To commemorate the 50th year of the Bengals, we’re looking back at nine Epic Events that shaped the history of the franchise. Not Epic Moments -- although there are some of them on the list -- but events that had long-lasting effect.
One story will publish each day from now until the Bengals' season opener on Sept. 10.
No. 5: Carson Palmer’s knee
If there’s one play that changed the franchise, it is the second snap of a Jan. 8, 2006 Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Never has elation turned to abject disappointment quicker.
Carson Palmer had just completed 66-yard pass to Chris Henry. While fans were cheering, Kimo von Oelhoffen, the former Bengal, hit Palmer low. Palmer was carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury.
The Bengals ended up losing the game 31-17 behind backup quarterback Jon Kitna. You’ve got to think the game could have gone the other way if Palmer wasn’t hurt.
The 2005 team was one of the best in franchise history. It ended the franchise's 14-year streak without a winning season.
It looked like things were permanently turning around behind Palmer, the first pick in 2003 draft. Running back Rudi Johnson set a team record with 1,458 rushing yards. Cornerback Deltha O’Neal set a team record with 10 interceptions. Palmer, O’Neal, left tackle Willie Anderson, kicker Shayne Graham and wide receiver Chad Johnson made the Pro Bowl.
Palmer’s quarterback rating of 101.1 was then a franchise record. His 32 touchdown passes led the NFL.
Then came the hit against the Steelers.
"On a scale of one to three, it was a four," said Dr. Lonnie Paulos, who did the surgery to repair the injury. "It was off the chart. It was pretty badly damaged -- shredded is the better term."
Palmer, of course, recovered from the injury. He was back at quarterback the following year and put up good numbers -- 28 TDs, 93.9 quarterback rating -- but the team slipped to 8-8, 7-9, 4-11-1 in the three seasons following that playoff game.
The team would make the playoffs one more time with Palmer at quarterback. They went 10-6 in 2009 and lost to New York Jets 24-14 at home.
Palmer issued his trade-me-or-I’ll-retire proclamation a year later and the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton.
Owner Mike Browns was having none of that.
“Carson signed a contract,’ Brown said. “He made a commitment. He gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. He's going to walk away from his commitment. We aren't going to reward him for doing it."[
Palmer held out deep in the 2011 season. The Bengals finally traded him in October to the Oakland Raiders for two draft picks. The team eventually took Giovani Bernard and Dre Kirkpatrick with the picks.
But you have to wonder how things would have turned out if Von Oelhoffen hadn’t rolled on Palmer’s knee in 2006.
The rest of the countdown so far:
- No. 9: Hiring Marvin Lewis
- No. 8: Corey Dillon's record night
- No. 7: The stadium deal
- No. 6: What if?
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org