ESPN analyst Jaworski: Looked like pressure got to Carson Palmer

Jan 28, 2016, 5:48 PM | Updated: Jan 29, 2016, 11:30 am
Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer drops back during the first half the NFL football NFC Championship...
Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer drops back during the first half the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
LISTEN: Ron Jaworski, ESPN NFL Analyst

Carson Palmer was fantastic during the regular season, throwing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and a QB rating of 104.6.

He was considerably less good in the playoffs, throwing for 584 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions and a QB rating of 67.1.

Since the Arizona Cardinals’ season ended last Sunday in a 49-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers, many have wondered what exactly led to Palmer’s postseason struggles.

Some have speculated his right index finger, which was dislocated in a Week 15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, was a problem. However, both Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians have done their best to rule that out as a factor.

If not the finger, then why would someone who was so good for the better part of a 16-game slate be so off in the games that mattered most?

Pressure is a possibility, as it is something ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL QB Ron Jaworski told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 exists for players in big spots.

“Pressure is part of playing the quarterback position,” he said. “At this point in his career you’d think Palmer would be immune to that, but he’s never been in those situations where every pass is critical, every play call, every audible is absolutely critical.

“These are one-and-done situations. You make a mistake, it’s magnified. So yes, there are guys that can deal with that pressure and there are guys that struggle with that pressure. And based upon what we saw the last two games from Carson, he has a very difficult time dealing with that.”

Jaworski added that since he is not around Palmer and the Cardinals on a daily basis he cannot with certainty say nerves are what felled the MVP candidate, noting it would take one of his coaches or teammates to really know if that was an issue or not.

“But it’s clear that these games, in critical situations, somehow caused him to make mistakes and not see the field with clarity,” he said.

Whatever the reason or reasons really were for Palmer’s down playoffs, the unfortunate result of the two-game stretch is that much of the good he accomplished during the regular season will be overshadowed by how the campaign finished.

When asked how it all changes how Jaworski views Palmer in terms of how he ranks among the rest of the NFL’s quarterbacks, the analyst said dramatically.

“It will have a huge impact,” he said. “One of my top attributes is called winning, and to me, for the quarterback position, that is most important.”

Jaworski continued, saying he understands Palmer’s regular season was good enough to put him second behind Cam Newton in the MVP voting, and you cannot take that away from him.

“But when you get to the playoffs, I think that’s when your quarterback has to stand up, you have to show those leadership skills, you have to make plays when they present themselves,” he said.

The analyst pointed to a play early in the game where Palmer tried to force a pass into receiver John Brown that was nearly intercepted, saying it’s a play that the quarterback has successfully run many times.

“It’s like, I’ve seen him make that play, it’s not like he can’t make the play,” he said. “And I don’t know if it’s the pressure, I don’t know what it was, but here’s a throw where he would throw John Brown open across the field — he throws it up the field and it’s almost picked off.

“It was plays like that. It’s not like he can’t make the play, but in crunch time, in a big game, he just didn’t make the plays.”

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