This season was probably the last chance for the Arizona Cardinals to contend for a title. Their main core of players is getting older, and their window of opportunity seems to be rapidly closing. To make matters worse, quarterback Carson Palmer is now out for at least two months after breaking his arm in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
This is just the latest in a long series of injuries that have derailed Palmer’s career. Drafted number 1 overall in 2003 coming out of USC, he seemed destined for superstardom.
He had it all. The size, the arm, the winning pedigree and a Heisman Trophy to boot.
The Cincinnati Bengals already had a budding young star receiver in Chad Johnson, and it was expected that this combination would devastate defenses and lead to many great playoff victories.
Maybe even a championship.
At the beginning of Palmer’s career, he met, if not exceeded, all expectations. During the 2005 season, he threw a league-leading 32 touchdown passes and was considered an MVP contender.
He and Johnson dominated opposing defenses and led the way for the Bengal’s first playoff appearance in 15 years.
This set up a Wild-Card round showdown against the arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. After so many years of losing, there was finally hope that this would be the year the Bengals broke through and became one of the NFL’s elite teams.
That didn’t last long. On the opening play of Cincinnati’s first series, Steelers’ Defensive Tackle Kimo Von Oelhoffen ran into Palmer’s left knee, tearing his ACL and MCL, ensuring a Bengals loss.
Although Palmer was eventually able to recover from this injury that was described by one of his doctors as “Potentially career ending”, he was never quite the same.
He played well in 2006, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, but after that, his play began to decline. After 2006, he wouldn’t finish any of his remaining seasons with the Bengals with a passer rating above 90.
Palmer would also suffer a UCL tear in 2008 that would hinder him even further.
After eight mostly disappointing seasons in Cincinnati, which weren’t entirely his fault, Palmer requested a trade. He was eventually dealt to the Oakland Raiders, where he would struggle through back-to back loosing seasons before being traded again to Arizona prior to the 2013 season.
He played well in his first year and a half under new head coach Bruce Arian’s scheme, but he injured his knee again in 2014. At that point, it appeared he was all but done.
However, in 2015 Palmer would rebound to have what was arguably the best season of his career. He threw for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 104.6.
He also led the Cardinals to an appearance in the NFC Championship game. Even though they were steamrolled by the Panthers, it was still considered to be a successful season for the Cardinals and Palmer, who was awarded Comeback Player of the year honors.
Now, Palmer once again finds himself on the sidelines. He turns 38 years old in December, and is running out of opportunities. He probably has one, maybe two good years left if he stays healthy, but that’s been proven not to be a safe bet with him.
At this point, one can only look back on Palmer’s career and think “what if?” What if he hadn’t shredded his knee in that playoff game? What if he were drafted into an organization that was more willing to surround him with a capable supporting cast? What if he had hooked up with an offensive mind like Adrian’s sooner?
I’m not saying that Palmer does not bear at least some responsibility for his career being somewhat underwhelming, but he had all the physical and mental attributes necessary for a Hall of Fame caliber career.
I know it. You know it. And you can be damn sure he knows it too.