Scott Fowler

Jake Delhomme on Cam Newton, Panthers playoff hopes and his broadcasting style

Jake Delhomme, who won five playoff games as the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback from 2003-09 and remains one of the most popular players in team history, returns to the team this year as its primary radio analyst.

And as you’ll see from some of what Delhomme said Wednesday about Cam Newton’s arm strength, the Panthers’ playoff chances and other topics, he won’t be short on opinions.

The long-rumored move to the booth for Delhomme was made official by the Panthers on Wednesday. Delhomme, who lives with his family in Louisiana, plans to broadcast all eight of Carolina’s regular-season home games in 2019. He will also work the road games in New Orleans and Houston.

Jordan Gross, the former Panthers offensive tackle who, like Delhomme, enters the team’s Hall of Honor later this year, will be Carolina’s game analyst for the remaining six games. He and Delhomme will work alongside Mick Mixon, who will broadcast games for his 15th consecutive season as the Panthers’ radio play-by-play voice. Jim Szoke also returns for his 25th straight year as a color commentator in the radio booth.

Eugene Robinson, who was the team’s game analyst for the previous 17 seasons, had earlier been relieved from those duties. But the Panthers also announced that Robinson will still contribute to the team’s pregame and postgame shows.

Delhomme watched the Panthers’ joint practices against Buffalo this week and later shared his thoughts on the team with a small group of reporters. Lightly edited excerpts from that conversation are below.

Cam Newton has surpassed almost all of former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme’s franchise records, although Delhomme still leads Newton in playoff victories by a 5-3 margin. David T. Foster III

Q: How does Cam look to you?

A: I think Cam looks very good. I don’t think arm strength is an issue. He looks extremely fit.

(Former Panthers defensive end) Mike Rucker and I were speaking yesterday. A play happened where one of the (Buffalo) defensive ends kind of came free. They (the Panthers) completed it for a big play and the defense is hollering, “Sack!”

I said, ‘That’s a sack -- on me. That’s not a sack on him.’ That’s hard to recreate in practice, what he can do. Because Cam can just push somebody back, or hang a little longer. Whereas me? They’re going to just throw me like a rag doll. You watch him in practice and he’s done some great things.

Q: What’s the high and low end for the 2019 Panthers?

A: I think this has the makings of a playoff team. I really think we’re good up front on defense. We can wreak some havoc on defense up front. And if you wreak havoc up front, that will speed up the back end. Getting (safety) Tre Boston was going to be big. A veteran presence back there, along with Eric Reid. Two young corners. So we can cause some problems.

Q: What else has impressed you after viewing practice?

A: Christian McCaffrey. We’re seeing something special before our own eyes there.

And DJ (Moore) – expect a big jump from him. And Curtis Samuel. He’s a rocket. Greg (Olsen) looks good. They’ve got a chance, offensively. Shore up a position or two on the offensive line; see what happens.

Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, left, talks with center Ryan Kalil. Delhomme led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance, where he threw for 211 yards in the fourth quarter in a losing cause against New England. Jeff Siner

Q: Was it a difficult decision to become the team’s radio analyst?

A: I don’t think it was difficult at all. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. My girls (Delhomme and his wife have two daughters) love football -- especially my oldest. She’s one of the few Panther fans in Louisiana, and she’s loud and proud about it. They want to come up for every game. This is a good time in my life to do this.

Q: Why only do 10 regular-season games then, instead of the full 16?

A: I wanted to kind of slowly step into it. And it kind of worked out in that way. Jordan (Gross) is going to do (the) other ones. We think it will work.

Q: Do you think broadcasting will be a natural fit for you?

A: I hope so. I called some high school games when I got cut from the Saints my first year, in 1997, before I got brought back on the practice squad. I did some high school games.

I love football. I love watching it. I love listening to announcers. If I’m in my car on a Monday or Thursday night, I’m finding the national game on TV and I’m listening to it. I like hearing it.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme’ -- hugging wide receiver Steve Smith after a 2008 win -- still lives in Louisiana but will fly to Charlotte each home-game weekend to broadcast all eight of the Panthers’ regular-season games in Charlotte. Jeff Siner

Q: What will your broadcasting style be?

A: I’m going to be me. Sometimes, I think less is more. I don’t want to have diarrhea of the mouth, I’ll be very honest with you. You call the game as you see it. You make it relatable to the fans at home. And hopefully I don’t screw it up.

Q: You may have just seen the Panthers’ final practice at Wofford College, although the team hasn’t announced where training camp will be next year. What are your memories of Wofford?

A: It’s been 10 years since I’ve been back – 2009 was my last season (with Carolina). I loved coming to Spartanburg. I really and truly did. It’s very unique when you walk down the little pathway and see the fans, before and after. You really appreciate their enthusiasm.

This was a hidden gem, I’m telling you. These fields? There are not many NFL fields as good as these. I talked to a lot of Buffalo coaches and they’re like, “This is a great setup. This is fantastic.”

Whether it’s the last year or not (for Spartanburg), I’m not quite sure. But the NFL landscape is changing. Guys are in better shape, year-round. We came in to get in shape. That’s how it used to be in the ‘80s and ‘90s. These guys are finely tuned.

I really and truly think it’s special here. The last two mornings, I signed autographs for 30 minutes. Watching grandparents bring their grandkids (to camp) -- that’s what I remember most. After practice sometimes, you might not want to sign. But, c’mon, man. There’s just something about connecting with the fans.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for the Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also is the host of the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth.”