Jump to content

Palmer his own toughest critic


Recommended Posts

Palmer his own toughest critic

Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler

Back home in California for the winter, in the shadow of Hollywood, Carson Palmer watched movies.

So doing, he turned his thumbs in both directions from time to time. Up for the big adventures against the Browns and Ravens late in last season. Down for his initial disasters against both. And sometimes - often, actually - both thumbs working the same game, in contradiction.

"I learn from the good and the bad," said the Bengals' incumbent quarterback, their best reason to expect the best in the season way ahead. "It's good to see a certain coverage unfold and the play work. It's also good to see a certain coverage unfold and you see yourself go the wrong way with the ball, go to the wrong receiver. You learn from both ends of it."

Not long ago, the Bengals had a talented young quarterback - we won't use Akili Smith's name - who didn't fully embrace the learning aspect of his complicated position. He's out of the league already.

From him, the Bengals did their own learning. They kept Palmer out of real games for a year, placing him at a rolling desk tethered to Jon Kitna. For his debut in the 2004 opener, he impressed the Jets with an improbable impeccability.

Thereafter, the league came at him faster, occasioning some color blindness at inopportune moments. Palmer was a more discerning seer by the second time Cleveland and Baltimore came around and well into New England, which, however, proved detrimental to his knee. For three games there - his last three - the big guy was aces.

What he learned, when push came to pick, was the value of learning. Also, the humiliation of messing up.

That's why, with the beach beckoning in Orange County, Palmer made himself linger at home a little longer, eating chicken and fish, watching interception after bad decision. He was the most critical of commentators.

"You can't say what I say on the air," he said. "It's almost cringing. Even if I feel like I had a pretty good game, there are moments when you go back and say, 'What are you doing, you idiot?'

"Some of the throws I made - rookies mistakes, stupid mistakes - it's really hard to watch that. Throwing the ball up for grabs against Baltimore. Throwing a pick against the Redskins. There were so many mistakes I made that were just dumb. I was a first-time player out there making first-time throws. On one interception, I should have run. One play I just threw up a jump ball. You don't throw jump balls in this league."

A guy wins the Heisman Trophy, he has reason to believe he can keep doing that which won him the Heisman Trophy; that which made him first among the chosen. What 13 starts taught Palmer - the lesson brought home by so much unforgiving film - was uh-uh.

The good footage, however, revealed a golden thrower to go with a pair of Pro Bowlers named Johnson in the Bengals' stacked offense. The escalating numbers of the two Californians in the hand - T.J. Houshmandzadeh being the other - suggest that four of a kind is not out of the question.

"We played well with Carson in his last three or four games," said Houshmandzadeh, whose re-signing took on unforeseen significance after a 978-yard season, "and hopefully we can pick it up where we left off. You'd think we would.

"Me and Carson were cool before all this and will continue to be. Aside from Carson, the rest of us - me, Chad and Rudi - we all took different paths to reach here. We all went to junior college. We had it hard. Carson has been groomed to go to the NFL since he was probably a freshman in high school, maybe before that. He's been in a high-profile, high-glamour type of position.

"But he's a down-to-earth guy. You bridge all that easy because of the type of person Carson is."

And the type of quarterback - the type who can take a guy like Houshmandzadeh where he wants to go. The pony-tailed pass-catcher, for instance, would have liked very much to be alongside his old Oregon State teammate in Honolulu, when Johnson won the Pro Bowl "hands" competition.

"They wouldn't let me in the hands competition," Houshmandzadeh lamented. "But Chad knows I have the best hands. Chad, contrary to the name of the contest, was just smarter than those guys when it came to the high ball. Catching the ball is in the eyes. He has the best hands in the league, so they say, but not the best hands on the team."

This, bear in mind, was offered with Johnson holding forth at the next locker, just before the two of them wandered out to the practice field Wednesday to lend their best and better hands to Palmer and Kitna. Their workout was not scripted by the coaching staff, but it was highly encouraged. Five months before the season opener at Cleveland, more than three before official training camp, roughly 90 percent of the increasingly earnest team is already on hand, getting better.

"Honestly," said the man whose improvement probably counts most (and whose celebrated slimming down was merely a case of common sense), "what we did last year didn't get us where we needed to be. So we're talking a lot more about being physical, keeping our knees bent in an athletic position."

That goes for the starting quarterback, as well. Knee-bending wasn't one of the technical items that Palmer picked up in his private cinema room - it wasn't, by any means, what his winter was all about in the OC - but, hey, that's why he's here.

That's why he's here in April.

Contact Lonnie Wheeler at lwheeler@cincypost.com.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Phenomenal read to start the day. Thank you Lonnie Wheeler.

Dear Lord I can't wait for the season to get here.

It's been since 1986 that we have had a stud quarterback coming into his own with a young offense around him. Really really really good times.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

why would he? he not only commands double teams unlike tj, he still gets more A. receptions B. Touchdowns and C. yards. until tj does something significant to knock chad from the #1 spot, he has the best everything, including hands.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pretty good OLD article about how Palmer

learned how to watch films from Ron Jaworski.

Roll tape: quarterback Carson Palmer, expected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, sits down with Ron Jaworski to learn how to watch film - NFL

Sporting News, The, March 10, 2003 by Dan Pompei

The linebackers are moving forward and backward before the snap. But the red dot of the laser is on the cornerbacks, who are standing still. "Those (linebackers) are playing games, but as you study tape, you know with the way these corners are as soft as they are, there's no way they're going to blitz."

This is what Carson Palmer came for. This is why he made a pilgrimage to football's mecca, NFL Films in South Jersey. To study at the feet of the master. To listen to Ron Jaworski as he breaks down tape.

"I never really learned how to watch film," Palmer, the Southern California quarterback, tells Jaworski. "When I came in at USC, I was always competing. I never got to sit back behind a guy and see how it's done. I'd like to see how you would prepare. I'd love to learn and pick up new techniques and ideas."

Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner who is expected to be the first pick in the NFL draft, met Jaworski in San Diego at a Super Bowl party. There, Jaworski invited Palmer to watch tape with him.

So a month later, they convene in the office where Jaworski watches up to a dozen games every week in preparation for the Edge NFL Matchup on ESPN. They are joined by Pat Kirwan, a former NFL executive and a columnist for NFL.com who is serving as a mentor for Palmer, and Greg Cosell, the executive producer for the Edge NFL Matchup. Each offers some pearls of wisdom to Palmer, but Jaworski crams advice into the day like rush-hour commuters jam into a bus.

"A lot of guys plug the tape in and they start watching the game," Jaworski says. "That's probably the worst thing you can do. At your position, the quarterback position, you have to know everything that's going on--not only your guys, but the 11 guys on defense."

Sid Gillman taught Jaworski the most about watching tape, Jaworski says, and he also learned from Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Don Shula and Marty Schottenheimer. "I always feel I learned from the best," says Jaworski, who lasted 17 years as an NFL quarterback and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl after the 1980 season. "And I never have stopped learning. Always feel you can get better, and the film is the tool it all starts with."

"Look at this." The laser follows a linebacker moving toward the quarterback after the snap. "Once you see the linebacker takes a step up, you know they're not going zone. They're going to some sort of man responsibility. That's a great indicator if it's man or zone immediately."

Palmer wants to know how many tapes of an opponent he should watch. Jaworski says four is the standard and that Palmer also could watch tapes of himself before a game.

They start by dissecting Palmer's performance against Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Jaworski watches Palmer's first completion, on a deep route to Kareem Kelly.

Jaworski: "Did you anticipate this coverage?"

Palmer: "They played a lot of quarters, and right when that safety comes down, we know there's going to be a man free."

Jaworski: "You're absolutely right.... You have nosy safeties, this is what you go for, right here."

Mostly, Jaworski has praise for Palmer. He is impressed with Palmer's fundamentals and technique. He commends Palmer for his mechanics, quick release, ability to pump fake, accuracy, willingness to run out of bounds with a defender bearing down, discipline to keep his shoulders square while throwing on the move and commitment to make runs look like passes. He notes the way Palmer uses two hands to stick the ball into the chest of the running back, then turns his head and locates his receiver quickly on play fakes.

"Our coaches really like that, too, but every time I stick the ball in a sweaty, wet chest, the ball is all wet," Palmer says.

But here's a play that gets Jaworski's attention, when Palmer takes a false step with his left foot at the start of his dropback.

Jaworski: "Let me ask you about this footwork. Why do you drop that foot back?"

Palmer: "It's a little punch step. When I (go to my) left, for some reason I punch-step."

Jaworski: "This might get you in trouble on your time routes, your three-steppers that have to be out in 1.5 seconds. On Ronde Barber's interception against the Eagles (in the NFC championship game), Donovan (McNabb) made that step, and it cost him half a second."

Instead, Jaworski recommends a "stagger step," in which the quarterback lines up with his left foot already back, as Kurt Warner does.

The Titans' complex coverage is a hybrid of man and zone, and the result is an interception. "As a quarterback, you must see the throw against this defense. You can never say, `That's the coverage, I'm throwing it.' You have to see the lane and make sure you don't see that backside linebacker or the safety."

Palmer asks Jaworski what he should be studying and preparing for between now and the draft. Jaworski's answer: nickel coverages.

"In the NFL, it's unbelievably difficult," Jaworski says. "Like (defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson in Philly. Their whole plan is to get you in third-and-6 or more. Once they have that, they own you. As I've studied the evolution of the passing game against nickel, you see very few full-field reads.... They've gone to more either/or reads because of the great ability of the pass rush. Work on that. And keep yourself in great shape. Take care of your arm. In the course of a season, you'll throw 40,000 passes. That's a lot of wear and tear on your arm. When you're done with practice, ice it down. It's preventative maintenance."

Jaworski has other big-picture tips for Palmer that don't have anything to do with the screen in front of them. He says everything in his life must be geared toward winning a championship, and that means a complete commitment. Jaworski's recommendation is to be the first one to work and the last one to leave and to hang out with every position group and racial group on the team.

Championships are won by being effective in the red zone, the teacher tells the pupil. "Teams are almost giving you the field goal down here," Jaworski says. "They're going to rush three, drop five under and three deep. We've seen the Patriots rush two, drop nine. You're going to have to have great confidence in your arm and trust your wide receivers when you get in the red zone. You have to believe you can make those stick throws."

Kirwan asks Cosell to send some tapes to Palmer so he can study them at home. Cosell prepares tapes of the Eagles, Bucs, Patriots and Dolphins defenses, as well as the Bengals, Bears and Panthers offenses, the latter so Palmer can get a feel for the teams that might draft him.

The laser follows the safety moving forward in the middle of the field at the snap. "Whenever you get that `robber' or `thief,' it means you've got one-on-one on the outside. You can't do any better than that."

Jaworski tries to contrast some of the differences between college and the NFL. He points out a cornerback running with a receiver. They are close enough to smell what the other had for breakfast. He says in the NFL, that's called being open. Jaworski shows Palmer an NFL team's weekly game plan. Palmer says it is as thick as his Southern Cal playbook for the entire season.

Palmer notices how almost every throw in the NFL is an anticipation throw, unlike in college. "The key is to know what happens before that back foot hits, so when that back foot hits, you know where you're going with that football, not sitting there waiting, hoping something happens," Jaworski says.

Palmer, who watched eight to 10 hours of tape per week during college, says he feels he never can watch enough. Eventually, Jaworski says, Palmer's tape study will simplify the game. "It will happen like this for you," Jaworski says. "Maybe not Year 1, maybe not Year 2.... But I could see watching one game you're doing an incredible job of processing information.... You'll develop that process even quicker as you study more."

Jaworski points to a play.

Jaworski: "Corners in the NFL will read a three-step drop and drive on a receiver (to attempt an interception)."

Palmer: "So in the league, you can't back shoulder them (throw to the receiver's back shoulder)?"

Jaworski: "Oh, yeah, you can back shoulder them."

Palmer is relieved to see concepts that are not entirely foreign to him, but he says he has an entirely different perception of the game at its highest level.

"When you're a punk kid coming out of college and you have to compete with the best guys in the world at this game, it's very nerve-racking," he says as he prepares to leave. "It's scary. You question, am I going to struggle at first? You hear about how fast and how smart and how different the NFL is. To sit down and see it ... it's the same thing, except stepped up a level. You realize it is still football. To come here and hear it from laws ... it calmed my nerves down."

They shake hands, and Palmer makes his way down the long, winding staircase in the lobby of NFL Films, a better quarterback than when he came.

E-mail senior writer Dan Pompei at dpomoei@sportingnews,com.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Sporting News Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been a big Palmer fan for years but there are three examples of his demeanor that explain why I developed a very healthy heterosexual man crush on him.

First, after losing to Kansas State Palmer was asked about the huge number of passes his receivers had dropped, many of them on critical 3rd down opportunities. Palmer refused to take the bait and repeatedly blamed himself for not playing better. However, the interviewer was having none of it and kept bringing up how important the 3rd down drops had been....prompting Palmer to remark about the throws he had missed on previous downs. The thing that made his responses jaw dropping wasn't the words, but the fact that you could tell it wasn't an act.

The other two examples came after huge victories over Notre Dame and Iowa. On both of these occasions microphones were shoved into Palmers face by interviewers offering praise and admiration. Well, Palmer wasn't having any of that stuff either. Shouldn't have made those early mistakes. Could have had more points. Can't believe I missed on that play right before throwing the touchdown pass. Again, the responses aren't unique, but the fact that Palmer wasn't being a fake might be.

I've never seen an athlete as supremely confident as Palmer is who also displays as much sincere humility as he does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:D That's not contagious is it? :D I am so glad that they did not take Newman like so many people thought, Leftwich has a strong, but he can't run out of the pocket, Boller hasn't really had WR help and Heap has been hurt, so they had to rely on Jammal. Has help this year so we will know soon. Mike Brown was the one who wanted Palmer, he said it may be the last they get to draft a franchise QB. I for 1 am glad he's on our team, you just know he is going to be something special. Both articles real good :P
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never seen an athlete as supremely confident as Palmer is who also displays as much sincere humility as he does.

I'm not sure humility is the right word for it but I was somehwat impressed to hear CP on the NFL net say the shootout win over the Clowns last year was a bigger win that the 4th Q comeback vs. Ratbirds for the Bengals 1st road win vs. team w/ winning record in 43 tries. His reason for the Clowns game was cause it was in front of home fans.

Not doubt CP will load it up this year bigtime. The Bengals are in every game. Period. And fans should be able to enjoy watching several games this year w/ healthy leads for the 1st time in a long time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never seen an athlete as supremely confident as Palmer is who also displays as much sincere humility as he does.

I'm not sure humility is the right word for it but I was somehwat impressed to hear CP on the NFL net say the shootout win over the Clowns last year was a bigger win that the 4th Q comeback vs. Ratbirds for the Bengals 1st road win vs. team w/ winning record in 43 tries. His reason for the Clowns game was cause it was in front of home fans.

Not doubt CP will load it up this year bigtime. The Bengals are in every game. Period. And fans should be able to enjoy watching several games this year w/ healthy leads for the 1st time in a long time.

That's a great point.

It's why I can wargame the schedule next year and come up with potential winning scenarios all over it.

With Carson Palmer at quarterback, they will NEVER be out of a game.

That's the lesson from the Baltimore roadie last year. We have not had that in so long it makes me ache.

Yeah, there should be plenty of games next year were Cincy actually plays with a healthy lead, and they should be in all of them. Can. Not. Wait.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure humility is the right word for it....

Pick your own if you'd like. I won't mind a bit.

Here are two other example of what I like so much about Palmer's personality. First, early in his career at Southern Cal Palmer became the local whipping boy for everything that had gone wrong at a once proud program. Palmer got blamed for the lousy running game. Palmer got blamed for the lousy O-line. Might as well blame him for the lousy defense too. Radio talk shows roasted him daily as did newspaper writers. The so-called prodigy that never developed. Dumb. No personality. Vacant. I never heard him complain. Best, I never once heard him attempt to deflect the personal attacks by criticizing any of his teammates or Paul Hackett, a head coach who was clearly out of his depth in almost all phases of the game. Sheesh, Hackett almost ruined the guy.

One other thing I like about the guy is the fire inside that most people don't see. If he's killing the other guy he never lets up. Sure, that's fairly common stuff I admit. But if he just made a stupid mistake watch out, because he doesn't get down on himself...he gets even. And Bengal fans have seen a little of this already, right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

carson is special. he might end up better than boomer and anderson. he easily has the potential. we just need a solid offense, which we have, and a solid defense, which we hope...it all falls on the defense for another year in a row.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

carson is special. he might end up better than boomer and anderson. he easily has the potential. we just need a solid offense, which we have, and a solid defense, which we hope...it all falls on the defense for another year in a row.

Having seen just about every Bengal QB play in the history of the franchise, I feel (and this is just a personal opinion), that Carson Palmer has shown more potential as a Bengal QB than any other QB since Greg Cook. With the normal qualifications about health, I believe that Carson can be every bit as good as Greg Cook promised to be, that is, a QB who will dominate a decade or more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...