GM for a Day—Carson Palmer

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In this blog a couple of days ago, Sridhar looked back at a time when he harbored dreams of a law degree leading his way to becoming the General Manager of the Bengals. Of course, fans of all sports dream about what it would be like if they were to become GM of their team. Bengals fans dream of what it would be like if anyone were to become GM of their team.

The very essence of water-cooler sports debate is “What would I have done differently?” Struck the penalty higher. Never left in the starting pitcher. Definitely shouldn’t have left my cell phone on the kitchen table that Thanksgiving night.

So right now, I’m going to play Bengals GM on the most contrary and possibly damaging issue the Bengals faced this summer—no, not whether Nike might take over our uniforms and make them “too stripy,” though I know for some people that’s a biggie—I’m talking, of course, about the Carson Palmer situation.

There is no need to go into the details of the situation; they’ve been hashed over many times—essentially Carson Palmer would rather retire than earn a fortune to play in Cincinnati and Mike Brown would rather build an acceptable high-school standard cold-weather training facility than trade him. Stand off. No bad blood exists, apparently, between the two. Mike Brown insists they are still facebook friends and that is that. But isn’t there something a General Manager, a lawyer, a somebody could have done to avoid this embarrassment? I think there is. Negotiate.

Look, I have a lot of belief in Andy Dalton. However, there’s a reason for the pessimistic critical outlook upon the Bengals: It doesn’t matter how tough and smart your defense, how exciting your receiving corps, how smart your coaches—nobody backs a team without a proven quarterback.  The tragedy for the Bengals this year is that we have the aforementioned strengths, and we also have a ludicrously easy schedule. From the perennially terrible AFC West to an AFC South that currently lacks its two most famous players, we have it pretty soft.

Would we have benefited from a Pro-Bowl QB? Absolutely. Would Andy Dalton have benefited from a year of watching, learning, taking a few snaps, not being disemboweled by James Harrison? Indeed. So how to make this happen? A simple piece of negotation. Mike Brown offers Carson a trade in 2012, provided the Bengals are offered at least, say, a second round pick. Mike Brown saves face as Carson is back in Bengals colors. Andy Dalton gets a year to learn like almost every other rookie QB does. Carson gets his trade. The Bengals get some value for the franchise player. If Palmer, after a year in which, say, we do rather well and he discovers he loves throwing to AJ “Randy Moss without the attitude” Green, decides he’d like to stick around, he doesn’t have to activate the clause. It’s in his hands.

If, however, he decides that the team still sucks, people are still throwing garbage on his lawn, his wife’s tan is still fading and so forth, then he can have his trade. However, he’s incentivised to do well because a team has to offer at least a second round pick (and bearing in mind better offers were made after a mediocre 2010, that shouldn’t seem unreasonable) in order for the trade to be enforceable. His commitment to good play is in the interest of the Bengals not only on the field but also in the sense that a bidding war would perhaps result in a first round pick, two seconds and so on.

Of course it’s almost certainly too late for this now. The new season starts in just ten days, and Andy Dalton will be under center. I’m sure there are holes in this plan. I’d be delighted to hear them or to receive better suggestions. After all, what’s the point of playing the GM if everyone else isn’t going to tell you all the things they’d do differently?

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