Jake Delhomme : biography
Following his success in Europe, he was brought back to New Orleans as the full-time third-string quarterback. In his first NFL start against the Dallas Cowboys, he threw two touchdowns en route to a Saints victory, the team’s third.
Delhomme continued to see limited playing time the following three seasons, as he was the backup to Aaron Brooks and Jeff Blake. He managed to lead all NFC quarterbacks in overall passer rating during the 2001 and 2002 preseasons. His success, coupled with the team’s struggles, led fans to chant "We Want Jake, We Want Jake".
With Aaron Brooks cemented as the starter in New Orleans, Delhomme was interested in fighting for a starting spot in the NFL. In the 2003 offseason, he met with representatives from both the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys. He eventually signed with Carolina as a free agent. It was his performance against Dallas in 1999 that made new Panthers coach John Fox take notice.
The Panthers had been struggling, and were just one season removed from a dismal 1-15 season, during which they set a then-NFL record for consecutive losses in a single season. Although Rodney Peete was the Panthers’ starter, Delhomme was looked at to be the future of the franchise. It did not take long for him to take over.
2003 season and Super Bowl XXXVIII
At halftime of the 2003 season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Panthers were down 17–0. Delhomme took over for Peete and threw three touchdowns, the last coming in a fourth-down situation with just 16 seconds left in the game, to lead the Panthers to a comeback victory. He started the following week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and proceeded to start every game during the 2003 season. Including the playoffs, Delhomme led the Panthers on eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in the 2003 season, the most game-winning drives any QB has ever had in a single season. Pro-Football-Reference.com Delhomme led the Panthers on a Cinderella run through the playoffs, including a double-overtime victory against the St. Louis Rams. The Panthers made it through to Super Bowl XXXVIII to face the New England Patriots. Despite his personal success in the game (16-of-33 for 323 yards, 3 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 113.6 passer rating), as well as setting a record for longest offensive play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history (an 85-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad), the Panthers fell on a last-minute field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Delhomme was seen standing on the field during the Patriots’ post-game celebration; he later commented:
The 2004 season proved bittersweet for Delhomme, as he posted career highs in pass attempts, completions, overall yardage, and touchdowns. Unfortunately, the team was stricken with injuries, fielding five different combinations in their offensive line alone. Starting the season 1–7 after the early losses of running backs Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster, as well as Steve Smith, their leading wide receiver, the Panthers rallied for a fantastic second half of the season. Delhomme finished the final eight games of the season with a passer rating of 102.8, fourth best in the league during that period. He also threw 17 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions en route to winning six of their last eight games. They ultimately positioned themselves for a playoff berth, but lost that chance with a final game loss to Delhomme’s former team, the New Orleans Saints.
2005 saw Delhomme return the Panthers to the playoffs. In addition to the team’s success, Delhomme had one of his most productive seasons as a quarterback. His 11 victories as a starting quarterback set a team record, and he set career highs in completion percentage (60.2) and passer rating (88.1). In addition, his success led to Steve Smith leading the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, becoming only the third wide receiver to accomplish the "triple crown" in league history. Once again, he led the Panthers through the playoffs, including a shutout of the New York Giants, although the team ultimately fell to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.