If this is it, if Carson Palmer’s potentially season-ending broken arm serves as the burned-out clutch that finally scraps this adaptation of the Arizona Cardinals (3–4), let us remember the good times.
Bruce Arians’s first permanent head coaching job gave us 41 regular season wins and two playoff appearances over four years, but more importantly, it provided the football world with the type of lovable, veteran-laden powerhouse that we had not seen since the 2009 and ’10 New York Jets. The Cardinals were the sophisticated fan’s indulgence: a Crown-Royal drinking, Kangol-hat wearing, trash-can football-tossing ballet on grass.
But without Palmer, would it have ever gotten off the ground?
While Arians was always going to put on a confident façade, Palmer represented a foundation for the coach’s style and swagger to work practically. Would Arians have been dangling the vision of Lombardi Trophies without him?
In his book, The Quarterback Whisperer, Arians was honest about his distaste for mistake-prone rookie quarterbacks and admitted: “I was too damn old to rebuild anything” upon taking the job in 2013.
“If we get Carson, we’ll win right away,” Arians recalled himself saying in his book. “And every player on this team will know we are legit and we’re gunning for the Super Bowl.”
Before the 2017 season, Palmer wrestled with retirement and ultimately delayed his decision until early ’18. His return—alongside 34-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, 65-year-old Arians and 78-year-old assistant head coach Tom Moore—always had the feel of a sunset ride, providing a chance to bring us all back to Arizona’s first team meeting of 2015 (as featured on Amazon’s All Or Nothing). With cameras all around filming the season-long docu-series, Arians announced “as far as goals go, we have one: putting that f------ ring on our finger.”
Palmer used his time in Arizona to bolster a resume that, Arians admitted, could be Hall of Fame worthy with the addition of a Super Bowl ring. As it stands right now, he’s 12th in passing with 46,247 yards—ahead of Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and Jim Kelly. Palmer is also 12th all time in passing touchdowns—six behind John Elway.
In order for us to reasonably see him again (Palmer can technically return in Week 16 on Dec. 24 against the Giants), Adrian Peterson would have to run wild. The Cardinals still have two games against the Seahawks remaining and another against a Rams team that beat Arizona by 33 last weekend. They face the Texans and Jaguars in back to back weeks to close out November.
All good things come to an end eventually, and the Cardinals between 2013–15 were most certainly good for the NFL. We have Arians to thank for that, but Arians has Palmer to thank, too.