Jake Delhomme couldn't contain himself as he broke down during his press conference today. The most accomplished quarterback in Carolina Panthers history found himself in tears and didn't bother fighting back. That's the way he's always been, and the reason he has earned such a passionate fan base in the Carolinas.
It's easy to assume Carolina fans are happy about the decision if you aren't a Carolina fan. All you'll see is Jake's horrible 2009 and his dreadful game against Arizona the season before. What you didn't see was the barely televised game against Jacksonville to start his first season as a Panther. With Carolina down 14-0 at half time John Fox made the call to pull veteran Rodney Peete and replace him with the unheralded Delhomme who lead the team to a 24-23 victory and capped off the season with an NFC Championship.
In the following years Jake would have his ups and downs. He would lead the team to another NFC Championship game against Seattle with a depleted running back corp only to fall short. He would also throw an obscene amount of interceptions and bad passes, and again he would lead the team on seemingly impossible last minute comebacks, like against San Diego where he managed to find Dante Rosario in the back of the end zone while falling down. Had Brett Favre made that same play various ESPN talking heads would've masturbated themselves into comas. But as it stood, Jake made it, so nobody west of Hothouse, south of Hardeeville, or north of Big Creek heard about it.
Off the field he was, and is a gentleman and a role model for young children, especially young athletes. Jake never, ever gave up on his dreams despite some harsh setbacks. He was determined to achieve his goal, and he did. Talent-wise Jake probably has no business in the NFL, especially not playing for championships, but he was there. He often found a hidden gear, a way to out play every other player in the league, and made a career for himself out of emotional, intense play. You never got cocky bravado from Jake, you got results. Sometimes not the way you expected, but he usually found a way to deliver.
He bowed out the same way he played, with intense emotion. Some will be critical of Jake for crying, and tell him to "man up". It's easy to tell a champion quarterback to man up when you're sitting at home. This is a man who played injured countless times and repeatedly dragged himself back to the line in intense pain to manage enough yardage for the Panthers to at least attempt a field goal, a man who was vastly respected by his teammates and loved by his fans. I feel he's entitled to a few tears.
In my eyes he's on the same level as Mike Minter, Muggsy Bogues, and Dell Curry, a Charlotte sports legend, and a world-class gentleman to boot. There will always be a place for him in this town.