So Carson is not the savior we thought he was, but drafting a QB would be a disaster...
I've been an active member of Cincy Jungle for years, religiously participating in Game Day open threads, checking the site on an hourly basis, and generally living and dying by the Bengals. This season is the toughest I can remember.
That said, rather than burning the team down and starting over, I think the Bengals need only to look at their compadres in the AFC North to realize how to bring the team back to championship contention. Keep in mind, I'm assuming the current coaching staff will be let go immediately following the season (I wish Marvin well, I hope Brat goes and opens a CFL franchise in Yellowknife, whereupon he gets in a fight with an angry Polar Bear). The Steelers and Ravens (and to some extent the Browns) have built up teams around a foundation of physicality - mainly among the Offensive and Defensive lines.
A good offensive line can give a mediocre QB time to 1) either make the right read, 2) throw the ball away, or 3) pull the ball down and gain a few yards. A good defensive line can keep a mediocre team in games by 1) pressuring the opposing QB (hopefully creating some turnovers) and 2) disrupting the running game (shortening drives and giving the offense more opportunities). The Steelers could win for years without a legit QB (and when they found one, they got two more rings) mainly because they outmuscled their opponents at the point of attack. Ditto for the Ravens (absent the rings, of course). Even the Browns have shown life by being able to control games with a fairly dominant line.
Under new coaching, maybe Palmer can be an effective game manager for a year or two, allowing a competent coaching staff to develop a young QB to eventually take over the reigns. The playcalling is so atrocious that, though Palmer is having an awful year when it matters, it is really hard for me to pin it all on him.
My solution - keep Palmer (with a reduced contract, if possible), get rid of TO and Chad, and draft lineman on both sides of the ball. They have a money combination of Shipley and Gresham who, in the right system, can provide that short passing game necessary to win "AFC-North style." Draft a physical RB in the mid rounds and (for the love of God) have a real FB on the roster. Defensively, the Bengals CBs could be dominant with a pass rush. A veteran safety is a need that can be addressed via free agency. Cut ties with Dhani Jones and stop playing Rey Rey out of position. Vincent Rey and Muckelroy played well in the preseason, see what they bring to the table on Sundays.
History proves (for the most part) that consistently good teams are built from the line outward rather than skill positions inward. Drafting a QB high is high risk/high reward - a game this franchise has played and lost too many times. Go with the percentages and go after the "non-flashy" players that actually win games, rather than flashy players that all to often lose games.
And the Bengals will beat the Browns on Sunday.