Is Carson Palmer playing better than any Bruce Arians-coached QB?

Sep 21, 2015, 2:41 PM
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) scrambles away from Chicago Bears defensive tackle ...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) scrambles away from Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins (96) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach

Carson Palmer’s 2015 is still a small sample size. It may not be realistic for him to keep this up.

This is a passer rating of 124.4 through two games, a completion percentage of 64, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7:1 and a touchdown rate (the percentage of touchdowns per passes thrown) of 12.5. Still, when Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians visited the Bickley and Marotta show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, the compliments were impressive.

“He’s playing as high a level right now as anybody I’ve ever coached,” Arians said.

Keep in mind, the former offensive coordinator has seen his fair share of very good quarterbacks. Arians has coached Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck at the beginning of their careers, and hosts Vince Marotta and Craig Grialou pointed that out.

Then, Arians dropped another quarterback who, in his mind, Palmer is comparatively outplaying.

“Throw Peyton in there, too,” Arians volunteered. “He’s playing at a level that is very rare.”

Yes, Arians was also an Indianapolis Colts assistant when Peyton Manning began his historic run there.

While Palmer is easily the most veteran quarterback of those names, the stats back Arians’ assessment.

With the Colts from 1998-2000, Arians coached Manning for his first three seasons. After Manning’s difficult rookie year, he led Indy to 13- and 10-win seasons while throwing a combined 59 touchdowns to 30 picks, completing 62 percent of his passes and owning a passer rating between 91 and 94.

Statistically, Manning peaked in 2004 when he threw 49 touchdowns — one in every 10 of his 497 passes that year — to 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 121. But that happened after Arians had already departed.

Arians left Indianapolis in 2000 for Cleveland then arrived in Pittsburgh as its wide receivers coach for the 2004 season, Roethlisberger’s rookie year. After becoming offensive coordinator in 2007, he helped Big Ben thrive until 2011. Roethlisberger arguably had the best full season for a quarterback under Arians’ command. He put up passer ratings of 104 in 2007 and 101 in 2009.

Then, Arians headed to Indianapolis, where he acted as offensive coordinator and then interim coach for Luck’s rookie season in 2012.

For the first time in a long time, Arians, after being hired by the Cardinals, found himself beginning anew with a veteran quarterback in Palmer. Even if Palmer becomes victim to the law of averages in his third year in Arians’ system, he’s well on his way to producing one of the best Arians-coached seasons by a quarterback.

“He’s playing at a high, high level,” Arians said. “He worked his body over extremely hard, but he worked over in the mind and our offense, and didn’t take any time off, was there all spring ready to roll.

“Even now, we’ve streamlined some things talking to him in the offseason, and made it even simpler so we can play even faster.”

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Is Carson Palmer playing better than any Bruce Arians-coached QB?