Less than half a season after Jake Delhomme left the NFL, he’s back again.
Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak confirmed Tuesday evening that the former Teurlings Catholic and Ragin’ Cajun standout quarterback agreed to a contract Tuesday to back up rookie quarterback T. J. Yates for at least the balance of the 2011 season.
“Some coaches I talked to spoke real highly of Jake,” Kubiak told the Houston Chronicle. “They think he’ll fit in perfectly with what we were looking for. I think he’s a good fit with T.J.”
Delhomme emerged from a Tuesday tryout that also included former NFL starter Jeff Garcia, ending the half-season retirement of the Cajuns’ all-time passing leader.
The move doesn’t come as a surprise for the Texans, who are quarterback-challenged after starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart were both sidelined with injuries within the past month. Schaub, the Texans’ starter for several seasons, ended his season with a broken foot, while Leinart broke his left collarbone last Sunday and is also gone for the year.
It is a bit of a surprise, though, for friends who’ve talked to Delhomme over the past few weeks. The Breaux Bridge native – optimistic to a fault even when times in Carolina were tough – appeared happy … no, thrilled, to be spending his first fall at home in nearly two decades. At Teurlings’ first-round playoff win, the guy everyone knows as just “Jake” was on the sidelines, watching his nephew play, and was talking about going to his kids’ soccer games.
But anyone who knows him knows how hot his competitive fires burn, and more than anything that’s why he came to terms with the second-closest NFL team to Acadiana.
Kubiak told the Texans’ web site that he was after a quarterback “who’s been in a few rodeos.” Delhomme played 10 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns, starting 96 games and seeing his most success with the Panthers, who he compiled a 5-3 playoff record with. One of those playoff games was Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, which was played at the Texans’ Reliant Stadium home.
The bare numbers – 1,723 of 2,094 completions (59.3 percent) for 20,674 yards and 125 scores – don’t provide a complete picture of his value to the Panthers during those seasons. But after 2009 he was released by that club at age 34 in a youth movement – and Carolina cratered to a 2-14 season in 2010.
Delhomme played in five games in an injury-plagued 2010 season for the Browns and helped tutor then-rookie QB Colt McCoy. The Texans are hoping he’ll provide similar tutelage to Yates, a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina last year suddenly thrust into the starting role.
The team’s hope is that Yates can guide the Texans to the playoffs, but now they have an option should trouble arise. That would be a nice birthday present for Delhomme, who turns 37 right after the New Year.
Long-time agent Rick Smith cites Houston’s quarterback-friendly system as one reason Delhomme agreed to terms. “Jake is fired up and ready to go, and he’ll do everything he can to support T.J.,” Smith said to ESPN late Tuesday.
“He’s a leader and a good person,” Kubiak told the Chronicle. “He’s played in big games. He’s got West Coast (offense) verbiage in his background. He was so upbeat about coming here. I was impressed. He’s just a very impressive guy.”