen's caliber with the 48th overall pick seemed like a dream scenario. Shoot, even yours truly bought into the ability of the California bred, pro-style groomed star who seemed to thrive in a bad situation at Notre Dame. However, I failed to recognize one key issue with Jimmy Clausen- he's not a winner. I underestimated just how important it is to take a field in a bad situation, rally your teammates and convince them that they can lean on you and that together you can succeed. It was this wherewithal that Cam Newton displayed vs. Alabama that makes him a leader of men, and Clausen as a kid with a lot to learn.
The biggest indictment of Jimmy Clausen is perhaps best typified by his mechanics- he shrinks. It doesn't matter that he's 6'2", the fact he releases the ball as low as he does really makes his release point around 5'10", and that's simply unacceptable in the NFL. This is the primary reason we saw good passing opportunities fall by the wayside as passes were hitting the arms of defensive linemen. Sportswriter Greg Cosell perhaps said it best about Clausen over his Twitter a few days ago:
"Limited arm talent, small in the pocket, poor throwing mechanics, needs functional space in pocket to deliver. QB w/limited passing skill sets need lot of team (run game, defense, sp teams) to have any success. He didn't have that."
I agree with Greg, he didn't have that; he didn't have a strong run game, dominant defense or effective special teams to help him. But you know what? The great ones don't need all those things to be successful. Ultimately, Jimmy Clausen looks like a West Coast system QB who can have success in an offense that doesn't ask him to beat teams with his arm, but rather have a natural ability to find outlet passes quickly- and this is something Jimmy Clausen did in spades in 2010.
Letter Grade: F
Season Stats: 13/28 (46.4%), 173 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 48.7 QB rating
Honestly, what can one expect from pulling a guy from being a stay at home father and starting him as an NFL QB? It's far too easy a target to nail St. Pierre against the wall, but really he was never put in even the most remote position to succeed. I don't believe in going after easy targets- and St. Pierre was one of the few times I wasn't disappointed at the QB position; I expected terrible play from him, and he delivered terrible play. But you know what, he did give us an 88 yard TD... and that has to count for something.
Letter Grade: D
Season Stats: 6/12 (50%), 47 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 60.1 QB rating
At quarterback Pike was both intriguing and terrible at the same time, yet strangely I still wanted to see more. I definitely understand the rationale of sticking with Jimmy Clausen, and maybe watching Pike I was lulled out of my malaise because at least I wasn't seeing INTs or passing hitting linemen, but I don't want to confuse that with an endorsement of Tony Pike. His 3.9 YPA was a truly laughable number, even when compared to the terrible QB play we'd seen all season. However, that being said- like St. Pierre he's too easy a target and didn't even get the slightest chance to prove himself. So, he'll squeak through- if only barely.
Letter Grade: D
If you really think any of the above QBs listed still has 'it' then I really think you need to re-visit the 2010 season and watch some game film again. There weren't glimmers, there weren't moments... just mediocre and slightly less mediocre. In the cases of both Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike it behooves the organization to keep them because of their cheap rookie contracts, but in the long run both look like West Coast QBs who are now stuck in a vertical system. Meanwhile, Matt Moore not being given a play book on Friday of the draft should help foreshadow his role in the organization, and if Brian St. Pierre is back in any facet I will probably need to have my diaper changed too.
We heard early in the draft process that Ron Rivera's Panthers would place an emphasis on the passing game, and have a strong desire to find a franchise QB. As it stands, the organization believe they have their quarterback in Cam Newton. It remains to be seen how he will fair on the Panthers, but hopefully 'mediocre' wont be part of our vernacular much longer at the QB position.
Team Grade for Quarterbacks: F