My whole family are native to Arizona and so our football passions are with the Cardinals. We recently had a long argument about Carson Palmer. I find it amazing how some people in my family of Cardinal fans and many others around this message board think that "Carson Palmer sucks". They think we should have drafted a QB earlier to take his spot.
The arguments for and against Palmer seem to revolve around just a few points.
Those Who Like Palmer
If you like Palmer it seems that the two points made are 10-6 record which is one of the best since the Cardinals came to Arizona. Or they like to throw out the point that Palmer has thrown for 4,000+ yards for three different NFL teams in his career. Then they like to make excuses for Palmer about the new offense or the offensive line. Plus they like to point out how Palmer was pretty spectacular in the second half of the season.
Those Who Dislike Palmer
The fans that seem to be down on Palmer like to use his 22 interception total as exhibit number one. The second point seems to be why has he been on three teams to throw 4,000+ yards if he was any good. Then these people like to point out how Palmer has always been on terrible teams, that he "quit" on a team, and that Cincinnati has been much better since Palmer left.
Why I Think Palmer is Above Average
Yes, Palmer's interception totals were pretty miserable. BUT... 12 of Palmer's 22 interceptions were in games we won. Four of them were in the fabulous game in Seattle at the end of the season. Three were against Carolina who we beat handily. I argue that you can't just look at a season long stat and use that as a basis for an opinion. Sure you don't want your QB to ever throw interceptions, but it happens, and at the end of the day all that matters is did you win or did you lose.
Let's look at the losses on a game by game basis and determine if Palmer was the reason we lost.
vs Rams - Week 1 - Lose 24-27
Why did we lose this game? Was it because Palmer had a completion percentage of 65%, threw for 327 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception? Or was it the 4 sacks? I actually think it was because our pass coverage made their tight end Jarred Cook look like a Hall of Famer. Cook caught 7 receptions for 141 yards and 2 touch downs. I even ran to my fantasy football site and put in a waiver claim for Cook immediately. Reason we lost - We couldn't cover a tight end.
vs Saints - Week 3 - Lose 7-31
Palmer's stats were down in this game. His completion percentage was down at 51.7%. That's not good. Total yards passing was 157. Also not good. If you want to lay this loss at the feet of Palmer I might be inclined to agree. Yet, I don't agree completely. Drew Brees killed us. The Saints time of possession was 35:31 to our 24:29. The Saints had 27 first downs. But even these things weren't what caused the loss. The real killer was Jimmy Graham. Graham went off for 9 catches accumulating 134 yards and 2 touch downs. Jimmy Graham is a Hall of Famer. We got down early and couldn't dig ourselves out of that hole. Reason we lost - Mostly because the Honey Badger was trying to cover a guy a foot taller than him, but again we couldn't cover a tight end. Partly because Palmer had an off game. Interesting side note... Jimmy Graham's best statistical game of 2013 was against the Cardinals.
vs 49er's - Week 6 - Lose 20-32
I realize everyone knows we had trouble covering tight ends, but here is our third loss of the season and why did we lose all three times so far? Yep, you guessed it, because we make tight ends look like Hall of Famers. Vernon Davis had 8 catches for 180 yards and 2 touch downs. Palmer was at 61% completions and he threw 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Frank Gore also hit the 100 rushing mark which was abnormal against our superior run defense last year. Reason we lost - Again because we can't cover a tight end. Vernon Davis had his best statistical game of the season against us in this game by a LONG shot.
vs Seattle - Week 7 - Lose 22-34
Ok this is our first loss of the season that wasn't because of the opposing team's tight end. Zach Miller still had a hell of a game for him, but 4 catches for 50 yards and 1 touchdown isn't game changing. Palmer had a 66.7% completion percentage in this game. He threw for 258 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. This isn't a great game, but it's not a BAD game. The bad here is that the offensive line gave up 7 sacks. That is a season high. When you lose 70 yards and give up 7 downs you are in trouble against the eventual Super Bowl winner. Palmer had one of the team's 2 fumbles on the day, but that was the result of one of the sacks. Reason we lost - It's hard to point the finger anywhere here. Seattle is just a damn good team, but giving up 7 sacks is rough for any QB to overcome.
vs Eagles - Week 13 - Lose 21-24
Here come the tight ends again. Zach Ertz...who??!! Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combine for 3 touchdowns. Oh that is 100% of the touchdowns scored by the vaulted Chip Kelly offense? Yep. By the way Palmer was 24/41 for 302 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Reason we lost - Can we find someone that can cover a tight end? Please!!!
vs 49er's - Week 17 - Lose 20-23
Finally the second loss of the season that wasn't because of our inability to cover a tight end. Our good friend Anquan Boldin destroyed us. He had 9 catches for 149 yards and 1 touchdown. Yet Boldin just willed his team to win that day. Unfortunately for us we were already out of the playoff picture by now. The game was meaningless. Palmer was 28/49 for 401 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Reason we lost - Well it wasn't Palmer's poor play, but rather Boldin having a fantastic game against his former team. Maybe you could point to Mendenhall's fumble? This was a close game, but in the end meaningless.
You can point to Palmer having a bad game against the Saints, but the loss certainly didn't fall only on his poor play. The rest of the losses are hard to pint the finger at Palmer as well. Our inability to cover tight ends directly resulted in at least 3 losses and played a part in nearly every loss. I'm not saying Palmer is an elite quarterback, but there aren't very many elite QBs in the league.
In all of the losses Palmer was 151/251 which is a 60.1% completion percent. He threw for 1,484 yards which is 247 yards per game. He threw 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In my estimation that is not a terrible performance. It's very average. Do you need a QB to be elite to win in the NFL? It certainly helps, but being elite in one position usually means you are lacking somewhere else.
If You Still Don't Want Palmer Who Else would You Prefer?
Here is the list of 35 QBs that started games last year. I copied a list from another site so I hope it is accurate. Do you still think Carson Palmer sucks? I have him ranked as the 10th best QB on my list. Is that so terrible that we should take our chances on a rookie? Rookie QBs are a crap shoot. You could end up with the next Matt Leinart.
Matt Ryan (better)
Cam Newton (better)
Jay Cutler (maybe better, but I don't want him)
Peyton Manning (better)
Matthew Stafford (better)
Aaron Rodgers (better)
Andrew Luck (better)
Tony Romo (better, but I don't want him)
Tom Brady (better)
Drew Brees (better)
Ben Rothlisberger (better, but I don't want him)
Colin Kaepernick (better)
Russell Wilson (better)
Robert Griffin III (maybe better, but I'm worried he is broken)