Carson Palmer had it all – a Heisman Trophy, the title of No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, the honor of being the face of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise at the ripe age of 23 and the list could go on.
Then he lost everything.
Coming out of the University of Southern California, Palmer was a can’t-miss prospect expected to be one of the NFL’s top signal callers for years to come. Initially, this scenario was panning out nicely for Palmer and the Bengals.
Following a respectable rookie campaign, Palmer and Cincinnati broke out during his second season. The Bengals tallied a record of 11-5, good for their first winning record since 1990. Palmer had arguably the best year of his career, racking up over 3,800 yards passing, 32 touchdowns and a QB rating of 101.1.
That success was short lived, however, as the Palmer era in Cincinnati would be all downhill from that point on.
Palmer’s stat lines in the next two seasons were just fine. In 2006 and 2007, Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards and had QB ratings of 93.9 and 86.7, respectively. But the Bengals as a team didn’t fare as well with records of 8-8 and 7-9.
Things went from bad to worse in 2008 as Palmer suffered an elbow injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season. The Bengals finished the year 4-11-1 and the once beloved Palmer became a target for criticism in the Queen City.
Palmer and Cincinnati managed to rebound in 2009, returning to the postseason but things began spiraling out of control and the two entities eventually parted ways in a nasty divorce during the 2011 campaign. Palmer demanded to be traded, vowing to retire before playing another down in a Bengals uniform.
That messy divorce led to a year and a half in exile with the Oakland Raiders which included more losing and more criticism of Palmer.
After some bad luck, Palmer finally caught a break in 2013 as new Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was looking for an established quarterback to lead his offense. Palmer got the nod and ended up being traded to Arizona –eventually being deemed the starter over Drew Stanton.
After a ho-hum season a year ago, at least statistically for Palmer, he’s come full circle and is playing like the Palmer of old, circa 2005.
Despite battling through a nerve injury which shelved Palmer for three weeks this season, he’s maintaining a QB rating of 99.3 and has thrown 11 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. The Cardinals (7-1) have the best record in the NFL and could become the first team in league history to play the Super Bowl on its home turf.
Arizona has supplied Palmer with a host of weapons on offense both in the backfield and on the perimeter. RB Andre Ellington is a quarterback’s best friend due to his versatility and the Cardinals may have one of the NFL’s most up-and-coming receiving corps. Michael Floyd and John Brown are developing into tremendous playmakers while All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald, similar to Palmer, is making a career resurgence of his own.
The Cardinals have also demonstrated their commitment to Palmer by initiating contract discussions to extend the current three-year deal that he signed back in 2013.
Despite the success that Palmer and Arizona have experienced over the last year and a half, the Cardinal faithful are hopeful that the best is still to come. Palmer and company look poised to make a serious run for a conference championship which would leave them with a home game in the Super Bowl.
Considering that the Cardinals are 10-2 at home since the start of the 2013 season, one could consider Palmer and Arizona in the driver’s seat to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this coming February.
Carson Palmer coming full circle in Arizona
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