We wrote on March 22 that the Cincinnati Bengals will be hosting Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph on April 13; a date that encompasses several schools near the Tri-State area. The team's need for backup quarterbacks was brought up earlier this morning in our Bengals Banter, when a post writen by Marc Hardin wrote that "J.T. O'Sullivan (9 TDs in 8 starts in 8 seasons with 6 teams) and Jordan Palmer (12 career attempts, 25.3 passer rating in 2 seasons) are the current backups." I don't care what anyone says. That doesn't inspire much confidence if Carson Palmer goes down.
While it might seem pessimstic, unfortunately you have to prepare that Palmer, and every other player, could suffer a season-ending injury on any play. Hell, if Bill Gramatica can tear an ACL jumping in the air celebrating a field goal, no one is safe.
I don't want to suggest that there's a question of durability with Carson Palmer. It's not like he doesn't play when he has a hangnail like a former Cincinnati Reds center fielder in the 80s. Palmer is tough as nails. During the team's 2005 Wild Card game, he suffered a nasty left knee injury that resulted from a "unavoidable" hit by Pittsburgh's Kimo von Oelhoffen. The hit forced the league to establish a new rule that defensive players can't hit quarterbacks low when the hit is avoidable. Note to Tom Brady fanboys: it was Palmer's injury, not Brady's that brought awareness and a rule change. But it was Brady's injury that actually forced the league to call the infractions. No respect for the striped ones.
"It's not just like it was a torn ACL," (Dr. Lonnie) Paulos said Thursday, in a phone interview from Houston. "It's a magnitude more difficult to recover from and repair. It can and has ended careers, without a doubt.
"However, I feel very comfortable with Carson as an athlete and the heart that he's got. In the end, that's the bottom line. I can see the look in his eye already. He's ready to get going," he said.
And Palmer didn't miss a beat. When training camp started and he emerged on the practice field for the first time, fans collectively applauded Palmer's return. Sitting out the first two games of the preseason in 2006, Palmer completed nine of 14 passes for 140 yards passing and three touchdowns in his first action since suffering his injury only six months earlier, kicking off a 48-17 blowout over the Green Bay Packers. Palmer would go on to record his first 4,000-yard passing season of his career, winning the Pro Bowl MVP with two touchdown passes, 190 yards passing on only eight completions for a 127.1 passer rating.
Now that's a comeback. Shred your knee in January. Recover. Play every game and win the MVP in the NFL's All Star game. Other than winning a Super Bowl, can you make a better comeback than that?
But injury has followed Palmer. Suffering a knee ligament strain in week 14 against the New England Patriots, Palmer sat for the last three games in 2004. In 2008, New York Giants' defensive back Corey Webster hit Palmer in the first quarter, eventually causing enough problems with the elbow that Palmer would miss 12 of the next 13 games to cap off 2008.
In the six seasons he's played (he didn't play in 2003), he played a full 16-game schedule in four. And 2009 wasn't a season void of injury. Our crazy tough quarterback decided to play through it. Against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason, Palmer suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for the rest of the preseason, forcing enough worry that he wouldn't be ready for the season opener against the Denver Broncos. He played. Then in the first game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 11, Palmer suffered a sprained left thumb. He taped it, put on a glove and spent the rest of the season FREAKING ME OUT with awkward handoffs with his right hand. All of his handoffs were solid. No problem.
The injuries Palmer has suffered are serious enough that any man would be unavailable to play effectively. So is durability a question? No. Not in my mind. When the Steelers take Palmer on their way towards a Super Bowl, there's not much Palmer can do. When a ligament is strained, or an elbow forces one to lose strengh and throwing power, there's not much Palmer can do.
This brings the point that the Bengals need to upgrade the talent behind Palmer. It's not a method to replace the million-dollar man. No. If Mike Brown is paying the man, the man is starting regardless of struggles. No. But if Palmer's luck continues, and his season is limited, if not shortened by an injury, then the Bengals HAVE to do better than J.T. O'Sullivan and Jordan Palmer. And the Bengals have to do a better job drafting a quarterback, grooming him into a viable backup, unlike the miserable failure that is Jeff Rowe. Is this a desperate need? No. It's not. Is this a need to be addressed that makes sense? Yes. Will the Bengals eventually need a very good backup to keep the team on top of the division? Hell yes.