In the end, the most significant similarity between Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer could be how things ended between them and the teams which drafted them in the first round.
Rodgers has spent months involved in a bitter feud with the Green Bay Packers. Palmer stepped away from football in 2011 over issues he had with the Cincinnati Bengals’ front office and only resumed his career after the team traded him to the then-Oakland Raiders.
Although fans have been comparing the two situations since Rodgers’ frustration with his team emerged earlier this year, there’s a fascinating new theory involving the two first-round picks.
David Dunn is the key link between Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer
As soon as ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced in April 2021 that Rodgers might never play for the Packers again, many minds drifted back to Palmer and the Bengals.
Weeks after the Bengals’ disappointing 2010 season ended, Palmer met with Mike Brown, the team’s owner, and requested a trade. Brown insisted throughout the offseason that he would not trade Palmer, who unofficially retired and vowed never to play for the Bengals again.
David Dunn represented Palmer throughout the quarterback’s holdout, retirement, and unretirement in 2011. Who is Rodgers’ agent, you ask? That would also be Dunn.
It was Dunn who helped organize a trade that sent Palmer to the then-Oakland Raiders in the fall of 2011. By that point, Andy Dalton — a rookie from TCU — had emerged as the Bengals’ starting quarterback. Dalton remained the Bengals’ primary starter through the end of the 2019 season.
History appears to be repeating itself in Green Bay. A new theory on social media is that Dunn will do the same with Rodgers and use Jordan Love, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2020, as this year’s Dalton, so to speak. If or when the Packers feel comfortable enough with Love, they can offload Rodgers to a team in desperate need of a starting quarterback.
Palmer had mixed success after he left the Bengals
The revisionist history has been extremely kind to Palmer, even if the official numbers might say otherwise.
Those who remember watching Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals reach the 2015 NFC Championship Game will tell you that the three-time Pro Bowler shredded defenses until he retired after the 2017 season. However, that’s not exactly the full story.
In 85 games from 2011-17, Palmer completed 62% of his passes for 25,553 yards, 140 touchdowns, and 87 interceptions. He went 46-37-1 as a starting quarterback and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015. He also completed 59.3% of his passes for 584 yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions in two playoff games for the Cardinals in 2015.
That revisionist history makes it easy to forget Palmer missed most of 2014 and 2017 with injuries. He threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2013 on a Cardinals team that narrowly missed the postseason at 10-6.
At his best in the post-Bengals years, Palmer was an above-average gunslinger when healthy. Whichever team employs Rodgers when he next plays again, if he does play again, should hope for far better results than what Palmer did in Oakland and Arizona.
The Packers should hope Love is everything that Dalton turned out to be
It might not necessarily be the end of the world if the Packers move on from Rodgers and hand the starting quarterback role over to Love. Seriously, show some optimism.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, the Bengals’ win total was set at 5.5 in preseason odds before the 2011 season. The Bengals instead went 9-7 and won one of the AFC’s two wild-card berths. That same year, Rodgers’ Packers went 15-1 and lost in the NFC divisional round.
Dalton was an effective game-manager who kept things close in his best years and eventually learned to avoid turnovers. The Bengals never asked him to be Peyton Manning or Cam Newton, quarterbacks who respectively excelled as pocket-passing gunslingers and dual-threat weapons. All they needed from Dalton was competency and stability.
If the Packers can get competent and stable play from Love in 2021, it doesn’t sound unrealistic to think they can challenge for another NFC North crown. Even with Love, the Packers are already better than the Detroit Lions. The Chicago Bears are harder to predict, although they’ve always been competitive in the Matt Nagy era.
History tends to repeat itself and rhyme in sports. For the Packers’ sake, they should hope Love can at least do what Dalton never could in Cincinnati: win a playoff game.
Betting odds courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference. How to get help: In the U.S., contact the National Council on Problem Gambling helpline at 1-800-522-4700.