Throughout his career, Ocho Cinco has been nothing but a headache to opposing defenses. Other than his rookie season, he had never recorded fewer than 1,100 yards receiving. That was until last season.
2008 was a season to forget, not only for the 4-11-1 Cincinnati Bengals, but for Ocho Cinco himself. For the first time since his rookie campaign in 2001, he failed to reach the 1,000-yard mark in receiving. In fact, he didn't even reach the 600-yard mark.
Last season, Ocho Cinco had 53 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns. He played in 13 games but started just 10 of them. How does a player with the talent level of Ocho Cinco have such a disappointing season?
Many blame Carson Palmer's absence for Ocho Cinco's horrendous 2008 season. Palmer only played in four of the first five regular season games last season due to an elbow injury. While he sat on the bench, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ran the offense.
It's easy to assume that Ocho Cinco's decline in statistics during 2008 was because of the quarterback situation.
Palmer is a former Heisman Trophy winner out of Southern California, which is well known as one of the best programs in all of college football. Fitzpatrick comes from Harvard University, which is well known for having one of the best academic programs in the country, but is not exactly a football production line.
Long story short—the two levels of competition each school faces on the football field is nowhere even close to each other. Southern California plays schools such as UCLA and Oregon, while Harvard plays schools such as Princeton and Yale.
Basically, Carson Palmer's experience is at a completely different level than Fitzpatrick's.
If Fitzpatrick is the reason for Ocho Cinco's 2008 season, does this mean he is only as good as the quarterback running the offense?
It's obvious Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Carson Palmer. In 13 games last season, he threw for just 1,905 yards, eight touchdowns, and nine interceptions. During the 16 games he played in the 2007 regular season, Palmer threw for 4,131 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
In other words, Palmer's average passing yards each game surpassed Fitzpatrick's by more than 100. Not to mention he averaged a whole touchdown more per game.
Prior to last season, Ocho Cinco has been Palmer's main target at the wide receiver position for the previous four seasons. In those four seasons, they hooked up for over 5,000 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Ocho Cinco failed to find that special connection when Fitzpatrick took over at quarterback. In the nine games the two played together in, they hooked up for just 470 yards and four touchdowns.
Besides Palmer, Ocho Cinco has had just three other quarterbacks throw to him during his eight-year career: Jon Kitna (46 games), Gus Frerotte (three games), and Akili Smith (two games).
It's hard to make comparisons between Ocho Cinco during his time with Frerotte and Smith as his quarterback, considering they played a combined five games together. However, Kitna is a quarterback that makes a strong case for Ocho Cinco only being good as his quarterback.
In his first three seasons with the Bengals, Kitna threw for 9,985 yards, 54 touchdowns, and 53 interceptions. These may not be Peyton Manning-esque numbers, but they were still decent for an average quarterback.
It wasn't until his second season with the Bengals that Ocho Cinco became a full-time starter at wide receiver. In his first two seasons as a starter with Kitna as his quarterback, he had 159 receptions for 2,521 yards and 15 touchdowns.
There have been numerous wide receivers throughout history who have improved their game because of the quarterback they played with. Some argue that Tom Brady has made Wes Welker a better wide receiver in New England. Others say Marvin Harrison's career would not have been the same if he had never played with Peyton Manning.
Kitna and Palmer did an excellent job at getting Ocho Cinco the ball from 2002-2007. The fact that he was not able to put up the same type of numbers with Fitzpatrick at quarterback can't help but make one wonder whether or not he is as only as good as his play caller.
There are other receivers whose numbers have decreased when the team's starting quarterback has gone down. However, there are a number of wide receivers whose numbers are still impressive, no matter which quarterback is leading the way. Look at what Calvin Johnson did in Detroit last season.
Last season was a season to forget for the Detroit Lions, as they became the first season in NFL history to go winless and finish with a 0-16 record. The Lions found themselves with three different quarterbacks playing throughout the season in Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky, and Drew Stanton.
Despite the variety of quarterbacks, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson still managed to put up superb numbers, as he finished with 1,331 yards received and 12 touchdowns. He proved that no matter who was playing quarterback for Detroit, he was still capable of putting up solid numbers.
For the last couple of seasons, Chad Ocho Cinco has complained about how the Bengals will not grant his wish of a trade to a different team. Unfortunately for him, his disappointing 2008 season, in which he recorded just 540 yards receiving and four touchdowns, did not help his trade value.
It's easy to sit here and blame Ocho Cinco's statistics last season on the fact that the Bengals played the majority of the season without their star quarterback. However, if a wide receiver in the NFL is as good as he seems to be, he should have no problem putting up the numbers he is used to, no matter who his quarterback is.
With a healthy Carson Palmer and a fresh start to the 2009 season, Ocho Cinco will have a chance to recover from his horrendous campaign last year.
If the statement that he is only as good as his quarterback is true, Ocho Cinco should have no problem returning to his usual form, putting up big numbers, as long as Palmer is calling the shots at quarterback.