What's With the Knock On Carson Palmer?

Ever since Hue Jackson made the blockbuster trade for Carson Palmer midway through last season, people have been doing nothing but scrutinizing the move. Yes, the Raiders paid an arm and a leg. And yes, by getting Palmer, the Raiders made it a certainty that Jason Campbell would not be back. But all that aside, I honestly do not see the negatives with acquiring Carson Palmer, and, I feel that his play from last year gives us a lot of optimism going into the future.

The biggest knock I’ve heard on Palmer is that he is all washed up. The naysayers think Palmer hasn’t been the same since his knee injury in 2005, and, they are quick to point out that Palmer has never won a playoff game. With that said, let me counter.

They say that Carson Palmer hasn’t been the same since his injury in January, 2006? False…well, at least not entirely true. 2005 was Palmer’s second season in the league, and in his sophomore year, he posted his best record in his tenure in the NFL, and he did have the best stats of his career. With that said, the drop off in the years following that season has not been as drastic as many believe.  In 2005, Palmer had a completion % of 67.8% and a touchdown to interception ratio of 32 to 12. Not too shabby if you ask me. Following that season, and the injury suffered against the Steelers in the Wildcard game, Carson played four complete seasons with the Bengals (his 2008 season was derailed due to an elbow injury). Of those four complete seasons, Palmer’s stats did see a drop off, but again, something that is overly hyped in the media. During those four seasons he had an average completion % of 62.4% and a touchdown to interception ratio of 25 to 16. These are still pretty decent numbers, especially considering what he was operating with in Cincinnati. Playing under the cheapest ownership in the league, with an offensive coordinator nobody has heard of (Bob Bratkowski…who is that?!), and with not many weapons to speak of in Cincy. Yes, he had Housh and Ocho, but both offered the same reward: efficient, over-the-middle wide outs, but guys who couldn’t stretch the field. Palmer really had no talent at the tight end position, and his running back in Rudi Johnson was a pretty big let down.

I guess I am just trying to bring up any and every point to be optimistic, but I do think that his stats in his last four complete seasons with the Bengals were both respectable, and held back by his surroundings.

In the ten games he played for the Silver and Black last year, Carson, traditionally speaking, did not have the best of numbers. He threw three more picks than touchdowns (16 to 13), but he still had a completion % of 60.7% (above league average), and if you annualize his passing yards to a full 16 games, he would have thrown for 4,400 yards. I tell you this, Jason Campbell could never have done that. And had Palmer played a whole season with the Raiders and had thrown for that many yards, only Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Stafford, Eli, and Rivers would have thrown for more. That’s pretty good company.

With that in mind, and considering the Raiders’ current roster and staff, I think we have a lot to be excited about. Palmer’s got the two speedsters to stretch the field (Jacoby and Denarius), an efficient over-the-middle guy in Louis Murphy, the best running back in the game in Run DmC, and a strong offensive line. Additionally, his offensive coordinator from last year, Al Saunders, is still with the team as an offensive consultant, which should bring some consistency to Palmer. Additionally, the new man calling the plays, Greg Knapp, is a tenured offensive mind that should bring some excitement to the offensive strategy. And, as we all know, Palmer not only has a full season to play with the Raiders but a full off season as well – unlike last year. So, big reasons to be optimistic there.

Lastly, I think this year will be quite the coming out party for Palmer. We saw glimpses of it last year, after the limited preparation he had. Have we forgotten the midseason victory in San Diego where Palmer showed his true potential? That was a big time game, and after being a Raider for only three weeks, Carson outdueled Philip ‘Cry Me A’ River(s) to not only win the game, but to briefly obtain the lead in the West. I think you pair this type of play at a consistent level with the new coaching staff, and we’re in store for something special.

I’ve said it for the last four years now, but this year, the Raiders will make the playoffs. And we’ll have Carson Palmer to thank.

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