- New Orleans Saints (1997-2002)
- Carolina Panthers (2003-2009)
- Cleveland Browns (2010)
- Houston Texans (2011)
- 1x Pro Bowl (2005)
“I just felt given an opportunity at some point, I could have success.”
-Jake Delhomme (source)
Just about the only things anyone knew about Jake Delhomme before the 1997 NFL Draft is that he played for the University of Southwestern Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and that he was, well, Cajun. Apparently nobody thought he could play at the next level, so he went undrafted. The New Orleans Saints took a flyer on the Louisiana native though. Four different quarterbacks started games for the Mike Ditka coached Saints in ’97, but none of them were Jake Delhomme. So he was shipped overseas to back up another NFL throwaway, Kurt Warner, on the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. So much for those two careers, huh?
The Ragin’ Cajun found a nice home across the pond, moving over to the Frankfort Galaxy one year later and helping them capture World Bowl ’99. That success brought Jake Delhomme back to NOLA that year, where he even went 1-1 as starter, but for a pitiful 3-13 Saints team. The next two years saw him languish on the bench behind Aaron Brooks as the Saints returned to competitiveness. Thinking he could still battle for a starting gig in the NFL, Delhomme signed in early 2003 with a Carolina Panthers team just over one year removed from a 1-15 season.
It took all of one half of football for Jake Delhomme to replace Rodney Peete as the Panthers’ starter. He rallied Carolina from a 17-0 third quarter deficit to a 24-23 Week 1 win over Jacksonville. The NFL Europe alum had the job the rest of the season. The numbers weren’t mind-blowing (20 total TDs to 16 INTs and an 80.6 QB rating), but the guy won. And he won enough. Carolina’s scoring offense improved from 30th to 15th in 2003, and took the NFC South at 11-5.
The Panthers dispatched Dallas 29-10 at home in the Wild Card Round, with their QB throwing for 273 yards and a TD. The following week was a squeaker though. In overtime at St. Louis, Delhomme led Carolina on a drive that ended on a missed 45-yard field goal. After 15 scoreless minutes, Delhomme opened up the second OT period with a 69-yard TD pass to Steve Smith, clinching a berth in the NFC title game, 29-23. He finished the game with 290 yards passing, the TD, and a pick. On the cusp of the franchise’s first Super Bowl, the Panthers’ defense completely shut down Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles, holding them to a mere field goal in a 14-3 upset. Jake Delhomme mainly deferred to the running game, but quietly played well going 9-for-14 for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The Carolina Panthers appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII was a surprise. Their opponents’, that of the 14-2 New England Patriots, was not. And so Vegas put the line at seven points in favor of the champs from two years’ prior. What began as a snoozefest (no scoring in the first 27 minutes) turned into one of the most exciting games in Super Bowl history. Both teams scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half, then combined for 37 fourth quarter points. But as had happened two years earlier, the Pats won it in the final seconds on an Adam Vinatieri field goal, 32-29. Jake Delhomme was sensational, with 323 yards passing and three touchdowns. But the game’s MVP was awarded to his rival, Tom Brady.
Jake Delhomme greatly improved in 2004, throwing for a career-high 3,886 yards and 29 TDs to just 15 INTs. The Panthers did not though. Unable to recover from a 1-7 start, they finished 7-9. But 2005 went much better. Delhomme made his lone Pro Bowl squad for the 11-5 Panthers. Carolina cruised to a 23-0 Wild Card win over the Giants as Delhomme tossed 140 yards and a touchdown. However, their next opponents were the Bears, in Chicago, who boasted the league’s best scoring defense (a stingy 12.6 points per game). Jake Delhomme was unfazed though. He shredded the NFL’s best defense for 319 yards, three TDs, and just one pick in a 29-23 upset.
There would be no return to the Super Bowl though. The Seattle Seahawks would pound the Panthers, 34-14, holding Delhomme to just 211 yards of offense and one TD, while forcing three INTs. Injuries then began to take their toll on him the following year. A late-season thumb injury held Delhomme to 13 starts and Carolina missed the postseason at 8-8. One year later, Delhomme wouldn’t even make it out of September, suffering a torn elbow ligament in Week 3. A 2-1 start with Delhomme concluded as a 7-9 season without him.
The Ragin’ Cajun returned as strong as ever in 2008 though. The 33-year old managed to start all 16 games, throwing for 3,288 yards while leading the Panthers to a 12-4 mark. But he would be outmatched by his former teammate in Amsterdam, Kurt Warner, in the Divisional Round. Delhomme suffered six turnovers in the game, including five interceptions, in a 33-13 loss to the eventual NFC champs, putting a damper on a great comeback season.
The 2009 season would be Jake Delhomme’s last in Carolina. He would win just four of 11 starts, and throw only eight TDs to 18 INTs before a broken finger prematurely ended his year. He would be cut the following March. Delhomme would start four games in Cleveland in 2010, winning two, but he struggled with just two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He wrapped up his career as one of Matt Schaub’s back-ups in Houston in 2011, throwing a TD pass in his final game.
Jake Delhomme had a completely unpredictable career. From being undrafted, to spending six years in New Orleans, to only throwing 86 passes during that time. But he was given the chance to succeed overseas, even winning a title in Europe, and that was key. He brought veteran stability to a rising Panthers team, and became one of the most unexpected stars in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played. He never threw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season, although he came really close to both in 2004. A late start, and then late-career injuries, further compressed the time that Jake Delhomme had to shine. But the Louisiana native did indeed shine in Charlotte, and helped establish a young NFL franchise as a serious competitor in the mid-to-late 2000s.
|Season||W-L%||Tot Y/G||Tot TD/G||Tot TO/G||Y/C/Y/A||Cmp %||TD%||Int%|
Longevity Bonus = 0.4 Title Bonus = 0.0
Index Score = -0.044 (average QB = 0.0)
Deviation Rank (out of 153)
|Season||W-L%||Tot Y/G||Tot TD/G||Tot TO/G||Y/C/Y/A||Cmp %||TD%||Int%|
Why isn’t he on the Top 100 list?
Jake Delhomme turned the ball over too much, both in the regular season, and in the postseason. He’s outside the Top 100, in both regards, for total turnovers per game and INT rate deviation. He also didn’t throw for a ton of yardage, and compounded by a lack of mobility (an average of 3.3 yards rushing per game), ranks Delhomme 114th for total yards per game.
But what made him good?
The most obvious thing is that Jake Delhomme was a winner. He’s 46th all-time for win-loss percentage deviation in the regular season. Further impressive was five postseason wins in just eight starts. But an overlooked and underrated element of Delhomme’s game was his downfield passing (certainly helped by having speedy wideout Steve Smith in his prime). For average of yards/completion + yards/attempt, he’s 34th all-time in the regular season, helped by his league-leading 13.4 yards per completion in 2008. But in the postseason he was even better, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt and 14.2 yards per completion, putting him at 11th all-time in postseason YCYA. Additionally noteworthy, Delhomme finished with passer ratings above 95.0 in his first six playoff appearances.