A long time ago...in a league far, far away...
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was hot enough for Sports Illustrated to want to do an interview with him. He was the prototypical quarterback putting up atypical numbers. Hitting lost legends such as Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Palmer cracked the 4,000-yard mark in 2005, a number not surpassed nearly as often then as it is now.
He had not yet turned into what he is now. The reasons for him ending up that way vary, depending on your feelings on Palmer. Some will say Palmer was never the same after former Steelers defensive end Kemo Von Oelhoffen fell into his knee on his first pass against the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoff game that year.
Some will blame the Bengals, who did not return to the playoffs with Palmer under center after the Steelers beat them in Cincinnati - en route to becoming the first team in NFL history to win three road games and advance to the Super Bowl. Others will blame the arm problems he had upon his return from his knee injury.
However it happened, it happened. Palmer's stock in the league sunk to the point the general fanbase freaked out when it was reported Palmer was traded in 2011 from the Bengals to the Raiders for two first-round picks.
Palmer wanted out of Cincinnati due to the alleged dysfunction that existed, so he was traded to Oakland. Kind of funny, if you think about it.
Cincinnati rode rookie QB Andy Dalton to the playoffs last year. The Raiders rode Palmer to nowhere, which is exactly where he rode the Bengals.
But in that 2005 season, the general consensus was the Bengals were the emerging team in the AFC North. It didn't end the way he wanted it to, and Palmer let everyone know about it in a Sports Illustrated article about his rehabilitation process.
The juiciest quotes he had pertained to his hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I keep thinking about how much, back in college, I hated UCLA," Palmer told SI's Michael Silver, as reported by Tribune-Review reporter Joe Starkey back in 2006. "I hate the Steelers more than I hate UCLA. Yeah, it's because I'm jealous and want what they have. ... It's how everybody in our locker room feels."
Starkey took that quote and ran - he didn't walk - to the Steelers' locker room, and headed for then-fourth year linebacker Larry Foote with it.
"Carson Palmer only beat us one time, so he should hate us," Foote said. I'd hate a team, too, if I only beat them one time and (lost) in the playoffs."
There have been lots of snaps between the time when Palmer was 1-4 against the Steelers, professing his hate to an audience that actually cared what he thought.
It didn't seem Foote really cared that day what Palmer thought. Although the Bengals captain was among the masses who genuinely believed his injury was the only reason they failed to win the Super Bowl that year, despite the injury occurring on the third play of the game. Foote disagreed with that notion.
"They self-destructed and started crying," Foote said. "But, you know, that's the game. People get hurt. You just have to get yourself together, get your composure. They lost it. ... When teams are forcing your will on you, it's going to make you do crazy stuff."
Crazy, like get in a tussle with your wide receivers coach at halftime of a playoff game? That coach, incidentally, was former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson.
Say what you will about Marvin Lewis, Chad Johnson, the discipline of the Bengals or even the fact Palmer, when healthy, was only 4-9 against the Steelers in his career. The biggest issue with him has been the amount of leadership the laid-back Palmer has brought to each of the teams for whom he's played.
The Sports Illustrated article talked about Palmer being upset and distraught, sadly listening to the second half of that playoff loss with his knee immobilized as his wife drove him home from the stadium. It painted Palmer as being....
wait a minute.
Drove him home from the stadium during the second half? He's got somewhere better to be than at least in the locker room to show support for his teammates?
Obviously he wasn't going to return to the game, but does a leader leave his team by choice during its time of need? If his response is there's nothing I can do to help, then he's not their leader. If the inflammatory Johnson is so upset he wants to fight his position coach and head coach, perhaps Palmer being there could have helped calm him down.
This is old news. Palmer's leadership ability is in question now more than ever, though. A Raiders team that has been described fairly as "rudderless" over the last few years is struggling substantially in Dennis Allen's first year as head coach. There's no way they can view Palmer as a long-term solution.
He used to be the only long-term solution the Bengals needed. He was the one executing his exit strategy. The Bengals managed to match the same height Palmer did as soon as he left - with a much less talented team, too. And Oakland is drowning with him at the head of the ship.
So does Palmer still hate the Steelers? Probably. The one main difference between 2005 and now is the Steelers have remained a team superior to Palmer's teams in nearly every season since then.
Oh, and no one cares what Carson Palmer thinks anymore.