On April 26, 2003, the Cincinnati Bengals took Carson Palmer with the top overall pick in the NFL Draft. The team hoped that the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Southern Cal quarterback would lead the team to its first playoff victory in more than a decade. At the time, Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson had just broken the franchise receiving yards record in just his second NFL season. For this first time in a while, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Cincinnati Bengals football.
Palmer and Johnson quickly became one of the NFL’s best quarterback/wide receiver duos. By 2005 – just Palmer’s second year as a starter – the Bengals won the AFC North, finished with a winning record (11-5) and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Every Bengal fan knows what happened next.
In their first playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury on the Bengals’ second offensive play of the game. The Bengals went on to lose, 31-17.
It took four more seasons for the Bengals to make it back to the playoffs, but they would lose again in the first round – this time to the New York Jets, 24-14.
By 2010, the relationship between Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson (now Ochocinco), which had been shaky for several seasons, completely deteriorated. After finishing the season 4-12, the Palmer and Johnson/Ochocinco era came to an abrupt end in Cincinnati. Although Palmer briefly retired after the team refused to grant his request to be traded, he was ultimately shipped to Oakland in October 2011. Ochocinco was traded to New England for two draft picks three months earlier.
However, the Bengals were ready to usher in a new era. With their first two picks in the 2011 draft, Cincinnati replaced Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, respectively.
After the first season of the Dalton/Green era, things once again look bright for the Bengals – in an eerily similar way that they did in 2003. With a red-haired signal caller and a flashy young receiver, Cincinnati finished with a 9-7 record and earned a playoff berth. However, the result was an all-too-familiar one. The Bengals were one-and-done in the playoffs again, suffering a brutal 31-10 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans.
Is history repeating itself in the Queen City or will the Bengals finally capture that playoff victory that’s eluded them for the past 22 years?
As football season approaches and fans across the nation begin stocking their coolers, drafting their fantasy football teams and renewing their NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions, Bengal nation is hoping that 2012 is the year that the “Black and Orange” finally turn the corner.
However, in order for the Bengals to finally take that crucial next step as a franchise, they will have to earn back-to-back playoff appearances – a feat they haven’t accomplished in 30 years.