CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers do not have a quarterback controversy.
Let’s just end this once and for all.
We’re obviously not talking about the starting job. Barring a setback with rehab from shoulder surgery Cam Newton will start the Sept. 10 season opener at San Francisco.
This is about the backup job.
Because Derek Anderson has thrown an interception in each of the last two preseason games and the offense has struggled under him, because Joe Webb looked good in the first two games, it has raised the question about whether Webb should be the backup.
It shouldn’t be a question.
Anderson, for the most part, has gone against the opponent’s first-team or second-team defense while taking the reps for Newton. He was the victim of poor field position two weeks ago against Tennessee and a fumble by wide receiver Devin Funchess on the first possession.
He had a hard act to follow on Thursday night at Jacksonville after Newton directed perfect 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the first series of his preseason debut. He also was playing with the backup center.
That’s no excuse for the interception. It was a bad throw. As coach Ron Rivera said, “He put the ball out in front of [tight end Ed] Dickson more than anything else.’’
Rivera also said he was not concerned about Anderson’s play that has been so solid in the past that in July ESPN ranked Carolina’s backup situation the fourth best in the NFL.
“It happens,’’ he said.
Statistically, Webb stands out. He has completed 12 of 20 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He has a passer rating of 111.5.
Anderson has completed 21 of 36 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 63.4.
But Webb racked up his numbers mostly against backups and players who won’t make a roster. He also has a strained neck that kept him from playing against the Jaguars.
Anderson is the best option if something were to happen to Newton during the season or if the 2015 NFL MVP wasn’t ready for the opener, which doesn’t seem likely at this point. He knows the offense and typically runs it efficiently.
Look at what he did in 2014 when Newton was out. He went 2-0, completing 67 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
He did struggle in two games as the starter last season, throwing five interceptions to two touchdowns. One of his picks came on his only play against the Seahawks because Newton was being punished for not wearing a tie on the flight to Seattle. The pass also ricocheted off the hands of fullback Mike Tolbert to make for the easy interception.
But Anderson’s experience makes him the easy choice as Newton’s backup. Webb has started only two games, both with Minnesota in 2010, and has been primarily a wide receiver and special teams player since.
Sure, he has had good command of the offense during the preseason. But he had good command of the offense a year ago, compiling a 92.4 passer rating to Anderson’s 78.4, and he remained the third quarterback.
If Webb wasn’t so valuable on special teams he likely wouldn’t make the 53-man roster. Not simply as a backup quarterback.
Both will see a lot of time in Thursday’s preseason finale against Pittsburgh. Unless Rivera wants another look at Newton and other key starters, which he hasn’t since Newton’s rookie season in 2011, we’ve seen all we will of No. 1 until San Francisco.
There’s really no reason to risk Anderson other than to develop some rhythm that has been missing the past two weeks. Webb, if the neck is all right, could get the start as he did in last year’s preseason finale in which Anderson didn’t play.
So it’s time to quash any talk of a backup quarterback controversy.
There isn’t one.