Chick Ludwig
Chick Ludwig

For the past 30 years, Chick Ludwig has been one of the Miami Valley’s most popular sports columnists, the past twelve as the Bengals beat writer for the Dayton Daily News. He retired from the DDN in October of 2009, and currently writes a weekly Bengals blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer and is the Bengals correspondent for the The Sporting News. A former voting member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, Ludwig is a journalism graduate of Ohio State University.

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— After two decades of complete and utter futility, the ox cart remains stuck in the ditch–

The Cincinnati Bengals are a train wreck, wrapped in a soap opera, tucked inside Armageddon.

The proof is their record — two winning seasons in 20 years with an 0-2 playoff record — and the mere fact their franchise quarterback has asked for a trade and threatens to retire if his request isn’t honored.

Coming off a terrible 4-12 record in which they finished in the cellar of the AFC North Division after some NFL experts predicted a Super Bowl berth, the Bengals have needs at wide receiver, tailback, offensive tackle, guard, cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive tackle and placekicker.

Now they have to worry about the most important position of all — quarterback — in the wake of the Carson Palmer Controversy unfolding over the past 48 hours.

How low can a professional football team go? No lower than where the Bengals find themselves, that’s for sure. They have to look up to see rock bottom.

You know and I know and everybody knows that changes need to be made, but club owner-general manager-president Mike Brown reacts by standing idly by with his head buried in the sand, making zero moves since the 2010 season ended, and believing that “staying the course” is the best solution.

Wrong.

After two decades of complete and utter futility, the ox cart remains stuck in the ditch.

It was refreshing to finally see someone in the Bengals’ organization take a stand and make a decision. Palmer is sick and tired of losing — among other things — and wants out. O-U-T. And nobody, but nobody, can blame him. Eight years of struggle is more than enough.

Chris Mortensen’s Sunday report on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, which Brown confirmed on Monday — that Palmer requested a trade and will consider retiring if the Bengals refuse — is a clear sign the franchise is in deep trouble.

Brown told The Cincinnati Enquirer and Bengals.com that he won’t trade Palmer, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. Palmer is due to make $50 million over the next four years of his contract, which expires after the 2014 season.

“He is key to our plans. He’s central to us,” Brown said. “(Palmer) was told that and that we count on him going forward. He was told that we are not in a position to trade him.”

Palmer becomes the fourth high-profile player in just over a decade to request his get-out-of-Bengals-jail card, joining Carl Pickens, Corey Dillon and Chad Ochocinco. The difference? None of those three amigos were quarterbacks; none were team leaders; none were the face of the franchise.

Sadly, there are no winners in this power struggle … and that includes the fans, who have endured two decades of misery.

Brown can’t win by bringing back a disgruntled player who doesn’t want to be here. Forcing a player to honor his contract — no matter how big the bucks — doesn’t work because you can’t buy love.

Palmer can’t win because he won’t get the trade he wants. His price tag of $11.5 million in 2011 is too high. No trades can be made anyway until NFL owners and players hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires in March. If he chooses to retire, the Bengals will simply place him on the Reserve/Retired list and the club will retain his rights.

The Bengals players can’t win because they no longer can trust Palmer, who basically claims he has no faith in the front office, scouting department, coaching staff and his teammates to get things turned around.

And Bengals fans can’t win because the team’s myriad problems and total disarray means more rebuilding.

Palmer’s frustration goes much deeper than wins and losses. When he reached the 20,000-yard plateau for passing yards in Week 5 against Tampa Bay, fans booed him. It affected his family. Fans have also littered the front yard of his Indian Hill home.

And what about all the other stuff? The constant antics of Ochocinco? The tragic death of Chris Henry? The exit of Eric Steinbach, Justin Smith and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency? The 15 player arrests in a 19-month span from 2005 to 2007?

Palmer is physically, mentally and emotionally drained. He’s numb to all the losing, sick of all the drama and tired of being part of a franchise that’s simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Congratulations, Carson. You’ve been Bengalized.

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