Carson Palmer: I Got Your Back

An article appeared this past week on Yahoo! Sports written by Matt Reevy and he ranked the seven worst quarterbacks in the NFL.  Our very own Carson Palmer came in at #6 on that list.  I am throwing my red flag challenge on that call.

Look, I get it.  Palmer has not been posting barnstorming numbers over the seasons that followed his glory days in Cincinnati.  He has thrown more than his share of interceptions but he did surpass 4,000 yards passing in each of his last two seasons.

Further, his second half of the 2013 season was strong, including masterful performances and victories against Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Tennessee, each of which included quarterback ratings over 100.

It is said that the past is a fairly good predictor of the future, and Palmer’s past has not been all that bright.  However, this saying is not always true, and when it comes to Carson Palmer,  I have five critical points to support my claim that he is anything but among the league’s worst quarterbacks:

Palmer played for only one season under the offensive system of Bruce Arians in his inaugural year with the Cardinals.  This represented Palmer’s fourth different offensive system in four years, dating back to 2010 with the Bengals, part of 2011 under Hue Jackson in Oakland, 2012 under Dennis Allen in Oakland and then his first season in Arizona in 2013.  This coming season will be the first in five years in which Palmer is starting a season using the same offensive system he ended with in the prior season.  That bodes well for an improved performance.

Second, Palmer will be operating under a Bruce Arians’ scheme.  Coach Arians’ resume includes being the first NFL quarterback coach for Peyton Manning, serving as the offensive coordinator for the successful Steelers’ offenses from 2007-2011 and being the glue that kept the 2012 Colts together during head coach Chuck Pagano’s illness.  Arians is well-respected by those in the know and some view him to be an offensive guru.  His overall approach will serve to maximize Palmer’s skill set.

Third, Palmer’s suffering behind the porous offensive line of the past for the Cardinals may be coming to an end in 2014.  Aside from the unrecognized but Pro Bowl caliber work of perennial stalwart Lyle Sendlein at center, the remainder of the O-Line has been known in prior seasons far more for what it is not rather than for what it is.  This was compounded by the injury to 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper, who was supposed to be an answer at left guard but did not take one regular season snap.  In 2013, the Cards cut ties with Levi Brown, who was certainly a major draft bust, electing to go with a completely untested free agent at left tackle rather than Brown, a first round (fifth overall) draft pick, to fill this critical role.  That gives you an idea as to how much the Cardinals wanted to “add by subtraction” when dealing with good old Levi.  Unlike past seasons, the Cardinals go into the 2014 season with Sendlein as a fixture at center, flanked by Cooper at guard for what should be a great career, barring injuries, flanked by Jared Veldheer, signed as a free agent from Oakland during the off season, to play the pivotal role at left tackle.

Additionally, the Cardinals have developed a far more diverse offense than seasons past and this will play right into Palmer’s wheelhouse.  No longer is it “look for Larry Fitzgerald, find Larry Fitzgerald, get Larry Fitzgerald the ball.”  Palmer has many targets, including the rising stardom of Michael Floyd, as well the running back who I feel was the steal of the draft in 2013, Andre Ellington, selected in the sixth round.  There are upgrades at tight-end with the addition of John Carlson and depth at running back with another great draft choice from last year, Stepfan Taylor. Proven pounder Jonathan Dwyer fills out the running attack.  It has been some time since Palmer has had this much talent to work with at skill positions.

Lastly, Palmer has pedigree.  He won the Heisman in 2002.  He did that under highly respected offensive coordinator Norm Chow.  (Chow won the 2002 Broyles Award, which is given to the top collegiate assistant football coach.)  After being selected first overall by the Bengals in 2003, Palmer led the 2005 Bengals to its first winning season in 15 years.  He became the first-ever Bengal quarterback to finish the season with a quarterback rating over 100.  He was heading to elite status until he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the first round of the playoffs following the 2005 season.  His drive and determination allowed him to return to action for the Bengals’ season opener in 2006, defying the predictions of many medical experts that he would miss most of the next season.  He went on to play in every game of that season.  Palmer is not the same guy he was before injuries took their toll, but he still has heart.  This is what winners are made of and Palmer doesn’t know any other way.

Carson Palmer: One of the seven worst quarterbacks in the NFL?  Not even close!  But I will let his work do the talking.  I am confident that by the 2014 season’s end, Yahoo! Sports will have some crow to eat, served Cardinal style.