Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians fought for Carson Palmer to be his quarterback. He was the vertical thrower that Arians felt he needed to execute his scheme.
The move came at a cheap cost in terms of money once Palmer redid his contract from the Oakland Raiders, and the Cardinals only relinquished a seventh-round pick in exchange.
But following the Cardinals' 34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, it's pretty obvious that Palmer isn't likely to be around for the second year of his current contract.
The Cardinals essentially will be hitting refresh at quarterback next season for the fifth straight year. We can't blame them for not drafting a quarterback this past season in what universally was considered a weak group, especially when the 2014 class could feature five to seven first-round picks. (In our early draft projection this week, we have them taking LSU's Zach Mettenberger.)
Thursday proved what has become clear the past few games: Palmer is getting worse, not better. He has 13 interceptions — five straight games now with multiple picks — and is taking unnecessary sacks and leaving the pocket when he has little value doing so.
Palmer's arrival was supposed to bring with it the revival of Larry Fitzgerald. Outside of a 75-yard catch-and-run on a broken coverage in Week 6, Fitzgerald has been hemmed in since Week 1. With his two-catch (on five targets), 17-yard performance on Thursday, Fitzgerald is on pace to put up similar catch totals to last season — his worst as a pro. Sure, a balky hamstring has something to do with Fitzgerald's production, but he's not getting the help he or Arians expected at quarterback.
It's not working, even if it's not all on Palmer. The offensive line remains a weak unit — left tackle Bradley Sowell and right guard Paul Fanaika are low-grade starters, and Eric Winston, like Palmer, looks like a one-year lease. The tight end position hasn't developed, as expected. The defense, for all its talent, still gives up too many plays and too much contain outside to fast runners and outside-the-pocket passers such as Russell Wilson.
That said, Palmer's shortcomings can't be hidden anymore. Witness this pass to Fitzgerald, who was open, but the throw was behind him. It clanged off his hands and into those of a diving Earl Thomas for the athletic interception.
That allowed the Seahawks to turn a 7-0 lead and make it 14-0 after the ensuing drive. The Cardinals' defense did its best to attack, make plays and set up short fields, and it was a 24-13 game in the third quarter as Palmer and the offense drove toward midfield. But this throw he made towards Michael Floyd never should have left Palmer's hands. He was throwing off his back foot, and the defender — Seattle's Brandon Browner — was squatting on the short route with pressure. Result: interception.
That was goodnight, Irene. And barring a miraculous turn of events, it should be enough to write Palmer's fate in Arizona as the team's starter. You can already start looking on that front to 2014.
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