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The Fate of a Franchise: The Carson Palmer Story

It was 2002 and I was enjoying my first year of watching football. I was just 12, but I was instantly drawn to the team and it become my passion. I watched as my team looked lost, confused, and was beaten to a pulp constantly. My team was in need of a hero and that hero came in the form of Carson Palmer. Drafted number one overall in 2003, Carson was pronounced as the “savior” of my beloved Bengals. The Heisman trophy winner instantly became my favorite athlete ever. As 2003 chugged along with a warrior QB named Kitna, I couldn’t help but look towards the man sitting on the bench waiting for his turn to lead the team. Flash forward to 2005. Carson Palmer is fresh off the regular season in which he put up Bengals passing records, got selected to the Pro bowl, beat the rival Steelers in their house, and won the AFC north championship. Coming off of arguably the greatest regular season for a Bengals QB, his next challenge was to take down the Steelers one more time in the first round of the 2005-2006 playoffs.

However, what should have been one of the greatest days in Bengals history ended in horror. On the second play from scrimmage Carson completed a 66 yard bomb to Chris Henry. I wasn’t cheering for long. As he let go of the ball I could see his knee buckle, and my fears were confirmed a few seconds later when the camera panned back to my all pro QB cringing on the turf. His ACL and MCL where both shredded and he was out for the season. The Bengals went on to lose to their rivals, and they had what many fans believe to be their Superbowl, snatched away from them. The championship was lost and Carson’s future was up in the air.

Many believe that fateful night was the defining point of Palmer’s career. However, I believe it was not the injury to his knee that could define his career, but the one to his elbow he suffered nearly 3 years later. Carson spent the better part of 2006 and 2007 coming back from his injuries and returning to his Pro bowl form. In 2008 he suffered the injury to his elbow that is still having ripple effects today. He missed the majority of 2008 and decided against “Tommy John surgery.” He let it heal naturally and was ready to go for 2009. Palmer then lead his team to his second division title of his career. En route to the AFC north championship, Palmer led late game rallies against the Browns, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Broncos, Cheifs and Jets while winning most of them. However, Carson’s numbers trailed off, his production fell, and eventually lost to the Jets with a horrible performance in the first round of the playoffs. Some blame the lack of much talent at the wide receiver position (I can second that), some blame the team was to focused on the run and it kept Palmer out of rhythm, while others blame his hurt elbow. I have to be honest something was clearly wrong with Carson near the end of last year. He was throwing balls high, low, wide and everywhere but the direction of the receiver.

I think that the true issue with Carson is that he suffered from a tired arm and not a hurt one. I say this because there was games (Chargers) that Carson looked as good if not better than his 2005 self. His arm wore down due to the immense number of passes he threw in 2009. Palmer was on record as saying that he had already thrown more than a training camps number of passes before camp even started.This caused his arm to go limp near the end of the year and hindered his “golden arm” accuracy and power. His knee injury defiantly has effected his mechanics, but this elbow injury if not healed, could be the truly damning factor of his career. His overworked arm has now taken an off-season to rest and for once Carson is not rehabbing any huge injury. On a much more laxd summer throwing regimen, Carson should be 110% come the start of the season and beyond. He is a top 3 QB in the league when completely healthy and I expect him to be much better in 2010 as he also has a much stronger supporting cast.

Palmer will either have solid years until he retires as a Bengal, or he struggles and Cincinnati becomes the next Philly and runs him out of town. Carson is still the best shot to get to the NFL’s “promised land” and as Bengals fans we need to believe in our QB and stop drilling the nail in his coffin. Just one Superbowl will erase nearly 50 years worth of losing, injuries, heartbreak and suffering from the Bengals faithful and would propel Carson into legendary Bengals status. The man has faced injuries, being on bad teams, doubters, and tough losses that where out of his control. Feel free to comment, where do you think Palmers story will end? As the man who had a world of talent but couldn’t get it done? Or as the Bengals first Superbowl winning QB?

We will see what the future has to offer from him, but in the meantime all the doubters should watch this video from his 2009 season and see the glimpses he showed of being that old all pro. – Carson Palmer 2009 Highlights

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