Jake Delhomme: There's Little Satisfaction In Watching Him Crumble

Tim AltorkCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by Linebacker Jordan Akeem #56, of the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the NFL season opener at Bank of America Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Atlanta Falcons fans find themselves in a bit of an awkward situation this week when their team faces the Carolina Panthers. And Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme embodies the dilemma.

In case you aren’t aware, Delhomme has accounted for 11 turnovers—nine interceptions and two lost fumbles—in his last two games.

If to err is human, then Delhomme has become the king of the species.

It’s difficult to watch a career so violently unravel as Delhomme’s has in his past two games. It brings to mind some of the more perplexing mental breakdowns in sports over the past few years.

Chuck Knoblauch was a solid second baseman and a pivotal part of some very successful Minnesota and New York teams. Then he inexplicably lost his ability to throw the ball to first base.

Rick Ankiel was a promising rookie pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. But he saw that career path dissipate in one disastrous playoff inning against the Atlanta Braves in which his control evaporated. He never truly got it back.

These guys tried everything short of reciting the profiles of Playboy bunnies like Rube the catcher in “Major League II” to get over what was so obviously a mental stigma.

But I don’t know if Delhomme’s problems are completely mental. His arm has obviously weakened since his Tommy John surgery two years ago, and he seems unable to make the throws that he once could.

But after such horrible results in his last two outings, he has to be on the verge of developing some sort of mental block, if he hasn’t already.

Fortunately for Knoblauch and Ankiel they had the option to move to the outfield to extend their careers (reinforcement for the use of the phrase “out in left field” to describe people who aren’t all there).

Unfortunately for Delhomme he’s got nowhere else on the field to go, other than placeholder on the kicking team. There’s just not a demand in the NFL for slow, aging, slightly chubby free safeties with huge contracts.

And that’s what makes it hard to root against him this week, even if you are a Falcons fan.

It’s different than rooting against guys like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. At some point you just wish they would err in the slightest and show that they’re one of us.

It’s different than rooting against a player like Jay Cutler because he’s a member of the donkey family.

At this point it would be nice to see Delhomme stop being so human. (Of course, if there’s any remedy it’s the Falcons’ secondary.)

I hope the Falcons don’t take it easy on Delhomme. I hope they rattle him and render the Panthers offense ineffective en route to an easy win.

But if that happens—like scoring on an Ankiel wild pitch or reaching base on a Knoblauch throwing error—there won’t be the same satisfaction as if they had beat him at his best.

I’ll be rooting against the Carolina quarterback and his team. But I don’t have to like it.