When Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Mike and Mike in the Morning debated which franchise had the best quarterbacks. We're not talking about every quarterback in each franchise. Only their top passers, with Super Bowl wins (or NFL championships) weighed heavily in the argument. Obviously the Packers have Rodgers and Brett Favre. The San Francisco 49ers have Y.A. Tittle, Steve Young and Joe Montana. The Indianapolis Colts have Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas and to some degree, Bert Jones. The Dallas Cowboys had Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers, it pains me to say, have Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger (six Super Bowl between them).
The debate could go on for days, if not weeks, for a group of people to come to a conclusive consensus.
We're not that homerific to suggest that the Bengals deserve to be in that group. The fact that no Bengals quarterback has a Super Bowl among them (which is a big part of the argument) pretty much eliminates them from decision. And we're accepting of that.
Ken Anderson, who leads the franchise with 32,838 yards passing, played in Super Bowl XVI. He recorded 197 touchdowns against 160 interceptions with a career passer rating of 81.9 and a 59.3% completion rate. Boomer Esiason, who played in Super Bowl XXIII, finished with 27,149 yards passing in his Bengals career with 187 touchdowns and 131 interceptions. He finished with an 83.1 passer rating and a 56.5% completion rate with the Bengals. Both quarterbacks had a winning regular season record.
And then there's Carson Palmer. No Super Bowl. A regular season record of 46-51 (and a pending trade demand). That being said, in seven seasons (not including his rookie year), Palmer has 22,694 yards passing, 154 touchdown passes and 100 interceptions. His career passer rating (86.9) and completion percentage (62.9) blows away his two all-star predecessors. If you disregard his 2008 season where he only played four games, Palmer is averaging 3660.5 yards passing and 25 touchdowns per season.
At this rate, Palmer could realistically own ever career passing record within the franchise. He's 10,144 yards away from owning the career yardage mark; a milestone that he should achieve within the next three seasons. He's only 33 passing touchdowns away from tying Esiason's career of 187. At this rate, Palmer should have that conquered within the next 20 games. Palmer already holds the franchise best career passer rating. If Palmer were to make a Super Bowl in his Bengals career, he would likely be the indisputable champion of best quarterback in franchise history. That, of course, will be totally disagreed with for the simple fact that many don't believe he's capable of it.
Then again, Anderson and Esiason had better support than Palmer does today. The front office was more dedicated. Free agency as we know it today didn't exist until 1993. Esiason and Anderson had better offensive lines, a stable rushing offense and very good tight ends in the passing game. They played in offenses that allowed them to succeed much more than what Palmer has been given, at least in the past three seasons. So Palmer having to deal with a struggling offensive line, a nonexistent running game (for several seasons), an egotistical wide receivers and a fledging defense through much of his career could go in favor of Palmer in the debate.
We're not arguing that Palmer is better than Anderson and Esiason. Just pointing out that Palmer, who could be argued as the weakest link in the discussion of rating a franchise's best quarterbacks in the NFL, hasn't been that bad. And while the Bengals are no where near the top franchise with the best all-time quarterbacks, the Bengals do have a history of quarterbacks to be proud of.