Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer announced his retirement Tuesday after 15 NFL seasons, sparking a polarizing debate here at WaPo HQ over whether he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Team No seemed instantly predisposed to keeping Palmer out of Canton, mainly because of his lack of postseason success. Team Yes says a closer look at Palmer’s career numbers gives him a good case.
So let’s take a look at the arguments.
Come on, no
The case against Palmer seems to center on the fact that he appeared in just four playoff games over the course of his career, winning only one of them. But one of those games, a wild-card matchup against the Steelers in January 2006, ended after just one pass (a 66-yard completion) when Pittsburgh linebacker Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer low and tore both his left anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the process, an injury that was considered career-threatening at the time. The injury resulted in the NFL changing its rules to better protect quarterbacks from such low hits.
Palmer started all 16 games the next season and was named Pro Bowl MVP.
In 2015-16, Palmer led the Cardinals to the NFC title game but threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles in a 49-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
There’s also the fact that Palmer was named to the Pro Bowl only three times and never once was named a first-team all-pro. He also threw 187 career interceptions, with a full 3 percent of his career pass attempts going to the other team. That’s a worse percentage than such luminaries as Jeff George, Matt Schaub, Ken O’Brien and Kyle Orton.
Yes, give him a gold jacket
Palmer has a much better case when you look at his career numbers.
Career completions: 3,941, ranking 11th all-time. That’s more than Fran Tarkenton, Joe Montana, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly and 20 other Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Career passing yards: 46,247, ranking 12th all-time. That’s more than Fouts, Montana, Johnny Unitas, Kelly and Steve Young, to name a few Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Career touchdown passes: 294, again 12th all-time. That’s more than Warren Moon, Unitas, Montana, Sonny Jurgensen and Fouts, and there are many more below him who are enshrined in Canton.
Career completion percentage: 62.5, tied for 19th all-time. Brett Favre wasn’t as good here. Neither were Aikman, Kelly or Ken Stabler.
Now imagine Palmer’s numbers had he not had three seasons cut short by injury and another cut short after he demanded a trade from the Bengals. Plus, he didn’t play a down in his 2003 rookie season, instead learning the ropes after Cincinnati took him with the No. 1 overall pick out of USC.
The playoff knock against Palmer also isn’t as strong if you look at some other Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Fouts appeared in just seven postseason games yet was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Joe Namath won a Super Bowl, yes, but that game represents 33.3 percent of his three total playoff contests. Moon appeared in 10 playoff games but won only three of them, with zero postseason victories over his final nine NFL seasons.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer’s 294 career touchdown passes are the second most of any quarterback to never start in a Super Bowl, behind Philip Rivers. And that lack of a ring — or really, anything close to a ring — could very well keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but it’ll be an interesting argument when his time comes up.
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