The clock is striking midnight on the 2010 season within three weeks. For many Bengals fans, it is a welcome end to an endless season. For others, the mysteries of the offseason and the reaction of ownership is met with both curiosity and dread. Being a quarterback for a losing cause is like being a lightning rod in a thunderstorm in that like a lightning rod, the quarterback is going to get zapped over and over again.
Drafted first overall in the 2002 draft, Palmer emerged the fresh, confident, Heisman-winning USC Trojan quarterback who was expected to team up with newly anointed head coach Marvin Lewis in bringing professionalism to the Bengals organization.
After a year under the tutelage of Jon Kitna and Coach Lewis, the confident young Palmer would emerge as the starter in 2004. Though there were ups and downs, Palmer would finish the last three games of the 2004 season with a rating over 100 and optimism was slowly but surely creeping in.
In 2005, Palmer hit his stride, leading the team to an 11-5 season only to plateau with the horrific dismembering of his left knee.
Though Palmer would return in 2006, and would resume his passing success, he had every so slightly backed off the 2005 success.
The 2007 season would show further decline, and by 2008 Palmer would quickly accelerate into the injury abyss with a partial ligament and tendon tear in his throwing arm. Despite recommendations to undergo Tommy John surgery, Palmer would elect for naturally rehabilitating his elbow.
2009 would be a stellar year for the Bengals' defense and running game, covering up Palmer's increasing erratic throwing (the lowest rated year since his first starting in 2004), with only one game rated over 100 and a 58.3 rating in a humiliating playoff loss to the New York Jets.
Fast forward to the present, 2010 season, Palmer has become a mystery and an enigma wrapped in one. Eight games with an under-80 quarterback rating, three games over-100, and the rest in between seemingly masks the lack of quality in the Bengals' game. Five pick-sixes and a lack of zip outside of 30 yards throwing make it woefully apparent that something is wrong with Carson.
Yet, with all of the aforementioned being said, there are reasons for and against why Carson continuing as a Bengals quarterback is or is not needed.
Palmer comes with a wasted roster slot — at this point — occupied by little brother: Jordan Palmer. Jordan has not seen the light of day either because of his brother or in spite of himself. Keeping Carson means keeping little brother Jordan.
New and Old
Leadership and continuity comes with transitions. Like Jon Kitna, Carson is needed to hand the team off with some semblance of old meeting the new. Andrew Luck or Cam Newton perhaps may come to Cincinnati, but neither should be expected to start their first season. Like Carson in 2003, learning the first year will be a greater experience than by being thrust into the role of starter too soon.
Carson's Career Slipping Away
On a fateful day in September 2008, Palmer's elbow was stretched beyond natural repair and though many have said his arm is better (Carson himself proclaimed his healing to be "100 percent"), watching Palmer throw for yardage has been a desperate attempt at searching for lost strength. Heaving high rainbow passes, Palmer appears to have lost the luster and strength he came to Cincinnati with.
If he will lead, they will follow
Even tempered and courageous, Carson has not backed down from shouldering the responsibility of being a leader and being out front of the Bengals team. Though he has been ignored as of late (due to a lack of a credible game), teammates have generally rallied around Carson.
What goes in there? Did I leave something behind?
Even with an offensive line, too many injuries of severe consequence likely has Palmer questioning his mortality. With the thought of his young twins (son and daughter), along with his young wife at home, Palmer is seeing beyond football and into the world beyond—never to return.
Building the offensive line back up to 2005 standards would give Palmer the on-the-field confidence sorely missing from his game. Protection breeds confidence and confidence breeds winners.
Stare Down Contest
Even with the change in coaching staff, Carson would still have to deal with Mike Brown and his ownership style. Ever the frustrated player, Palmer would have a hard time starting over with a new coach who is in charge of re-legitimizing the incumbent quarterback (i.e. Carson). The shock of a dynamic passing game would further expose Carson's weakened arm and Palmer would only fall further in the abyss.
The firing of Marvin Lewis and Bob Bratkowski (offensive coordinator) would bring fresh perspective and life to Carson's game. Taking away an unmotivated Lewis and one-dimensional Bratkowski would bring the colorful and creative life which Carson craves.
The shame....and the cold....
Carson has lost the fans, and the fans need someone they can believe in. Carson is the failed messiah and there is no promised land with him as the Bengals' version of Moses.
If you build it, he will come...
Cincinnati is not New York (or as Sam Wyche said, "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!"). Though Bengals fans may feel disenfranchised by the team management, Bengals fans and Ohioans are known for their loyalty, wearing their emotions on their sleeve and embracing second chances.