A few weeks ago I wrote an article on Jake Delhomme, mainly focusing on his time as a Ragin’ Cajun. At the beginning of that article I noted that he had a bit of an NFL career, that career is what I’ll be focusing on today.
Delhomme was overlooked coming out of college, probably due to his low completion rate or the high number of interceptions. Whatever the reason he went undrafted in 1997.
Despite not being drafted, he was signed by the New Orleans Saints and joined the practice squad. He would stay on the practice squad for the next two seasons, but he would still get some experience in that time.
During the ‘90s the NFL had a minor league of sorts in Europe called, well, NFL Europe. During the NFL off-season teams would allocate players to the NFL Europe teams and the players could develop and increase interest for American Football.
While NFL Europe would eventually fail by the mid 2000s, it would help develop some notable NFL talent. That talent included Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who Delhomme played backup to while playing for the Amsterdam Admirals.
The season after that he would be sent to play for the Frankfurt Galaxy. Galaxy would go on to win the World Bowl, yes it was called this, and Delhomme would return home where he was made third string quarterback for the Saints.
Now, during this time the Saints were pretty bad and in the 1999 season they saw starts from three different quarterbacks. Seven starts from Billy Joe Tolliver and Billy Joe Hobert, with two starts from Jake Delhomme.
In Delhomme’s first career start for the Saints he would lead the team to a victory over the Dallas Cowboys throwing two touchdowns in the process.
Over the next two seasons Delhomme would play backup to Jeff Blake, then Aaron Brooks.
Those years were no kinder to the Saints, and Delhomme’s good play in the preseason would lead fans to chant “We want Jake!”
The fans would never get Jake though, as the Saints threw their full support behind Brooks. So in the 2003 offseason Delhomme would leave the Saints as a free agent and would sign with the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers were, in 2003, a franchise only a decade old. They had an impressive start for an expansion team going 7–9 in their first season then going 12–4 in season two making the playoffs and even beating the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys.
Following that they had been on hard times, they would not finish with another winning record in the seasons following. Delhomme was brought in by second-year head coach John Fox, where he would quickly win the starting job from Rodney Peete.
The 2003 Carolina Panthers would start the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars where, at half time, they would be down 14–0. Delhomme would start the half, taking the reins from Peete, and would lead the Panthers to a comeback victory by throwing three touchdowns.
Delhomme would start the remaining games of the season, where he would lead the Panthers to an 11–5 record throwing for 3,219 yards and 19 touchdowns to 16 interceptions and gain a passer rating of 80.6.
The following Cinderella run through the playoffs would lead to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers would fall to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots thanks to an Adam Vinateri field goal.
Delhomme and the Panthers came incredibly close to winning a Super Bowl, and stealing a ring from Tom Brady. Delhomme during that game could only be described as perfect as he threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and had a passer rating of 113.6, a better rating than Tom Brady.
The Panthers would never make it back to the Super Bowl during Delhomme’s stint as the starter. They would fail to return to the playoffs in 2004 following an injury ridden season.
In 2005 Delhomme would help receiver Steve Smith Sr. win the triple crown, leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The Panthers went 11–5 and made the playoffs where they would return to the NFC Championship game, this time though they would lose to the Seattle Seahawks.
Delhomme would spend the next four seasons setting franchise records in passing yards, attempts, completions and passer rating. All of these records would eventually be broken by Cam Newton.
Delhomme would receive a five year extension in the 2009 off-season worth $42.5 million. Starting the 2009 season Delhomme would be benched following a disastrous opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
He would continue to struggle through the rest of the season and eventually get placed on injured reserve in December to end his season.
He would be released in the offseason and would sign a two year deal with the Cleveland Browns where he would take the starting job from Seneca Wallace. Sadly Delhomme would miss much of the season due to injury.
He was released by the Browns in July of 2011, but would not re-sign with a team till November of that year. He signed with the Houston Texans after both their quarterbacks went down to injury.
After finishing his season with the Texans, Delhomme announced to the media that he would retire.
Jake Delhomme would never be known as the greatest quarterback ever, but he had a better career than many get in the NFL.
He endeared himself to fans of both the USL Ragin’ Cajuns and the Carolina Panthers, and has been inducted into the hall of fame for both his alma mater and the franchise he spent most of his career playing for.