The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to select Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Carson Palmer knows exactly what that’s like. The Bengals took Palmer No. 1 in 2003, and Palmer showed up for work.
Even though many people told him not to.
“As I was interviewing NFL people, I was told time and time again – starting with Boomer Esiason – the night after I won the Heisman Trophy, I went and did an interview with him for CBS, and everybody I was talking to along the way [said], ‘You can’t go to Cincinnati. You got to go somewhere else. You can’t play for the Bengals. You can’t play for the Bengals,’” Palmer recalled on The DA Show. “I, at the time, was going, ‘This is awesome.’ I was arrogant. I was a young, arrogant kid. ‘I’m good enough. I’m going to change the whole thing around. I’m going to change the narrative.’ Obviously I wasn’t able to change that narrative and flip that.”
The Bengals went 9-7 in 1990. That was their last winning season before 2005, when Palmer led the Bengals to an 11-5 record. Between 1990 and 2005, the Bengals finished 8-8 three times. Every other year? A whole lot of ugly.
Although the Bengals won the AFC North in 2005, they were one-and-done in the playoffs. Carson Palmer completed a 66-yard pass to Chris Henry on his first pass of the game. On that same play, however, Palmer suffered a knee injury courtesy of Steelers defensive tackle Kimo Von Oelhoffen. The Steelers won 31-17 and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Palmer led the Bengals to another AFC North title in 2009, but the Bengals again lost in the Wild Card, this time to the Jets.
Palmer lasted just one more season in Cincinnati.
“You’re judged on Super Bowls, and that’s the standard,” Palmer said. “Obviously we didn’t win a Super Bowl. But everybody was telling me, ‘Don’t go there,’ and I was the only one thinking, ‘Man, these people are all crazy.’ I know Joe’s getting hammered by everybody as he’s going along through the interview process – and even here, I’m sure he’ll end up being here and he’s going to get hammered on every interview: ‘Are you going to go to Cincinnati? Or are you going to pull an Eli?’ That’s the narrative. If Joe is anything like I was – which was a young, arrogant kid that thought I was good enough to change it – then he’ll dig his feet in the ground and say, ‘No, I’m going to go No. 1, and I’m going to go to the Bengals.’”
Palmer was asked if the Bengals gave players enough support to win a Super Bowl.
“No, that’s why I wanted out,” Palmer said. “I never felt like the organization was really trying to win a Super Bowl and really chasing a Super Bowl. That’s what today’s day and age is. You can’t just hope you draft well and not go after free agents and you end up in the Super Bowl. You got to go get it.”
Palmer, who spent the final five years of his career in Arizona, believes Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill truly cares about winning.
“Michael was all about winning,” Palmer said. “Everything was about winning. The culture was about winning. The year before I got to Arizona, I think they had won three or four games, and Michael Bidwill dug his feet in the ground, and I saw an owner say, ‘We’re going to go after it. We’re going to go after this. We’re going to do what it takes to win.’ At the end of he day, when owners do what it takes to win and have that type of mentality and everybody’s onboard – I saw it right before my eyes. Ten wins 11 wins, 12 wins – whatever it was the next three years.
“When the organization is completely behind doing what it takes to win and you’ve got the right players, that’s the recipe for a Super Bowl,” Bidwill continued. “When you’ve got good players but you’re not really forcing everybody in the organization’s hand to do what we can to be better, to do what we can to win a Super Bowl, that’s the difference in the NFL.”