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Carson Palmer and The Marvin Lewis Dynamic

Clark Judge's Source: Is it Pete Carroll under that hood?


Clark Judge of CBSSports has a new article out worth reading about Carson Quitter.  The piece includes his reasons for wanting out, the Bengals stance against it, and perhaps most interestingly, how Marvin Lewis fits into this whole thing.

Judge provides us a few details for a source that went unnamed, but was categorized as a GM on a team in need of a quarterback.  This GM–presumably *not* Mike Brown–had some very poignant ‘insider’ information for Judge’s readers from both the Palmer and Bengal camps.

From the quarterback’s side, this mystery exec says that Palmer will unequivocally retire if not traded, and that this is apparently widely-known as fact in league circles.  He also claims that the Bengals have absolutely no intention of trading him, at least not for a year.

Palmer wants the trade because he’s “disgruntled” and has served his time in football purgatory.  The Bengals won’t trade him because of the “precedent” it would set to other players. None of this is new to most of us; its been similarly reported in at least a dozen articles since January.

What is new, however, is the angle that the situation is a test of Marvin Lewis’ authority.

The GM says that Lewis knows Palmer will “never play for him again.” 

So Lewis’ first ever draft pick, the guy that was to be tethered to him in good times and bad, their legacies intertwined in a combined effort to rebuild a moribund franchise, has jumped ship. And reportedly because of Lewis himself.

Judge makes the claim (through the mysterious GM) that Lewis will need to successfully overcome Mike Brown’s objections to move Palmer, asserting the supposed clout he gained in re-signing with the club.

We aren’t sure how much of this is true, or “vintage boulderdash” (props to the Sheen).  However, there are some things that can be speculated and inferred from a lot of this.  Here’s our take:

First of all, the Mysterious GM is Pete Carroll.  Bank on it.  He has an unsettled quarterback position, and wants to re-unite with his former college field general.  They remain close, and Carroll has a team on the left coast, where Palmer ultimately wants to be.

Secondly, this situation is clearly a referendum on Marvin Lewis—we firmly believe that.  Judge writes that his GM source said:

Marvin Lewis knows Palmer won’t play for him again

Interesting word choice there.  Palmer won’t play for him again. We feel this has to do with the previous speculation that Lewis has called Palmer out for his lack of leadership. 

Essentially, we surmise that Palmer was criticized by an increasingly grouchy Lewis for his lack alpha-male leadership.  After all, Palmer did not rein in T.O. or Chad.  He took what looked like tongue lashings from them on a regular basis, took blame for their failures, and regularly forced throws in what looked like attempts to placate them. 

We suspect Lewis mentioned this to the golden boy Palmer and he didn’t like the criticism (since he’s a sacred cow apparently). When Brown later made the decision to retain Lewis, Palmer’s situation in Cincy became untenable, forcing his trade demand.  Judge’s quote seems to fit into that theory.

Did a frustrated Lewis ruffle Queen Carson's feathers?

Laughably, at least in our opinion, is the assertion Judge makes (through his “source”) that Palmer’s threat to retire could be seen as brave leadership to some teams, making him more desirable in a trade—even after a year out of football.

But he also said that if Palmer is true to his word and retires it might increase his value for 2012, with teams believing that if he has that much of a conviction, is that disciplined, is that true to himself, then he’s exactly the sort of quarterback they’d like as a leader

In our view this is utterly ridiculous and nothing more than the colorful imagination of Carroll—er—Mystery man at work.  Perhaps we’re biased, but the idea that 31 other NFL teams would admire Palmer for refusing to honor a contract, bad mouth his organization (through intermediaries), and leave his teammates high-and-dry is entirely ludicrous. 

Be that as it may, Judge and his “source” feel that Lewis will not succeed in convincing Brown to unload Palmer.

Most people believe he cannot, and that was reiterated by our GM who said he’s certain Cincinnati won’t budge on Palmer because of what it would mean for others

We frankly don’t believe that one either.  The Bengals have already proven that they won’t negotiate with prima donna terrorists.  Most recently, Chad Ochocinco learned that if Brown doesn’t want to trade him, he won’t, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.  However, the concept that the team will never trade a disgruntled player as a matter of principle is patently false.  The Bengals traded Corey Dillon, Boomer Esiason, Ricky Hunley and Dan Wilkinson to unload unhappy players.  They will do it again—even the suddenly-saintly Palmer.

Then why the charade of a harsh stance? The fact is it makes no sense for the Bengals to state, in the open, that they will trade the quarterback.  Without a CBA, there’s nothing to discuss anyway, and if it were obvious that they planned to move on without him, other teams would simply wait to drive the price down, or see if they could get him after a release (I.E.-Exactly what’s going to happen with Vince Young in Tennessee and Donovan McNabb in Washington).  This kind of public statement of team disillusionment ruins any leverage they would have to negotiate a trade.

We could be completely off base here (we are a lot), but we don’t buy this stuff Judge is selling.  As much as Pete Carroll may like Palmer, and as much as the two of them might want a reunion, the Bengals are not going to let Palmer get his wishes without theirs being met as well.

If Palmer can’t own up to his responsibilities to the Bengals organization and their head coach, then he will be shipped off, and on the TEAM’s, not the PLAYER’s, terms.

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