Earlier this week I read through the Michael Silver article on NFL.com and Jason Marcum's thoughts of Carson Palmer and his departure from the Bengals. I read the article a few times and each time it elicited the same reaction. Carson Palmer is an asshole.
Now don't get me wrong, I am all for players doing what's best for them and milking every dime out of a career that could leave them in much worse shape than when they started, but let's cut the crap. Carson quit on a team like a spoiled child who wanted to take his ball and go home.
"I took an owner head-on, you know?" Palmer said. "That's shunned in this league, and people don't like it -- and the NFL definitely doesn't like it. That's hurt me a lot, and I've been bounced around pretty good since it happened."
At the time Palmer went on his "self righteous trade me or I retire" tantrum, the Bengals were not a good football team. Sure, there were bright spots like a playoff berth in 2005 and another in 2009, but they had just completed a four-win season led by the erratic play of pick six Palmer. If Palmer's true goal was to take on an owner, now was the time. The fan sentiment had deteriorated to a point where it still hasn't fully recovered and groups like WhoDeyRevolution would have made Palmer a poster boy for sticking it to Mike Brown. That's not the way it was looked at though.
Palmer had the keys to the city. Fans like Josh Kirkendall labeled him with monikers like Golden Armed and 2005 is a season we as Bengals fans still remember fondly. We knew if Palmer was under center, we had a shot in every game. After his knee injury, Palmer pulled off his jersey to show the Superman emblem with the speed to which he was back on the field and leading this team. There are quite a few boys named Carson's right around 10 years of age in Cincinnati based on the popularity Palmer had in this town.
Then he did it, he signed the deal that would make him a Bengal forever. Carson signed a six-year contract extension through the 2014 season with the Bengals. In addition to the three years remaining on his existing deal, the value of the extension was worth $118.75 million over nine years.
"Hopefully this is the last place I'll end up playing," Palmer said at the time. "That's so rare in this league these days. It's so rare to see a person have a 5-, 8-, 10-, 12-year career in one place. And I feel very fortunate that it looks like that's going to be my future."
Then over the next five season, Palmer enjoyed just one winning record. His play had fallen off, the fans questioned if he ever really returned from his injury and the vibe around the Bengals was weak. Mike Brown took a lot of this heat and Palmer probably started crafting his out.
In the OTA's of 2010, Palmer once again solidified his leadership for this team. He called out the poster boy of the Bengals at the time, Chad Ochocinco, for not showing up with the team. It was awesome; he was all in and was going to will this team to improve. Little did we know, that later that year, Palmer himself would quit.
"I have $80 million in the bank," Palmer reportedly said; "I don't have to play football for money. I'll play it for the love of the game, but that would have to be elsewhere." Where exactly did that money come from? Palmer made his deal with his devil and now was trying to renege.
Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford and Cam Newton. These are just a few of the quarterbacks that were selected in the time Palmer made his deal with the Bengals. In making the long term commitment to the team, the Bengals were able to look for gold in other areas of the team, the QB position was not a concern. Signing that deal, Palmer made a commitment to the team and indirectly the fans. Mike Brown shared that sentiment, "Carson signed a contract. He made a commitment. He gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. He's going to walk away from his commitment. We aren't going to reward him for doing it."
For many fans, the tide had turned. They found themselves supporting the owner, not the hero quarterback. I for one think that Carson helped the Bengals in the long run. The value we got from his over-inflated self-worth helped this team take the next step. Since No. 9 left town, the Bengals have been in the playoffs every season. Every. Single. One.
So I honestly hold no ill feelings towards Carson, in his quest to become a martyr, he helped the Bengals take that next step and the team is in a better place for it. I just can't sit around and listen to him explain it like he was a victim. You threw a tantrum and were punished for it, don't expect sympathy for you selfish behavior.
I want the Bengals to remind Carson what he left behind, much like Geno Atkins did in the last time the two crossed paths.