Medheads like my friend Will Carroll speak of injury cascades, where compensating for one injury causes another one. I think that’s what’s happened to Carson Palmer, quarterback for my beloved and beleaguered Cincinnati Bengals. Consider:
- On the Bengals’ second play of their first playoff game in 15 years, Carson dropped back and threw a seriously awesome strike to Chris Henry for a 66-yard gain. As he finished his delivery, Kimo von Oelhoffen, himself a former Bengal, hit Carson’s leg, tearing his ACL and MCL as well as the meniscus and a bunch of other cartilage. If you do the math on that, there wasn’t much holding his lower leg onto his body. Palmer had a seriously tough rehab in the offseason, as you’d expect given the severity of the injury. Amazingly, he was back under center in the 2006 preseason. It’s a testament to his toughness and willingness to work.
- In 2008, Palmer tore a ligament and tendon in his right elbow. The tear was a partial one, and Carson elected to not have any surgery. At the time, I thought it was a bad idea; now I think it was even worse. If he’d undergone the surgery, he would’ve been back healthy and ready for 2009, given his prior abilities to rehabilitate after surgery. [Again: nearly ripped his leg off, played football seven months later.]
- In 2009, Carson seemed to not have fine control on his passes. In baseball, we’re told that shoulder injuries affect velocity and elbow injuries affect accuracy. The 2009 Bengals went 11-5, which would portend that Palmer was good, but it was a running-and-defense team, with the defense really relying on a ball-hawking ability, which is something that isn’t usually repeatable.
So here we are in 2010, with Palmer chucking picks all over the place. And at this point, it’s not just the elbow:
I think the Bengals have to draft a QB in the 2011 NFL Draft, preferably someone with 2+ years of college starting experience. My argument for cutting Carson now is simple: you don’t have the cap hit as 2010 is an uncapped year. Maybe you even work with him on this and sign him to a deal with a good annual salary for 2011, but a negligible bonus. His best days are behind him, sadly, unless he takes a year off to really take care of his arm. I’m afraid that he’s done entirely, which is sad, because early in his career, Carson was a joy to watch on the field, and he understood the Steelers rivalry. He’s still a great guy. He’s just not a great QB now.