The very idea of quarterback brings as much certainty as it does mystery. Informed conjecture is difficult. Predictions are no more useful than throwing raw meat against the wall and knowing how soon it will peal away and drop to the floor. It's a frustrating thing. This time last year, Bengals "franchise" quarterback Carson Palmer approved of the Antonio Bryant signing and giggled in his California wicker chair after the Bengals selected Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham in the 2010 NFL Draft. He also wanted Terrell Owens. Palmer got Owens, who could be argued as the team's worse decision in 2010 -- with the exception of Bryant, of course. Not because Owens wasn't effective, he was. In fact he was the most effective wide receiver on the roster last season. No. Mostly because Carson Palmer risked way too many passes threading fastballs into triple coverages when his fastball was the equivalent of a pitcher losing five MPH later in his career. After the Bengals only won four games in 2010, Palmer blamed ownership, who gave him every weapon he asked for, for not taking this serious enough.
This left a void at quarterback. Dan LeFevour and Jordan Palmer were the team's only prospective quarterbacks and even Jordan is a restricted free agent, not signed for the 2011 season. Rather than building around Carson Palmer, the Bengals were forced to use a high draft pick to replace Carson because the franchise quarterback is simply unable to break through the adversity of a four-win season and exhaustion with playing for one of the worst owners in professional sports. Not that adversity ruling Palmer is surprising. I can't tell you how many times we've witnessed his head lower while walking to the sidelines after another failed offensive possession.
One of those high draft picks that the Bengals had to use to replace Palmer, ended up being TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. This provides our first certainty. We know now that Andy Dalton will be the team's future starting quarterback. We're not sure how soon he'll start. And we're even less certain who will start the first week of the regular season.
Bengals had coach Marvin Lewis has admitted that Andy Dalton could start the regular season, deflecting the need to sign a veteran free agent quarterback that would bridge the gap from a departing Carson Palmer.
"I don't think there's an exact need. I feel really good about the guy we were able to draft," Lewis said. "If he ends up being the starter as a rookie, I think he can do that."
That doesn't mean that the Bengals won't look. They are reportedly going to discuss/consider whether or not to bring in a veteran quarterback or to stick with the roster they currently have. If Dalton starts against the Cleveland Browns on September 11, he would be the first rookie quarterback to start the first regular season game during any given season since Greg Cook in 1969. Cook completed 11 of 21 passes for 155 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 27-21 win over the Miami Dolphins on September 14, 1969.
Dalton isn't sitting idle either. Rather than taking a wait-and-see approach with so much uncertainty surrounding the position, the Bengals rookie quarterback is preparing himself for the eventual role.
"Everyone knows Carson is saying he's not coming back," Dalton said. "I think they're preparing to move on so obviously the position is open… I'm going to go prepare myself like I'm going to be the starter."
For his part, Jordan Palmer is assuming a leadership role for the time being, bringing wide receivers to California to workout together during the league's lockout that prevents teams from organizing team activities. Having been on the team's roster for two seasons already, along with the leadership aspect of putting together a workout with receivers, could be a favorable point towards Jordan bridging the gap between his older brother and the rookie quarterback.
But none of that is certain. We're fairly certain Carson Palmer will retire if he's not traded. Then again, players have changed their minds in the past. Will the Bengals sign a free agent? And if they do, will this free agent start the regular season? Or is Dalton the assumed starter already?
So many questions. So much uncertainty.