Throughout the 2009 NFL season, SI.com's Adam Duerson will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the previous week's games. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
1. Someone needs to lose their job in Carolina. I was in Las Vegas for an event last weekend, and on Sunday I went to the best possible place to catch every game: a sportsbook. And of the nine games playing across those big screens early in the day, I couldn't keep my eye off one thing: Jake Delhomme. I saw a quarterback who should not be starting on any NFL team. The way he's played his past two games -- five interceptions against the Cardinals in the playoffs; four yesterday against the Eagles -- I have to think this guy is just done. Toast. And if Jake Delhomme is done, John Fox is going to get fired.
Fox saw that playoff game last year firsthand. He had an entire offseason to evaluate his passers. And he didn't take the necessary steps to ensure the franchise's success down the line. Whether it was a free agent -- Matt Cassel, Sage Rosenfels, Michael Vick -- or even a rookie in the draft, he didn't demand a quarterback to challenge Delhomme.
Instead, the Panthers gave Delhomme a five-year contract extension, and now they don't have anyone else who can compete for the position. Fox went through the whole darn depth chart yesterday and didn't see a positive thing from anyone.
To me, that all goes on the coach. Coaches live and die by their quarterbacks, and Fox is riding Jake Delhomme to his grave. If he wants to save his job, he ought to be looking for options, whether it be a veteran who got released in the preseason or someone in a trade. Maybe it's time to call Minnesota about one of its backups.
Look at the Panthers' schedule. They have the Falcons, Cowboys and Redskins coming up: three losable games. If they go 0-4, I would fire John Fox. He's stuck with Jake Delhomme, who has repeatedly shown that he's not an elite quarterback. He's provided himself no alternatives. Without a huge turnaround, I think this is the end of the road for John Fox.
2. Steelers' Super Bowl hopes took a big blow in Week 1. On Thursday night the Steelers went from being a great defense to merely a good defense in just one play against the Titans. You simply can't replace a player like Troy Polamalu, and we all saw the Steelers give up some big plays right away after he left with a knee injury. When he's healthy, Troy's all over the field. Before he left that game it seemed his name was being called every play: Troy on a tackle, Troy on an interception, Troy with a penalty. Whatever happened, he was involved. But without him in the game, the field becomes a lot bigger and more exposed.
People will say, "Well, they still have James Harrison and Casey Hampton and so on..." Irrelevant. Troy's really the only guy on this defense that I see as a full playmaker. Sure, James Harrison gets after the QB. But Troy is all over the field. He can change the outcome of a game in one play. Without him, this becomes a good defense with a very ordinary secondary.
Now, here's what worries me: I've had an MCL injury and the thing it affects the most is the lateral movement. Sure, you can run straight lines. But when you have to go left and right it becomes a problem. If you've ever watched Troy, you know he's so unpredictable in how he moves -- all over the place. An MCL could be a bigger problem for a guy who moves like that. I expect to see him out on the longer side of the projected three to six weeks. If it goes longer, could they win another Super Bowl without him? I don't think so.
3. One more reason Pittsburgh's in trouble: these Steelers are a mediocre running team on their best day. I don't think they've reached a panic situation quite yet because the Titans don't allow anyone to run the football on them. But there are serious problems.
Willie Parker: I haven't seen much from him. Rashard Mendenhall: I haven't really seen him, period. One thing I have seen is Mewelde Moore making plays. And I think the little guy's going to get more of those opportunities as the Steelers continue to grow into what I think will be more of a passing team in 2009.
The running back I like least on that team is Frank Summers, the rookie fullback. He doesn't seem to understand what's going on. He's missing plenty of blocks, and that's affecting everything. That definitely has to be addressed off the field this week.
The bigger problem, though, is the offensive line. They have no continuity. On top of not being able to protect Ben Roethlisberger, they're letting running backs get hit before they reach the line of scrimmage. There's not a lot any back can do in that situation.
This problem isn't anything new, and I blame the coaching staff for not addressing the line in the offseason. How did they rationalize not doing anything about it? Well, they won a Super Bowl. They won't be so lucky twice in a row. If Ben continues to get hit the way he did Thursday -- the same way he did last year, then this will come back to haunt the Steelers. Ben will get hurt. Ben will miss games. And they don't have a line to run behind without Ben. Pittsburgh can't repeat with the line playing like this.
4. Like it or not, Eagles fans, I see a quarterback controversy coming in Philadelphia. If Donovan McNabb is unable to play with his broken rib, then I think Andy Reid goes with Kevin Kolb for a week -- and that's not really a strong option -- before giving Michael Vick an opportunity in Week 3. Vick would get the Chiefs. Talk about a stacked deck.
I honestly believe Reid sees Vick as more than just a weapon or a Wildcat guy. I think he wants Vick to be the next guy there in Philly. Not right now -- because Donovan still provides the best chance to win -- but soon. It would be such an easy transition, right? Look at Donovan's early years: he was a runner. When things broke down he made plays with his feet. Andy Reid has built that into his offense, and in Vick he sees a guy who not only knows the West Coast offense but who can kind of give him a time warp at quarterback. The transition to Vick should be an easy one.
So Reid will tempt fate, risk a quarterback controversy, and play Vick when he's eligible. It beats playing Kolb again. Donovan McNabb is a guy who's been hurt before. It's going to happen again. And whether Andy Reid wants to say it or not, Michael Vick, not Kolb, is his backup. He needs to see what Mike can do. This situation really provides the perfect opportunity to play Vick without having to bench Donovan.
5. Who was surprised by the Cardinals' loss to a mediocre 49ers team? Not me. It's not like the Cardinals dropped off. This isn't a Super Bowl loser's curse. That game tells me that the Cardinals are the same exact team that went 9-7 in the regular season last year. That was barely an above average football team that got hot at the right time. I wasn't surprised in the least.