Carson Palmer picked a bad day to have a bad day.
That’s a mild adjustment to a quote from former Panthers coach John Fox seven years ago, after his team disintegrated in a 33-13 home loss to the Cardinals in the playoffs. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme coughed up the ball six times in defeat, a horrific performance from which he never recovered.
On Sunday night on the same field with the same two teams fighting for a berth in the 50th Super Bowl, Palmer played the role of Delhomme, throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles in a 49-15 thrashing by the Panthers.
Perhaps the blame for the poor performance from Palmer goes to the dislocated finger he suffered in Week 15, even though Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported before the game that the finger isn’t an issue. Maybe Palmer, who had never in his career played a postseason game on the road, simply buckled under the pressure.
And maybe, with Palmer now 36 years of age, the Cardinals need to wonder whether Palmer has been permanently affected by the performance, in the same way Delhomme was. Even if Palmer can get it back together again by September, the Cardinals will need a replacement for Palmer, sooner or later. The last time their starting quarterback retired, the Cardinals floundered for several seasons with high-priced busts like Kevin Kolb and a revolving door of unproven players who were good enough to get coach Ken Whisenhunt fired.
Palmer, who fell into the laps of the Cardinals after quitting on the Raiders two years after quitting on the Bengals, previously has played well. However, he struggled last Saturday night against the Packers, eight days before his six-turnover nightmare. It’s possible that he’s good enough to get a team to the playoffs, but that he simply can’t get a team to the Super Bowl.
In an offseason that will feature plenty of younger options for a quarterback-whispering coach in Bruce Arian, maybe the best move will be to get Hue Jackson to overpay for Palmer like Jackson did with the Raiders in 2011, giving Palmer a chance to finish his career as a starter the same way Delhomme did — with the Browns.
Of course, Palmer wanted out of Cincinnati in part because he wanted out of Ohio and toward the West Coast. Which leaves only two currently viable options. Both of which are in the NFC West. And one of which will be playing for the next three seasons in the stadium where Carson Palmer played college football.
Ultimately, if the Cardinals would trade Palmer to the Rams, that would be the best evidence that the Cardinals know what the Eagles knew when Donovan McNabb was traded within the division: That Palmer is, for all intents and purposes, done.