It's time to sack Palmer talk

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

"Don Matthews told me after the game, 'He's special.' That's quite a compliment." -- Joe Paopao, Oct. 23, 2004.

Presuming it wasn't mere lip service, the Montreal Alouettes revealed their feelings about Brad Banks to the Renegades in a private conversation between the head coaches of the two teams immediately after Ottawa's final road game last season.

The Renegades had just been throttled 52-21 at the Big O, but Banks, making his first CFL start, showed flashes of how he became the 2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up and earned accolades as the best quarterback in the U.S. college ranks with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

He completed 26-of-37 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns while scoring another one himself. He displayed incredible poise and instinct for a 24-year-old making his pro debut in front of more than 53,000 fans and against the best blitzing defence in the league.

Banks also showed why -- though considered too short by NFL standards at 5-foot-11 -- he has both the quick feet and strong arm to become a star in Canada.

But today, he's not nearly enough for the Als to get back in a trade for the rights to Jesse Palmer.

"I won't get into what we were negotiating for, but it wasn't out of the ordinary for a (potential) starting quarterback," Als GM Jim Popp told a Montreal reporter. "If they want his rights, they have to give us more. They know the parameters. They have to put a hard offer on the table. Their offers, until now, weren't nearly hard enough."

Poppycock.

The Als are demanding Banks plus much more for a guy they picked in the second round of the 2001 Canadian draft, a guy that made it to the highest levels of college and pro football but hasn't even established himself as a bona-fide starting quarterback since leaving the Myers Riders a decade ago.

They are playing hardball because they are in position to do so. They have no use for Palmer. Not now, maybe never. They don't care about the publicity he would give the league, or that The Bachelor could help drum up some interest in the Renegades here. And neither does CFL headquarters for that matter, otherwise commissioner Tom (Do No) Wright might stop twiddling his thumbs long enough to try and broker a deal.

The Renegades want to sign Palmer to a lucrative contract that would make him the CFL's highest-paid player -- only if he makes a difference at the box office.

At Frank Clair Stadium, where approximately 80% of the seats go for $25 and 20% go for $75, another 1,000 people per game would equate to $260,000 in revenue on the season. In their proposal, if Palmer's not the attraction they think an Ottawa-raised quarterback would be, his salary falls in line with the average stipend paid a starting CFL quarterback.

This is not a football decision. Palmer might turn out to be an average player or worse.

But ownership is willing to take that chance. After slashing prices, the Gliebermans were pleasantly surprised to find that Joe Paopao had put together a competitive team. Still, attendance is lousy, the worst in the league.

SECOND THOUGHTS

Maybe, they figure, winning and ticket affordability isn't enough. After so many dismal years, maybe the people of Ottawa need more. Maybe they need to care about the product on a personal level. Maybe they need one of their own at the most important and scrutinized position. Maybe they are right.

But after initially agreeing with the idea to pursue Palmer, we're having second thoughts.

We now wonder about his character. After promising an Ottawa man and his son a line on hard-to-get Yankees tickets a couple of years ago, Palmer never returned the calls he instructed them to make. Hence, no tickets.

And he hasn't even bothered with the courtesy of phoning back the local reporters who have sought a comment on his future since being cut by the NFL's New York Giants. The one Ottawa sportswriter who did reach him (hello there) was cut off after a couple of quick questions. Apparently, Palmer's phone went dead. Guess he hasn't checked his answering machine in the five days since.

Too many questions surround Palmer for the Renegades to pay through the nose to get him. It's an idea that has gone bad, for various reasons, both on and off the field.

Another wrong call is their offer to talk long term with Kerry Joseph. They already have Joseph -- at a salary that can fall between $300,000-$400,000 -- in 2006 if they so choose. And at that price, what has he done to make the Renegades want to do that?

Signing Tim Couch might be a viable option, or trading for Casey Printers. But for our money, the best choice to quarterback the Renegades in 2006 is a player they can't give away now unless he comes with extras.

The most successful coach in CFL history says Brad Banks is special. And that's no poppycock.


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