Carson Palmer relieved to escape Oakland chaos for Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is not the type to wax poetic about a former team, nor is he the type to rip a former team.
The closest that Phoenix media ever got to a criticism of his two seasons in Oakland was when he admitted in training camp how nice it is to play on decent playing surfaces in Arizona; an opportunity not afforded at the Raiders’ practice facility in Alameda, or at the multi-purpose O.co Coliseum, where the Athletics also play.
So when talk turned to this Sunday’s matchup with his old team in Oakland, Palmer chalked up the 2011 (8-8) and 2012 (4-12) seasons to bad timing.
"There was so much chaos. There were so many things with the roster that needed to change," he said Wednesday. "It was a difficult, difficult time to be successful, but I think I learned a lot.
"There’s something special about being a Raider. There’s just something different. It was an awesome experience; it just didn’t work out timing-wise with everything that was going on with the salary cap and all the crazy turnover."
The reasons for Palmer’s trade to Oakland have been well-chronicled. He refused to play with the Bengals in 2011, sitting out rather than collecting an $11.5 million salary.
He returned to uniform after being traded to Oakland six games into the season, and then put up big numbers with the Raiders in 2012. He completed 61.1 percent of his passes and threw for 4,018 yards in 15 games — second-most ever for the franchise — with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. But the team still went 4-12 and opted to deal him to Arizona in the offseason while trading for Seattle’s Matt Flynn.
"I think he and his representation totally understand where we’re at," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said in a conference call at the time. "I think, at the end of the day, when we looked at it both from his standpoint and from our standpoint, we just realized that it was time for us to move on and move forward. We felt like Matt Flynn gave us a great option."
It’s no secret that decision didn’t work out for the Raiders. Flynn is back with the Green Bay Pacers, his original team. But to give you a glimpse of what Palmer (and other players) was up against in Oakland, consider this: When he arrived, Hue Jackson was the coach. When he left, Dennis Allen was the coach. When he addressed the media on Wednesday, Tony Sparano was the interim coach.
Oakland hasn’t made the playoffs in 11 seasons (this will be the 12th). In that span, the Raiders have had eight coaches. There is a culture of losing that permeates the organization, even if the players can’t put a handle on why.
"I was only there for a year and a half. You just try to find ways to win games. You don’t think about tradition, you don’t think about history, you don’t think about what other quarterbacks or other offenses did that played for that organization," Palmer said. "You can’t let negative stuff from the past creep in."
Palmer is one of three key former Raiders on the Cardinals roster. The others are left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. All have played well in Arizona; neither could make a dent in that Oakland culture of losing.
"With everyone I was with last year, I know everyone’s tired of it and everyone’s hungry to win," said Veldheer, before keying in on a trend that seems to repeat itself in Oakland. "Just looking at the depth chart this morning, there’s a lot of new people. There are only a few guys that I know that play on that defense."
Coaching turnover. Roster turnover. Nothing has seemed to work in Oakland. Even so, Palmer said he didn’t necessarily want to leave Oakland. The direction of the club left him no choice.
"They wanted to go with a different quarterback, and there’s nothing you can do about that as a player," he said. "When that happens, you’ve got to go on to wherever you go on to. That’s the business. You’ve got to be ready to roll with the punches."
Fortunately for Palmer, he’s happy with his landing spot.
"I’m just getting started here," he said, smiling. "We lost some games that we shouldn’t have early last year that kept us out of the playoffs. This year, we’ve won those games, so that’s a great lesson, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re getting ready to define, hopefully, my time here and our time as a team."