Cheers To Carson: A Brilliant Career
Carson Palmer entered the NFL when I was 16 years old. I remember 2003 well, not just because it was a milestone year for my life, but also because it was probably the first year that I actually bothered to try to understand football on a deeper level. Up to that point my mind set was limited simply to: "I like the Cowboys" and "Troy Aikman was the greatest QB ever".
When ESPN was covering Palmer that year during and after the draft, discussing why he won the Heisman Trophy at USC and showing clips of his strong arm and fearless presence on the field,I finally stopped and took notice of some of the deeper nuances of the game. Watching his college film and listening to the hype surrounding him, I actually started thinking about what it takes to be a great quarterback in the NFL, and how much pressure was being put on him as the 1st overall selection in the draft that year. I didn't know much, but I had a feeling then that he was going to meet and exceed every expectation.
Fast forward 2 years, it's December 4th, 2005 and I'm in Pittsburgh on a Sunday making a visit. A panhandler approaches me and asks if I would like to buy two tickets to the Steelers vs Bengals game for $50. With my busy new lifestyle as a freshman in college, I have barely had time to give any thought to my Dallas Cowboys, let alone a quarterback who doesn't even play for my team. At that moment though, I remembered how I felt watching the film on Palmer during his rookie year and remembered what a huge impression his skills had left on me. I talked the panhandler down to $40 and went to the game. The Bengals won, Carson Palmer lit that Super Bowl Steelers defense up with 227 yards and 3 touchdowns, and I had a new favorite player in the NFL.
Carson went on to have a career that very few professional quarterbacks have had the skill or toughness to compare to. In spite of two torn ACLs, problems with the team that drafted him, moves to 3 different teams, and plenty of talk about whether or not he could be considered elite, Palmer has checked almost every box a pro QB could want. 35 game-winning drives, 22 4th quarter comebacks, 3 Pro Bowl selections, Pro Bowl MVP, 2 time FedEx Air Player of the Year, NFL Alumni Quarterback of the Year, AFC Player of the Year, Raiders team MVP, Ed Block Courage Award winner, and SN Comeback Player of the Year, just to name a few honors and achievements. That's not even to mention his career statistics, with which he boasts 46,247 career passing yards (12th all-time) , 294 touchdown passes (12th all-time), 3,941 completions (11th all-time), an 87.9 passer rating (19th all-time), and a 62.5% completion percentage (19th all-time). How do his NFL career statistics compare against quarterbacks who succeeded him at USC when they went pro?
No matter how you slice it, Carson Palmer goes down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game. He never achieved his ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, and some feel that it is the only thing which could keep him out of the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible. As far as I'm concerned, looking back on how I felt when I first saw Carson's college film back in 2003, I would say that he absolutely exceeded the expectations placed on him as the 1st overall pick in the draft and there is unquestionably a place for him in Canton one day.