Today as I scrolled though the endless threads, posts, and fanposts cranked out by Josh and company here at CincyJungle, I almost found it amusing - yet frustrating - all the references to "loyalty", "quitting", "pride", "stubbornness", "money-grubbing", etc. with regard to the Palmer situation.
As much pride as we take in our teams, we have to realize one thing about the NFL (and even college in large part): it is a business. And the number one priority for all involved is money. And the sooner you realize that, the happier I feel you'll be. I'm not disgruntled at all by it. Money is what drives competition. Money is what drives a man to stand behind a broken line for 7 years and throw a ball while being hit by 300+ freaks of nature, hell-bent on destroying him, for a city he's never had any connection to before in his life.
As far as I'm concerned, Carson Palmer gave us everything he had for 8 years, during the prime of his life. He fought back from a blown up knee suffered during a playoff game we hadn't experienced in 15 years prior - which he led us to. He played through a broken nose, broken hand, sprained ankle, injured elbow, and countless other unknown injuries for us. He dealt with lunatic fans harassing him and his family. And he did it for a team, whom as a rookie had no choice in selecting as his employer.
Did he make far more than he was worth? Hell yea, he did. But that was our offer to him, which he accepted. Nowhere in the contract however did it state he would get paid, then take the field. Only by taking the field would he get paid. Nowhere in the contract did it state he had to pledge undying loyalty to Cincinnati. Again, its a business. And like many employees who are fed up with their employers and the work conditions, they take their skill sets to someone else if they have the opportunity to do so. Or if fortunate enough, they retire from it all.
It may be frustrating to us that Palmer doesn't want to play here anymore. But guess what, he probably never did. And neither do most - if not all - of the other Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, I imagine the majority of professional athletes would prefer to play somewhere else, if they had the option. That's why we have a draft, salary cap, and other free agency policies.
But, why would he sign a 6 year contract if he didn't intend on fulfilling it? Because he wanted better job security and a larger signing bonus. Who wouldn't? The fault of the $118M contract lies with our owner for agreeing to it (yet, as we've discovered, the true beneficiary of the longevity in this deal was actually Mike Brown since it provided him trade value). If Mike Brown still wanted Palmer here, he wouldn't have let guys who protect him, like Steinbach, go. He wouldn't trust the protection of his right side with a fourth round experiment (Stacy Andrews) who had one year of football experience prior to coming into the league. He wouldn't then replace Andrews, Steinbach, and Braham with undrafted FA's (Roland, Livings, Cook) we picked up off the street. He did all this because he didn't want to spend money - at the expense of Palmer's protection. Protection which is critical to not only his performance, but
We ask Palmer why he bailed. Well, why did Mike Brown bail on protecting him with a solid line? Why did he force him and the Bengals to practice outdoors in cold weather? Why did he penny-pinch everything around him to hinder success - not just for the team, but him as a professional QB?
I've probably been as big a critic of Palmer over the years for his performance as anybody. Yet, I don't let my emotions skew my view of him as a person. While we've seen opposing QB's get accused of rape, dog-fighting, sexual harassment, suicide attempts, media outbursts, lockerroom cancers, Palmer has been the quintessential model of class. He never once publicly bad-mouthed anyone (that I know of), never had excessive celebrations, always had the respect of his teamates, always took the blame, and never complained about lack of "respect" from the fanbase, media, or owner. Everything we think he said has been shed through the rumor mill. The worst statement supposedly by Palmer, as mentioned by Josh, was "it was time to move on.".
And as others pointed out in much more articulate posts than I can write, Palmer always kept business and contention behind the scenes - while our other franchise player spent years publicly complaining and demanding trades.
Ultimately, Palmer demanding out has actually helped us, since we managed to pick up a better QB, who will cost a lot less, along with two future first and conditional first/second round draft picks. Yet, even if Dalton was a failure and we only got a third round pick for him, I'd have no love-loss for Palmer.
Here's to you, Palmer, for all the years you gave us. And please win a playoff game so we can get two first round draft picks!