http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/01/23/news/sports/sports03.txt Playoff success puts Delhomme at the top Let's make a trade. Jake Delhomme for Peyton Manning, straight up. Not interested? OK, fine I'll throw in Marvin Harrison. That exchange would probably never happen in real life, between NFL general managers or even fantasy league novices. Most of the nation is starting to notice though that Delhomme is a lot more Tom Brady than Manning, and not just because they had draft day anxiety coming out of college. Delhomme went undrafted coming out of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which is located just minutes from his hometown of Breaux Bridge, La. He spent the years 1998 through 2002 bouncing between the NFL Europe and playing second or third string quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, backing up such football luminaries as Billie Joe Tolliver, Jeff Blake, and Aaron Brooks. Delhomme signed with the Panthers as a free agent in 2003 and transformed from Ã¢â‚¬Å“Who the heck is that guy?Ã¢â‚¬ to Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why the heck didn't we sign that guy?Ã¢â‚¬ by leading Carolina to its first Super Bowl. Manning, on the other hand, was practically born into NFL royalty. The son of Archie Manning, Peyton was the nation's top recruited quarterback in high school, and re-wrote the University of Tennessee's record books in college. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft, has two MVP trophies, seven Pro Bowl appearances and holds the league record with 49 touchdown passes in a season. He will also be watching the remainder of the playoffs on the best television he can buy with his $99 million contract. While Delhomme's regular season numbers may never get him into the Pro Bowl, this Sunday, he will be taking on the Seattle Seahawks in the second NFC Championship game of his three-year tenure as an NFL starting quarterback. In fact, if you were to throw out the regular NFL season, Delhomme would be the better pick in a landslide. His 5-1 playoff record makes Manning look like an underachiever. In those six playoff games, Delhomme's 108.4 quarterback rating is the highest in playoff history among players with at least 150 pass attempts. Higher than Brady. Higher than Bart Starr, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw or Kurt Warner, whom Delhomme backed up while playing in NFL Europe. Delhomme completed 62 percent of his passes in that stretch, with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Manning, on the other hand has a 60 percent completion rate in the playoffs and has 15 touchdowns and eight picks, good for a passer rating that's just a hair above 89. Most disappointing of all, though, is Manning's 3-6 playoff record, and failure to carry his team when it really matters. When you're a No. 1 overall pick with a $99 million contract, you're supposed to do these things. In fact, despite Manning's God-like football status in high school, college and the NFL, he has yet to win a championship at any level. His high school teams lost only six games in Manning's three years as a starter, but three of those games were in the state playoffs. At the University of Tennessee, Manning ran up a 39-6 record over four years. Yet, he still never tasted a championship. The Volunteers would get over the hump the year after Manning left, under the legendary (in Knoxville) quarterback Tee Martin. So why the flip-flop in performance? How can Manning be so good in the regular season, but mediocre in the playoffs? How does Delhomme manage the opposite? When Delhomme is asked why he's been so successful, he gives the typical answer: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Two times I have been on teams that started to play their best football at this time of year,Ã¢â‚¬ Delhomme said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When you have good players around you, they make you look good. I'm lucky enough to have good players around me.Ã¢â‚¬ Perhaps, but are the Panthers better than the Colts teams Manning has played with? Not by that much. Delhomme said a draft day snub is not the kiss of death for an NFL quarterback. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tom Brady has done all right for a sixth round pick,Ã¢â‚¬ he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think we cherish the opportunity when we get it. That's the biggest thing. We had to come into the NFL almost through the back door. We like it here, and we don't want to have to leave.Ã¢â‚¬ Delhomme won't have to worry about that anytime soon, but with DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis out for the year with injuries, he does have to worry about carrying this Panther offense to another Super Bowl. If he can do that, America will have yet another quarterback rags-to-riches story. n Dennis Pillion can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 118, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.