Carson Palmer and the quarterback cliff


Arizona Cardinal quarterback Carson Palmer is prime candidate to see a massive age-related decline in the near future.

Time makes fools of us all. This is especially true for professional athletes that hang on to their careers for too long. While NFL QBs have more longevity than most, they still eventually lose to the undeniable power of getting old.

While most NFL players see a slow decline over many seasons, QB have a tendency to drive off a cliff Thelma and Louise style. Unfortunately, we are officially on QB-cliff-watch with Arizona Cardinals’ QB Carson Palmer.

This was a topic of a recent roundtable with ESPN’s NFCW reporters. Sheila Kapadia, the Seahawks reporter made some very good points:

"At 36 years old, it’s best to go year-to-year with expectations for Palmer, but I’m not expecting a major drop-off in 2016. He stumbled in Week 17 against the Seahawks and in the NFC title game against the Panthers, but overall, Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate last season. He became the only quarterback in the past four years to average more than 8 yards per dropback in a season. And he led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.7), proving once again to be an excellent match for Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. One thing Palmer has going for him is that he’s become one of the league’s sharpest quarterbacks mentally at this stage in his career. He’s got tremendous weapons surrounding him, and when teams try to blitz, Palmer consistently knows where to go with the ball and does damage downfield. Because of his supporting cast and his ability to win the mental battle against opposing defensive coordinators, Palmer should still be able to have success late in his career."

There is no denying that Palmer had a great first-15 games of the regular season in 2015. His final game of the regular season and the playoff loss to Carolina were quite the opposite.

Palmer’s 6 turnover performance in the NFC Championship Game was even worse than the statistics suggest. It also was reminiscent of another playoff meltdown by an aging QB. In that case, the struggles carried over into the next season.

In 2008, a 33 year old Jake Delhomme led the Panther to a 12-4 record while having the second-best statistical year of his career. Delhomme then threw 5 picks in a playoff loss against Arizona. It was the beginning of the end for Delhomme.

The following season, Delhomme was benched after 11 games that saw him throw 18 picks and only 8 touchdowns. His time as a quality NFL QB was clearly over.

Another example would be Matt Schaub with the Houston Texans, though for him the collapse happened in the regular season. Schaub was coming off a very good 2012 season, and was off to a solid start in 2013 before running into the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Schaub played well early, but struggled to compete passes late in the game as the Seahawks erased a a big early Houston lead.

Schaub then threw a pick-6 to Richard Sherman late in the fourth quarter, and the wheels completely came off. The Seahawks won that game, and Schlub’s free fall began. Schaub became a turnover machine before being benched as the Texans went on to lose 14 in a row to finish the season.

Similar, though perhaps less rapid, declines can be seen in the careers of many QBs. This would include players like Peyton Manning and Brett Farve. When age finally catches up to a QB, it tends to hit them hard.

And that brings us back to Carson Palmer.  He certainly isn’t getting any younger. While there isn’t any reason to believe that the age-hammer will crush Palmer early in 2016, it isn’t out of the question that it’ll hit him soon.

The Cardinals have Drew Stanton on the roster in case Palmer is injured or falls off the QB cliff. He’s a solid backup, but nowhere near the player that Palmer for much of 2015.

Next: The most important Seahawks for the 2016 season

This is a team that has rolled the dice for on a one-year window. If Palmer falls off the injury cliff, than that year will have been last season. We all know how that worked out.