A year ago, Derek Anderson was starting at quarterback for the Cardinals heading into the opener at St. Louis. The Cards won that day, 17-13, and Anderson threw the game-winning touchdown pass. Then, as everyone knows, it unraveled from there.
Anderson and the Cardinals will be in the same building again Sunday in the opener, except this time, Anderson could be the Carolina Panthers’ backup to rookie starter Cam Newton. Because of the lockout, Anderson remained on the Cards’ roster until right before training camp, but that was always just a formality. As soon as teams started making moves, Anderson was released. He caught on with Carolina because his former offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Rob Chudzinski, was now on the Panthers’ staff, and head coach Ron Rivera wanted a veteran presence. He not only worked out, he might’ve surpassed Jimmy Clausen on the depth chart (Rivera isn’t saying) and, Newton said, became a mentor.
“(He’s had a) big impact. Big impact,” Newton said. “His presence alone is good for our meeting room. Especially being in coach Chudzinski’s offense (before) he helps our coaches out. I know he’s been a big help for me and Jimmy in terms of our maturation for this offense. He’s been a good person to talk to about what this offense’s philosophy is. He had a Pro Bowl season in this offense so he knows the ins and outs, but more than that, he’s been a good teammate. He always has an upbeat mentality.”
That mentality was severely tested during Anderson’s lone season in Arizona. His inconsistent play forced him in and out of the lineup, the offense struggled all year, and it all came to a head during a Monday night blowout loss against San Francisco in which TV cameras caught Anderson laughing on the sideline talking to guard Deuce Lutui when the Cards were down big. Asked about it afterward, Anderson lost his cool in the postgame press conference, and that video — more than any game footage — was what got played over and over.
Anderson told the Charlotte Observer Lutui was trying to make Anderson feel better after Anderson had been getting grief from a fan in the University of Phoenix Stadium stands. “Deuce just said, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got your back no matter what happens.’ And I just kind of grinned at it,” Anderson said. “Obviously, I put a lot of time and effort into things and I don’t take anything like that lightly. I wasn’t laughing because we were losing.
“It was the frustration of kind of the whole season and how things had gone. A lot of time and effort had been put into things. I know that everybody on the team probably felt the same way. They were all just as frustrated as I was,” Anderson added. “I was trying to do everything I could every single week to plan something that was going to get us going. We couldn’t get it going. And it was kind of an accumulation of a lot of things.”
Anderson said he didn’t get enough reps in the offseason and training camp last year to feel comfortable in the offense because he was playing behind Matt Leinart the whole time. Not that it mattered. Anderson’s stats last season pretty much mirrored his career numbers. He was exactly what he could have been expected to be — which is why Anderson is now a Panther, and Kevin Kolb became the Cards’ top offseason target.
Tags: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, Panthers
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