If we got nothing else out of this season, I hoped at least we'd find out once and for all whether or not Carson could be the QB he was in 2005 (or close enough to it). Turned out we didn't even come away with that information. The premise was this:
- Carson finally would be healed of whatever the hell that elbow injury actually was in 2008 (check, I think)
- Carson finally would have a decent offensive line to block for him (check, ranked 7th in pass protection by Football Outsiders, Whitworth ranked 2nd best left tackle in all of football by PFF)
- Carson finally would have talented pass catchers to throw to (check, see Owens, Terrell; Gresham, Jermaine; and Shipley, Jordan)
Therefore, if Carson had a poor year it could only be his own fault given the talent around him. Makes sense right? Wrong. I no longer believe you can say that for a couple of reasons.
First, it turns out TOs apparent production was merely a statistical mirage and that he had a profound negative effect on Carson and the whole offense. Consider these points from the Any Given Sunday column Football Outsiders wrote for ESPN on the Chargers game:
The duo of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell combined for 10 catches, 211 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets. Their success makes it clear: The Owens signing was a disaster for Cincinnati.
That may sound strange considering Owens leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns, but he's also been the target on 67 incomplete passes, tied for second in the league. Even worse, 12 of Palmer's 18 interceptions (including three pick-sixes) came on passes intended for Owens. Owens has produced a lot of big plays and touchdowns, but Palmer has been much more efficient throwing to the team's other wide receivers.
Holy shit what an indictment!
It puts TOs season in perfect context: at first glance it looked allright but something always seemed fishy...as if his production came at the expenses of the rest of the offense. Now this verifies it. For those scoring at home that means Carson had a 60.3 passer rating when targeting TO...that would beat out only Jimmy Clausen of this year's QBs. Let's look at this more.
Second, a pervasive indifference infected every part of this football team in 2010. This is not quantifiable but by simply observing the body language of Carson, Marvin and Co throughout the year you could easily tell there was no urgency or desire to work to get better. This, coupled with the staleness of the offensive strategy and tactics after 10 FUCKING YEARS of Bob Bratkowski and the baggage that Chad & TO now bring certainly seemed to put Carson in a mental funk. Even when not targeting TO, he still threw 3 pick sixes and appeared to just make unforgivable mental errors.
I think with some fresh air to clear out the staleness you can still work with Carson. But there needs to be not just a personnel change (that's the easy part - goodbye Chad & TO) but a total attitude change. We all know this could come quite easily with the removal of Brat, for example, but God forbid the Bengals do even the least bit to win. So sadly, this type of change will be much harder as the Bengals appear ready to welcome back everyone who seemed to make 2010 so stale.
I think what we saw this year is the worst possible production you will get from a healthy Carson Palmer. Shitty players don't just casually put up 16/21 games for 269 yards and 4 TDs against a tough defense - it means there is real talent still buried somewhere in there. If you think we can get someone else in here that will perform as well as Carson did at his worst in the next few years you are kidding yourself. The best bet remains to stick it out with him and see what he can do again another year.