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The Brothers Palmer


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Bengals could boast first brother QB tandem on an active roster in Super Bowl era

Jordan Palmer said he knew he would get another shot, but to say that he was expecting this would be absurd. Due to a five-year age difference, he and his older brother, Carson never went to high school together and they didn’t play ball in college together either, let alone in the same state. Even as children they never played the game they love together. Yet, now Jordan is getting the chance to play on the same team as his brother, the Bengals’ star signalcaller, for the first time in his life.

Their stories couldn’t be more different. Carson, the All-American, Heisman Trophy-winning golden boy out of football powerhouse USC, was the first overall pick in 2003. The 28-year-old is widely regarded as one of the premier quarterbacks playing today — one of the rare Heisman-winning signalcallers to make good on their college production.

At the other end of the spectrum, Jordan, 23, was a sixth-round draft pick (205th overall) of the Redskins in ’07. He didn’t attend one of the big college programs like his brother did, attending UTEP. He also didn’t make it past training camp with Washington, and he failed to catch on with another NFL club over the course of the season. He signed with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League in November of 2007, but never suited up for them, because the Bengals came calling in January.

“They’ve been interested all season, they just didn’t have any space to at least bring in a fourth-string quarterback or a practice-squad quarterback," Jordan explained. "It’s a team I know a lot about. I know the coaching staff, I know the system and I feel that I’ll be a great fit. And, obviously, it’ll be pretty cool to play with my brother.”

The timing of the signing was curious. Most NFL teams will sign a fourth quarterback to their rosters for training camp, in an effort to cut down on the probability of the starter getting injured in either practice or preseason games. The Bengals already have two quarterbacks ahead of Jordan — Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just signed a restricted free-agent tender with the club, and Jeff Rowe, their fifth-round pick in ’07. With Jordan’s spot on the team far from being guaranteed, it’s not hard to deduce the signing might be intended to keep Carson happy. But Bengals QB coach Ken Zampese dismissed the notion that Jordan was signed to appease his big brother.

“Jordan was a sixth-round draft pick,” Zampese said. “So there’s enough people in the league circles that felt very good about him, so I don’t think this is a stretch to appease anybody as much as it is for us to get a sixth-round draft pick from a year ago who already has a year under his belt.”

Jordan Palmer couldn’t agree more.

“To go the other way, going into last season, Carson’s best friend on the team was Doug Johnson (the Bengals’ top backup last season),” he said. “Doug and his wife lived with Carson, they were best friends, they hung out every day, and Doug Johnson got cut and Carson was one of the last people to find out. So, if Carson had any pull like that, then Doug Johnson would’ve never got cut. I know that people think that Carson has that type of pull (with the team) but he doesn’t.”

Fourth-string quarterbacks often get cut or placed on the practice squad, so what makes this situation any different?

In the long and storied history of the NFL, two brothers have never accomplished what the Palmers hope to achieve in ’08. There has never been a shortage of brother tandems in the league, but quarterback is different. The position is far too complex to allow a gimmick to last for an entire season, which means both brothers must be capable of helping the team. With quarterbacks being among the most scrutinized athletes in all of sports, teams usually don’t have the leeway to take a flier on a family member to produce a feel-good story.

In 1997, Ty Detmer was a quarterback for the Eagles while brother Koy was on injured reserve, meaning they weren’t on the 53-man roster at the same time. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no brothers have played the QB position for the same team during the Super Bowl era, dating back 40-plus years.

That leaves the Palmer brothers on the brink of history, something that Zampese thinks they can easily accomplish.

“(Jordan) can get on streaks and get really hot, and complete a lot of balls in a row,” Zampese said. “And I’m really interested to see if I can get him to do that on a consistent basis. But I think the way that he compares most to Carson is his personality. He’s terrific to be around, funny and very witty. … I think (they’re alike) also in their size. You know, (both Jordan and Carson are) 6-5, 225-plus guys who can really throw it around the field.”

There have been brother tandems in the NFL playing on the same team: Akin and Remi Ayodele in Dallas, Jake Reed and Dale Carter in New Orleans, and Andre and Kevin Dyson in Tennessee are some recent examples. The Bengals have even been down this road before, as they had Jim and Ross Browner in 1979-80, and Ray and Archie Griffin from 1978-83.

Even though the Palmers are vying, even if unintentionally, to make history, this wasn’t necessarily the desired stop for Jordan. For all the admiration that Jordan carries for his older brother, he craves an opportunity to carve out his own niche. Not that he’s going to complain about potentially backing up a two-time Pro Bowler.

“You know, Carson’s excited, but at the same time he wants me to get on somewhere,” Jordan said. “And he thinks that I have what it takes to play in this league, and to be a starter, and be competitive. So I think he would like for me to go somewhere else where I can stick. At the same time, getting the opportunity to work with your brother, no matter what the job is, football or not, is pretty cool. But I know that I have an uphill battle here. I know I’ve got to beat some guys here that are pretty established, so, you know, I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

If it’s any consolation, at least now their parents won’t have to choose sides.

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