Palmer, who also deserves to shoulder some blame here, held true on his threat to stay sort-of-retired until the Bengals traded him away. He was sick of being tied down with the direction of the organization, though his struggles to recover from an elbow injury in 2009 and 2010 played a key role in the franchise's recent demise.
Bengals owner Mike Brown, who is as successful as he is hardheaded, told Palmer to kick rocks. Brown used his first two draft picks on wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, and he also traded away wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. The Bengals went in a new direction, leaving Palmer behind and starting the 2011 season with a surprising 4-2 record.
The problem, though, was that Brown didn't have any leverage with Palmer. Out of spite, Brown was happy to keep Palmer out of football, rather than trading him to give him a fresh start.
Of course, the Raiders came to the rescue and helped Brown pull off one of the great no-brainers in the history of NFL trades. Oakland surrendered a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013, which will turn into a first-rounder if Oakland finds a way to end its postseason ineptitude.
It won't, but a first- and second-rounder for a guy who swore off your organization isn't a bad haul at all.
Good for the Raiders for having an inflated amount of confidence in the direction of their organization. But it's tough to keep building without any draft picks, and the Raiders aren't scheduled to be on the clock in 2012 until the fifth round. Even worse, they used three of those picks on quarterbacks — the first-rounder on Palmer, the third-rounder in the supplemental draft on Terrelle Pryor and the fourth-rounder on Jason Campbell, whose injury Sunday prompted the Palmer trade.
Sure, the Raiders are consistent, but a consistent effort to waste future draft picks on varying degrees of quarterbacks is a sign of front-office schizophrenia. And with that, Palmer went from one dysfunctional organization to another. The ironic part was that his former team has trended upward in his absence.
If the Raiders somehow find the 2005 version of Palmer, when he was one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, then they'll be in good shape, especially with an extremely athletic group of offensive weapons around him. But that version of Palmer has been stuck behind a wall that includes a devastating knee injury and the aforementioned elbow injury that has made him look mediocre at best.
The truth is, the best team Palmer ever played for was that 2009 Bengals squad that was led by a very good, turnover-happy defense and a gritty ground game. But when Palmer was forced to throw it late in the season — which, to be fair, included two games against the Jets — he was horrendous.
The Raiders probably would have been better off waiting it out and testing their luck with a quarterback in the 2012 draft, which projects to have an historically great one-two-three combination with Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley.
Now, Palmer, who turns 32 in December, must prove that he was worth that risk. It paid off, even if by accident, for Brown and the Bengals, but the Raiders might have made another colossal mistake.