Carson Palmer: Is He the Bengals' Cornerstone?

Dean EversoleContributor IJune 10, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 07:  Injured quarterback Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on from the sideline against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Carson Palmer, the number one pick in the 2003 NFL Draft from USC, was considered a golden boy. Why not? He had a golden arm, intelligence, and grooming in a pro-style offense while quarterbacking the Trojans. He led USC to an impressive Orange Bowl victory, leaving many asking if USC was the best team in the nation. Carson Palmer had it all.

Then he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. The beaches and warmth of Southern California were replaced by the snow and sauerkraut of the heavily German heritage of Cincinnati. Gone was the winning tradition of USC and in was the Cincinnati Bengals, an organization infested with losing.  

Palmer was protected his rookie season by Coach Marvin Lewis, holding clipboard as Jon Kitna led the young, but explosive Cincinnati offense. The following season Kitna was delegated to the bench and Palmer entered the picture.

From the opening act, Palmer’s skills were obvious. He tossed 18 TD in 13 games and the excitement bubbled in Cincinnati; finally the savior had arrived.

In 2005 Palmer soared to new heights, tossing 32 TD and ripping through NFL defenses. The Bengals compiled an 11-5 record and it was off to the playoffs, an unthinkable accomplishment for a downtrodden organization.

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Then the nightmare returned and Bengals fans were quickly transported back in time, where losing was king.

Palmer crumpled to the turf in the playoff game against Pittsburgh with a major knee injury. Chad (previously known as Johnson) Ochocinco began his transformation into the stereotypical self indulgent NFL wide receiver. More injuries hit, the losses returned, and turmoil reared an ugly head.

Now three years after the dream season, the birth of a savior, the arrival of a genius coach in Lewis, Cincinnati sits squarely on a cross road; continue moving forward or regress to the ugly past.

Through this all, Palmer has attempted to move forward. Palmer recorded two season’s of 20 plus TD passes, before missing most of last year with an elbow injury.  Even with the lost season, Palmer is considered one of the league's top passers. Yet, the Bengals are unwilling to treat him as such.

Unlike New England or Indianapolis where clearly Tom Brady and Payton Manning are in charge, Palmer has never been given the keys of the organization, a puzzling decision.

Palmer is a highly skilled, seemingly intelligent player. Palmer has never appeared in the headlines for off field actions or complaints. When given the opportunity Palmer demonstrated command of the offense utilizing the no-huddle offense to near perfection. He publicly expressed his frustration with Chad Ochocinco and the WR failure to work out with the entire team.

Palmer’s call out of Chad is another step forward for the well spoken, talented quarterback. He is evolving into the perfect candidate for being a team leader.

If Cincinnati and Marvin Lewis desire a return of 2005, Palmer must be treated as the franchise player he is. They could start by sending Ochocinco on his way.

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