This may turn out to be the most unpopular thing I've written on Cincy Jungle. Here goes.
We're all happy that Carson Palmer was traded to the Oakland Raiders, especially considering what we got in exchange. He was dead weight on the team and hovered over Andy Dalton and his early-season accomplishments like a dark cloud. A trade needed to happen and thanks to an unfortunate injury and Mike Brown's ability to see a good deal when it's presented to him, everything has worked out.
Many are saying good riddance but I don't think we should feel that way. Instead, I think we should be thanking Carson Palmer for giving Bengals fans some of the best years in recent history.
Before Carson Palmer, Bengals fans, including myself, suffered through a decade of Akili Smiths, Jeff Blakes and David Klinglers. When the Bengals used the No. 1 overall pick on USC's Carson Palmer, the Bengals had their new franchise quarterback and Bengals fans got a new jersey to buy -- No. 9.
In Palmer's first year, even though he sat on the bench throughout all 16 games, the Bengals finished with an 8-8 record. That was the first year since 1996 that the Bengals didn't have a losing record. In his second year, in which he started 13 of the 16 games, the Bengals again went 8-8.
Then an amazing thing happend.
In Palmer's second year as a starting quarterback, he led the team to an 11-5 regular season record, finishing first in the AFC North thanks to an amazing passing attack. It was the first time in 15 years that the Bengals went to the playoffs. During their home playoff game against the Steelers, Palmer was hit in the knee by Kimo von Oelhoffen and was carted off the field with a torn ACL and MCL and a dislocated knee cap.
He was hit as he threw his first pass attempt of the game and before he could see that he had completed a 66-yard bomb to the late Chris Henry, he was on the ground holding his knee.
To this day, I wonder what would have happened if he had not been injured in that game.
There is debate among Bengals fans about that moment. Some believe that Palmer was still okay after that (he battled back from a near career-ending knee injury and started all 16 games in 2006) and some believe that he was never the same after that hit.
The next year Palmer led the Bengals to the playoffs in 2009 but the offense was different. The passing game struggled but thanks to a tough defense and a career year from Cedric Benson, the Bengals were able to sweep the AFC North and host a second playoff game in five years. This time Palmer stayed in the game but he struggled against the Jets and in the end the Bengals lost.
Then of course we all remember 2010. Palmer and the Bengals lost 10 games in a row during a 4-12 season and in January, after all the Bengals players had cleared out their lockers for the offseason, Palmer said he was done with the team and wanted to be traded.
Most fans were mad and rightfully so -- their franchise quarterback abandoned them. But now that he's been traded, how do you really feel? Do you still hate him?
Remember, he gave us some of the best years in recent Bengals history. He is past his prime and he's beat up. He wants to win a Super Bowl and after 2010, he figured the Bengals were more likely to get him killed by a linebacker than win him a Super Bowl ring. He made a choice and even though that choice may have been an unpopular one, you have to respect him for the way he handled things. He didn't get into a he-said, she-said war involving the press. He didn't badmouth the Bengals. He acted like a professional and I thank him for that. The media circus involving Palmer and the Bengals was bad but it could have been much worse.
Things have worked out for the Bengals. Andy Dalton has achieved more than we thought he could and he looks like nothing less than a franchise quarterback. We even got one, possibly two, first-round picks in exchange for Palmer.
Now that he's gone, I think we should thank Palmer for everything he did and everything he tried to do as our quarterback and I think we should wish him well in Oakland. He deserves that much from fans of a team that may still be looking for their first playoff birth in two decades if it weren't for him.
If it wasn't for Carson Palmer, the lost decade of the '90s could have extended into the 2000s. He made this team and this city exciting again and I know that some of you reading this gravitated to the team because of his early-career success. I know that when Palmer and the Raiders come to Cincinnati I'll stand and cheer for him when he enters the stadium. I hope you do too.