The Arizona Cardinals finished their 2013 campaign in strong fashion, just missing the postseason with a 10-6 record. In the grand scheme of things, they were a playoff team that happened to be in the wrong division. Still, the momentum they gained at the end of Bruce Arians’ first season as their head coach should transfer well into 2014.
The Cardinals were able to close out their campaign by winning seven of their last nine games. During that stretch, Carson Palmer only collapsed in one game, throwing four interceptions in week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks. Ironically, the Cardinals still won the game 17 to 10.
The start of the season was another issue for Palmer. In their first seven games, he Palmer threw 13 interceptions; compare that to the nine he threw in the last nine games of the season, and it’s not too difficult to see what the Cardinals’ biggest problem was last season. Arizona lives and dies by the effectiveness of their passing attack, and by extension by Palmer.
The good news is Palmer shed much of the inconsistencies of his past. In contrast to much of his career, he was consistent throughout 2013. In the first seven games, he was consistently bad, and in the last nine he was consistently good, even great at times.
Still, the Cardinals will likely be looking to bring in a young quarterback this offseason, if for no other reason than to serve as an understudy to Palmer, who is 34-years old. Because he closed out the season in a strong manner, the Cardinals have plenty of options at their disposal.
The first option is to use the twentieth overall pick to select their quarterback of the future. In this scenario, Palmer would likely remain with the team as the starting quarterback, but the team’s young gun would also be capable of stepping in should Palmer relapse into throwing interceptions like candy thrown in a parade. Obviously, this option gives the Cards more security than any other option, but it takes away their top draft pick at the same time.
The second option is to take a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft. If this is the route the team takes, Palmer will almost certainly be starting for at least another couple of seasons. In this scenario, Arizona would be drafting a passer with a lot of talent that still needs refined. Considering Palmer’s production last season, this is the route they’ll probably go.
The third and final option available to Arizona is to simply ignore the position in the draft. Regardless of who or when the Cardinals pick a quarterback, the team will be sunk if Palmer can’t play well barring a Russell Wilson-like rookie performance by a draftee. The Cardinals are a solid team that started to put the pieces together at the end of last season, and there’s nothing that suggests they won’t be able to pick up where they left off.
Part of Palmer’s struggles throughout his career can be attributed to being surrounded by mediocre players. Right now, he’s working with what may be his best team yet, and that talent began to show through late in 2013. Arizona may start looking for their next franchise quarterback this offseason, but for the immediate future, Palmer is their ticket to the playoffs.