CHARLOTTE -- It's not that the Carolina Panthers don't have the right quarterback, it's that they've got too many, and the ones playing aren't playing well enough.
Coach John Fox was running down the laundry list of problems from Sunday's 37-6 loss to Jacksonville, when the bedrock problem was named.
"We weren't as consistent throwing the ball as we needed to be," Fox said. "When we have been, we've been in games, and when we haven't been, we've not."
The Panthers were a miserable 16-of-38 passing for 105 yards Sunday, with an interception returned for a touchdown and a combined rating of 38.7.
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Fox pulled starter Vinny Testaverde in the fourth quarter in favor of rookie Matt Moore. He was noncommittal Monday about the future rotation now that they're 5-8 and out of all but the most ridiculous playoff scenarios, but seemed to indicate he wasn't looking to change.
"We're going to evaluate that," Fox said when asked if the 44-year-old Testaverde would start again. "You're well aware of our options, and so are we."
The Panthers are one of five teams in the league who've started three different quarterbacks (with Atlanta joining the list Monday with Chris Redman). Those teams are a combined 18-46, not counting the Falcons' late game. Minnesota's the only one with more than five wins, but the Vikings have the league's best rushing offense and defense to help soften the blow of bouncing from Tarvaris Jackson to Kelly Holcomb to Brooks Bollinger.
The 12 teams that have started just one quarterback are a combined 104-51 (entering Monday's New Orleans game) and the 15 teams starting two quarterbacks are 85-110.
As frustrating as it is, the Panthers have to slog through these last three games with what's on hand, and that's Testaverde and Moore since it's apparent David Carr's time is drawing nigh.
When asked about his hesitance to go with Moore, who's turned in six relief appearances and has a miserable rating of 21.1, Fox seemed to point to more Testaverde time.
"Really my concern right now is to put the guys out there that we think give us the best chance to win," Fox said. "Whoever that will be out there will be deemed as such. Sometimes the worst thing you can do for young players is to put them out there."
Fox suggested he might go with the current setup, and have Moore come in late in games.
"We've done that," he said. "I don't think he's been lights-out by any stretch in that time. He just gained some needed experience, which is important for all rookies."
Moore said Monday he's looking forward to whatever chance he gets, if only to improve on his 3-of-10 day that featured as many missed chances as Testaverde had.
"Any opportunity's good," Moore said. "If they're going to be there, nobody knows. Just like the previous weeks, if my number's called, I have to go in there and run the offense."
Moore has a built-in cautionary tale in Carr, who was wrecked by playing for bad teams (a 22-53 record in Houston) before coming to Carolina damaged and proving that this season.
Moore said "I don't think so" when asked if he was concerned a similar thing might happen.
"You're only going to learn from playing," he said. "Good situation, bad situation, you've got to go out there and do your job. Really, there ain't no more to it than that.
"If I'm in the game, I've got to go play and that's it. Regardless the score, or who's in the game or whatever."
Either way, whoever's in there has to get better. Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith's gone seven games without finding the end zone (since Arizona, Testaverde's first game), and without him being involved, the offense hasn't been able to keep the weary defense off the field.
They ran trick plays a week ago to beat San Francisco, but weren't able to find Smith or anyone against the Jaguars.
"We threw the ball deep some; some of it was out of bounds, but there were some deep balls," Fox said. "It's been difficult to get the ball to any of them, really. We've struggled in that area.
"Jeff King (who Testaverde missed for what would have been a touchdown) comes to mind. We had a couple opportunities there, we just didn't get the ball to them."
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