- Associated Press - Monday, November 22, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Less than two years after going 12-4 and winning the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers have become the front-runner in a much different competition: Securing the worst record in the NFL and the ensuing top pick in the draft.

After an offseason youth movement that’s produced shockingly little depth and the league’s worst offense, the Panthers (1-9) sunk to the bottom of the NFL on Sunday in a day of new lows.

There was the sight of journeyman Brian St. Pierre becoming the first quarterback in seven years to have interceptions returned for touchdowns on consecutive passes in the 37-13 loss to Baltimore. Perhaps an even uglier display for owner Jerry Richardson was at least half the crowd at Bank of America Stadium was rooting for the Ravens.

Now with St. Pierre saying Monday his right shoulder was “pretty tender” to further complicate the QB carousel, the Panthers will spend the week being reminded of the big offseason decision to dump seven-year starting QB Jake Delhomme. He’s spent an injury-plagued season with Sunday’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns.

“Looking back, sitting here at 1-9, I’m not sure how many moves were right,” coach John Fox said. “And that’s not being critical of anybody, other than just hindsight is always 20-20.”

With Fox in the final year of his contract and not expected to return, the Panthers must dig deep to remain motivated in a nightmare season of four quarterbacks, 10 touchdowns and 28 turnovers.

Fox said he’d probably find out by Wednesday if rookie Jimmy Clausen would be cleared to practice following a concussion sustained Nov. 14. Fox indicated he’d return to the second-round pick from Notre Dame as the starter if he’s healthy.

“I would say if he’s cleared that’s probably more than likely,” Fox said.

That would end the bizarre St. Pierre experiment. Out of the league and a stay-at-home dad until he was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 12 following Matt Moore’s season-ending shoulder injury, St. Pierre was promoted to the active roster four days later when Clausen was injured.

Fox then chose the eight-year veteran of five NFL passes to start over rookie Tony Pike against the Ravens.

After an almost comical offensive game plan devoid of anything longer than a 5-yard pass through three quarters, St. Pierre suddenly found David Gettis for an 88-yard touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter to get Carolina within 20-13.

But after a Ravens field goal, the 30-year-old St. Pierre unraveled in 11 seconds. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis had interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, turning a tight game into a rout.

According to STATS LLC, the last QB to have two picks returned for scores on consecutive plays was Detroit’s Joey Harrington in 2003 against Minnesota. Yet with Fox not believing Pike is ready, Fox is leaning toward going with St. Pierre again against the Browns if Clausen isn’t cleared.

“I’m not saying it’s ideal, but I think we would pursue the avenue that will help us,” Fox said. “He would be in consideration, no doubt.”

But St. Pierre was complaining of shoulder pain Monday that surfaced toward the end of last week and got worse in the second half Sunday.

Story Continues →