Arizona Cardinals Need To
Replace Carson Palmer
Although The Quarterback Is Having A Stellar Season, There Can Be Little Doubt That He Will Eventually Succumb To Father Time And The Team Needs To Have His Successor In The Fold Before That Happens
Carson Palmer looks to make a play for the Arizona Cardinals.
Image courtesy Arizona Cardinals media guide.
Image courtesy Arizona Cardinals media guide.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Oct. 5, 2015 — The Arizona Cardinals are off to one of the best starts in franchise history due in large part to Carson Palmer’s stellar play at quarterback. That’s why now is the perfect time for the team to look for his replacement.
Despite Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Rams, Palmer is still putting up some of the best numbers of his career at the age of 35, making the Cardinals serious playoff contenders. After putting together season after season of “good, not great” performances, Palmer has suddenly began to look like an MVP candidate at an age when most quarterbacks not named Manning, Brees or Brady are contemplating retirement.
After tearing his ACL last season, Palmer did not rest on his laurels during the lengthy recovery process. Instead, he used the time off to revamp his pocket presence and mechanics. Analysts like former Card Kurt Warner credit improved Palmer’s improved footwork for his elevated performance.
On the surface, it might seem silly to invest a high draft pick in a quarterback when the team’s current playcaller is throwing more touchdowns and less interceptions than any time in his career.
But, that’s actually the best time to look for the next man up, because a quarterback controversy is much better than a quarterback battle.
What’s the difference between a controversy and a battle, you ask? Simple. A controversy arises when a talented up and comer challenges the successful incumbent for the starting job, and the coaches and front office have a tough decision to make.
A battle, on the other hand, takes place when your team has no legitimate starter on the roster and has to let guys with names like Orlovsky and Tolzien and Whitehurst slug it out in a game of who sucks the least.
Remember when Warner retired, leaving the Cardinals with gaping black hole under center? The resulting situation at quarterback over the next several seasons is the perfect example of the nightmare “battle” scenario. Instead of preparing for the departure of Warner by drafting his replacement while times were still good, the team resigned itself to a perpetually lit dumpster fire led by Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Matt Leinart, John Skelton and the like.
Yes, I realize Leinert was initially drafted as the quarterback of the future, but by the time Warner retired it was clear he was going nowhere and had become little more than placeholder quarterback with no future in the league.
The Cardinals did not figure out the quarterback situation until 2013 when the team traded for Palmer and lucked into a coach/quarterback combo made in heaven. Palmer’s strengths so perfectly align with coach Bruce Arians’ scheme that the Cardinals were able to essentially pick a quarterback off of the scrap heap for a song and turn him into an MVP candidate.
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the Warner signing, when the Cardinals picked up the then struggling former Super Bowl MVP only to find out he still had some of his best football ahead of him.
While relying on these reclamation project quarterbacks has worked out surprisingly well for the Cardinals in recent years, it is not the typical recipe for success in the NFL. The team can only go back to that well so many times before it runs dry. When Palmer is gone, can we really expect the team to trade for a Jay Cutler type or go with Drew Stanton and actually have success?
The answer is likely no. Stanton did an admirable job filling in for Palmer last season, but the truth of the matter is his completion percentage will never be much higher than 50 percent and he throws too many interceptions.
And that’s why it’s time for the team to take the more logical and proven route. It’s time for the team to take a quarterback in the first or second round of the draft and groom him to be Palmer’s replacement. I am not talking about another Logan Thomas-esque experiment. It is time for the team to find a polished, strong-armed passer that fits in Arians’ scheme.
By drafting the quarterback of the future now, the Cardinals will have the ability to prepare him behind Palmer for a few more years (barring a major injury). That could make things awkward after a couple seasons if Palmer isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset (a la Brett Favre), but it is worth the risk.
Just take a look at the Green Bay Packers. Years ago, they invested a first round pick in Aaron Rodgers despite the fact that Favre was still playing at a very high level. That decision resulted in a very messy breakup between the team and its most iconic player that took years to resolve.
Still, I think any Packers fan, player, coach or executive would make that decision again in a heartbeat. Why? Because the team was able to transition from one elite quarterback to another without any mediocre quarterback play in between thanks to the foresight of its front office.
Can you imagine what would have happened if the Packers passed on Rodgers? They may have taken a “project” quarterback later in the draft (hello Andrew Walter!). Worse yet, the team could have been forced to rely on retreads like Josh McCown when Favre eventually hung it up.
Everything is bright and shiny for the Cardinals right now, and if the team wants it to stay that way, it needs to have some foresight and find the quarterback that will replace Palmer. Otherwise, this could be the Whisenhunt era all over again. A few years of success followed by many more of mediocrity brought on by terrible quarterback play.
The Cardinals need to start scouring the college ranks for a viable replacement, or we could be hearing—shiver— “starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick” in the desert in just a few years.
Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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