BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ever since Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer dislocated his finger on Sunday Night Football against the Eagles on Dec. 20, he didn’t seem like the same Carson Palmer that led the team on a seven-game winning streak prior to that game.
Nothing was more telling than in the NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers. Palmer turned the ball over six times in that game (four interceptions, two fumbles). Afterwards, Palmer was asked about his finger, and if it bothered him during the game, and he said no.
His finger may or may not have bothered him against the Packers (twice), the Seahawks and the Panthers, but something wasn’t right with Palmer after the Philadelphia game.
Cardinals team president/owner Michael Bidwill was a guest of PFT’s Mike Florio on Radio Row at Super Bowl 50 on Thursday, and the topic of Palmer’s finger came up in their chat.
Florio asked Bidwill if the Cardinals would be playing in Super Bowl 50 if Palmer didn’t injure himself against the Eagles, to which Bidwill replied:
“You know, a lot’s been said about that dislocated finger. I watched practices; his (Palmer) throws were sharp. I don’t think the finger was as much of a factor as people think,” Bidwill said. “I just think, when it came down to the way we played at Carolina, it wasn’t just Carson (Palmer), there were other star Cardinal players (on) offense and defense that didn’t play their best.”
“The Carolina Panthers are a very good football team, and they did play their best,” Bidwill said. “Congratulations to them. They’ve moved on, but we’re going to be making sure that we do the things we do to make sure that NFC Championship Game comes back to Arizona next year.”
Florio pointed out to Bidwill that on the Cardinals run to Super Bowl XLIII, they went to Charlotte, N.C., and beat the Panthers (there’s such a history between the Cardinals and Panthers in Charlotte isn’t it?) 33-13 – A game that saw Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme turn the ball over six times, just like Palmer did in that very same building.
Delhomme was never quite the same after that game, so Florio asked Bidwill if there’s any concern that Palmer’s confidence is shot because of the game he had a few weeks ago against Carolina.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Bidwill said. “I think he (Palmer) had a bad day, there’s no doubt about it; I think he was pressing, but I think he’ll bounce back. Again, we had other players that didn’t play well that day. A lot of attention is always put on the quarterback, but I’m confident that Carson’s going to come back better than ever. He was one of the league’s best quarterbacks in 2015, and I think he’s going to continue to be.”
Bidwill, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald’s agent, Eugene Parker, were pretty much joined at the hip this past offseason, as all parties worked their fingers to the bone to try and get a new deal worked out that would keep Fitzgerald in Arizona, and hopefully ensure that Fitzgerald would retire as an Arizona Cardinal.
That deal did get worked out, and Fitzgerald was all the better for it, because he certainly earned every cent of the $10.85 million he was paid this season. He had a career-high 109 catches during the regular season, and he had his seventh career 1,000-yard season (1,215 yards and nine touchdowns).
Arizona wouldn’t have made it to the NFC title game if it weren’t for Fitzgerald’s super-human efforts against Green Bay in overtime, with his 75-yard catch and run to set up his five-yard touchdown off a shovel pass from Palmer. It was truly one of the greatest endings in NFL playoff history.
Those kinds of performances are ones Bidwill expects to see from Fitzgerald. He’s had a Hall of Fame career up to this point, so why not continue that level of play in the playoffs, where Fitzgerald’s really shined in his career.
“I always felt like he (Fitzgerald) was an important part, and one of our leaders, not only in the locker room, but on the field,” Bidwill said. “Everybody could see it at that Green Bay (Packers) game. He put the team on his back, and he singlehandedly won that game for us. I think most of us agree, he just did an amazing job, and he gives an energy to the team that they want to succeed. He’s an amazing leader.”
Head coach Bruce Arians is a man that everybody in the NFL respects, but he’s a man that a majority of the teams around the league didn’t see as being a viable head coach, except the Cardinals.
Bidwill saw some things in Arians that the 31 other NFL franchises didn’t see, which made Bidwill rush to hire him: He saw “leadership” traits in Arians, and he saw “somebody that was going to hold players accountable.” Those two characteristics, among many others, made Arians the perfect choice as Arizona’s head coach.
“I saw a guy with a plan, (with) the most important thing being leadership,” Bidwill said. “The players want to play for them, and you can see that, not only with the Cardinals, but even when he was interim (head) coach for the Indianapolis Colts. They loved playing for him, and he handled that thing (taking over for Chuck Pagano) right. I was surprised that he didn’t get other opportunities throughout his career, but I was glad we had the opportunity to get out there and bring him on board.”
You can watch Bidwill’s interview with Florio right here.