At this point I ask you, my fellow Bengals fans, one question.
How are you feeling?
This question can be a question that simply is..."how are you feeling?" It can be a question that applies to one of the three phases of the game. It can be a question that applies to any of the fifty-three players on the roster, a question that applies to the head coach or any of the coaching staff, a question that applies to the fact that in just over two weeks this team will find itself playing under the bright lights of Paul Brown Stadium on national television against a (not to many, but to me) surprisingly good Pittsburgh Steelers football team.
So, all that being said, how are you feeling?
Let me tell you how I'm feeling. Right now, I'm not feeling that great. I love my favorite football team, but my fuzzies have a stunning lack of warmth after five games and a bye.
Issue number one (and incidentally the only issue I will cover in this article): How am I feeling about our quarterback? Many of you know the man-crush I have long harbored for Carson Palmer. I named my son after him, fercryinoutloud (quick note, my son was born in May of 2007, when Carson was still teh awesum). I however, like many of you, have watched a seeming alarmingly rapid decline of Palmer's Palmer-ness over the past two years and change. I thought we were out of the woods last year when he was leading us to those triumphant last-drive wins, but even then I had a twinge of doubt. Games like the Chicago game last year gave me hope, but I have been growing less confident that our quarterback is the player he was, the player we knew and hoped he was/could be. Thinking back to January of 2006, watching that beautiful 66-yard pass land in the hands of Chris Henry, knowing that had Palmer only been in the game that we would have gone on to face Denver (who was no match for anyone in the AFC North, clearly)...a little piece of me died that day. Then Palmer came back with much gusto, following up a stellar 2005 with an incredible 2006 on the stat line.
2007 wasn't bad. 2008, well...that sucked. 2008 incidentally was the first year I had DirecTV, and as an out-of-market fan the first year I had the pleasure of paying a quarter grand to watch my favorite football team. It, as you well know, didn't start, go or end well in any fashion.
Now we arrive in 2010, after a year in which our favorite football team swept its division and reached the playoffs. Perhaps the Bengals should play the NFC North every year, because it appears that that at least gets them to the playoffs.
My point is this: Palmer really appears as though he doesn't have the juice anymore. it isn't that he can't throw up gaudy numbers from time to time (see the Chicago game last year and the Cleveland game this year), but outside of a few drives last year he doesn't look as much like a winner anymore as compared to what he looked like in 2005/2006. Do you remember what people used to call Peyton Manning before he finally won a Super Bowl? They called him Stat Boy. Sadly enough, our boy's stats don't hold up to even deserve that moniker.
I remember buying ESPN: The Magazine when Palmer was on the cover in 2005. It was a phenomenal writeup on the Bengals and Palmer, one which touted him to be a leader like unto any elite quarterback in the league. It talked about Chad Johnson running a go route when he should have run an "in" in the Chicago game at Soldier Field, a play which nearly resulted in an interception. It talked about how Palmer met him before he reached the huddle, grabbed him by the facemask and asked him VERY forcibly "what the blank was that?" Chad Johnson more or less said he may have peed a little.
Now, as much as I like Ocho, Chad Johnson does reality television whenever possible and seems to at times be more concerned with life after football than winning a Super Bowl.
The article mentioned that Palmer was walking through the locker room one day, when he saw a player giving an interview to a reporter. The player wasn't wearing a shirt. Palmer, without breaking stride, stopped the interview and told the player "We wear shirts when we give interviews."
Every time I have seen a player give a shirtless interview since then I hearken to that article. I am disappointed every time.
This football team, more than it needs a Pro Bowl quarterback, needs a leader. It used to have one in Carson Palmer. Now, the only time I have seen Palmer do anything resembling a leader is when he got in T.J. Ward's face after he cheapshotted Jordan Shipley into oblivion three weeks ago. That gives me hope, but I need more.
This team doesn't find a leader in Marvin Lewis most times that we can see. He gives his trademark catch pharses about shovels and doing better and working on that.
Don't get me started on the team's president, owner, CEO and general manager. I'm getting tired and don't want to be up long enough to hash that out. It'll get better at some point.
Wait. No. No, it won't.
Maybe things will get better next year when Marvin isn't extended and Mike Zimmer takes the reigns, but come on now. You and I have been watching this team for a long time. Who can do better than Marvin in getting results from Mike Brown? It was a long, long time walking through the Mines of Moria between Sam Wyche and Marvin Lewis, remember. If you know Lord of the Rings, you immediately know Mike Brown to be Morgoth's Balrog, sucking down the last beacon of hope into the abyss of despair.
This football team is only 2-3 at the moment, but it feels like they are 20-3 after the previous two losses.
Gandalf the Grey was pulled into the depths of the mine by the balrog, but let us hope that Carson Palmer will emerge as the White Wizard and prove to us that he hasn't forgotten how to lead his teammates. Let him prove that he hasn't forgotten how to stand tall in the pocket and deliver the football in that timely, uncannily accurate manner by which we so fondly remember in years not long forgotten.
This may be the most negative article I have yet written for Cincy Jungle, and that is not without reason. For some reason, however, I still retain the slightest glimmer of hope that Palmer will not make me further regret the choice I made in naming my son.
There's a lot of football left in 2010, Carson. How about making my son proud.