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Why We Love Jon Kitna

Posted by Matt on August 7, 2007

kitna.jpg

Jon Kitna will tell you he heard it all: “you’re not athletic enough,” “you’re not tall enough,” “you don’t have professional-sized hands.” He heard all of the naysayers but with heart and determination as strong as his, there just wasn’t much you could say to ruin Jon Kitna’s spirits or crush his plans. And now, eleven years removed from his tenure at Central Washington, Jon Kitna is still just 1 of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and that dedication has to be admired.

I don’t know if I speak for the entire “Who Dey Nation,” but I know I speak for myself, my Dad, and a few of my close friends when I say that we still love Jon Kitna. Sure he struggled a bit in his first two seasons as a starter in Cincinnati, but with the squads Mike Brown was fielding, Jesus himself would’ve been no better than a .500 quarterback.

We understand that in those first two woeful seasons of 6-10 and 2-14, Kitna only amassed 28 touchdowns to 38 interceptions, and we gave him a lot of shit along the way, but he was always the eternal optimist. You have to respect that attitude for a guy who has been penciled in to save both the Cincinnati Bengals AND the Detroit Lions – a team whose fans show up wearing brown paper sacks over their heads or where sports-talk radio stations try to organize a mass sellout/no-show for home games.

But fast forward to ‘Season Three’ of the Kitna era and enter: Marvin Lewis. Lewis instilled the confidence to win in just about everybody in Cincinnati, a feeling Jon already carried with him, and the Bengals went 8-8 with number one draft pick and franchise quarterback, Carson Palmer, riding the pine for millions; all the while, Kitna tallied 26 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions, his best season as a professional. This miraculous turn around from 2-14 to 8-8 helped ignite the Cincinnati Bengals for future seasons and earned Jon the “Comeback Player Of The Year” award, an honor he more than deserved.

Kitna resigned for the 2004 season, and then again for the 2005 season, knowing that he would be demoted to backup immediately upon signing, but he did so anyways for what he thought was ‘for the good of the team.’ During the next two seasons, Kitna played “Robin” to Carson Palmer’s “Batman,” and did so with all of the gratitude and grace one can imagine. Kitna helped mentor Palmer on, and off, the field and Carson Palmer will readily admit that Kitna is the reason why Carson is where he is today.

In the final entry of the now defunct Carson Palmer’s Official Blog, a post dated January 19, 2006, Carson has this to say about Jon Kitna:

“…In the meantime, hopefully we can resign Jon Kitna, a fantastic quarterback and person, who will expertly guide our offense during the off-season.” -Carson Palmer, on his injury and the off season after the 2005 playoffs

There are many other quotes from Carson and Company regarding what Jon Kitna meant to the Cincinnati Bengals while they attempted to turn the franchise around, but I felt the above quote summed up all of the other comments in to a single line. Unfortunately, Kitna did not resign again for the 2006 season, instead inking a deal with the Detroit Lions. He became their starter immediately last year and finished with a 3-13 record, throwing for 21 touchdowns to 22 interceptions yet collecting 4,208 passing yards in the process, his most as a professional. This earned Kitna his first 4,000+ yard passing season of his career and it occurred coincidentally in the same year that his good friend and protege, Carson Palmer, earned his first 4,000+ yard passing season as well.

In the end, you have to love Kitna’s heart, Kitna’s good-guy mentality and never-say-die attitude, and you have to love Kitna’s personal love for the Bengals. In a recent interview in a segment for Bengals.com, a quote from Kitna sums up why he is a Cincinnati cult-hero in my eyes:

“They’re the first team I look for to see how they did on Sunday nights,” Kitna said. “When I was back in Cincinnati a little bit, it hurt me when I heard people talking about all their (off-field) problems. It’s really a shame because you have to look at them as one of the six teams that begin the season having a real chance to win it all.” –Jon Kitna, on HIS Cincinnati Bengals

“…one of the six teams that begin the season having a real chance to win it all…” – as a Bengals fan, you just cannot help but love that statement and that attitude.

Kitna was always a good guy while in Cincinnati but he had a bit of a swagger to him as well, as awkward as it could be at times, and you just can’t help but love his dedication to his religion with his Chad Johnson-like unwillingness to comply with the NFL’s absurd Uniform Policy.

Jon was fined $5,000 dollars (a sum later rescinded due to an outcry against the NFL) for wearing a baseball cap with a simple embroidered cross on the front that did not comply with the NFL’s Uniform Policy; the NFL stated that he was wearing the cap too close, in time, to the completion of games during his post-game interviews. Did Jon Kitna censor his hat? No, like his running mate Chad, Kitna turned his back on the ridiculous NFL policies and became somewhat of a pillar for religious football fanatics.

Now, in the present, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions are foes in each team’s first preseason affair of the 2007 campaign, which will see old pals Jon Kitna and Carson Palmer take the first few series against one another before bowing out to the backups. You will no doubt, however, see the two be the first to embrace each other at the end of the game, regardless of the outcome. In the days leading up to this contest Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis spoke about Kitna’s years with the improving Bengals:

“He was an extension of myself, an extension of the coaches,” Lewis said. “We wouldn’t have all these people out here every day if it wasn’t for Jon Kitna.” -Head Coach Marvin Lewis, on Kitna’s role in the turnaround of the Bengals’ Franchise

Even Marvin Lewis knows what Kitna meant to this team at one point, going as far to say that Kitna was “an extension of the coaches.” The is quite a statement to bestow on your former quarterback and shows just how important Kitna’s support and knowledge were to a young Carson Palmer and a young Cincinnati Bengal Offense.

I will always be a Kitna fan, even if I think he looks better in stripes:

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And I can’t help but find myself following his career game-by-game, even if he is in Detroit.

He may very well be my draft at quarterback this year in Fantasy Football because I am such a fan of his but also because I am predicting big things for “Kit” this year – – 25 touchdowns and 4,500 yards, believe it.

I have a running bet with a close friend (a Pittsburgh Steelers fan so I guess we can’t be that close) that Jon Kitna will finish the 2007 season with better stats than Ben Roethlisberger. The stats for the two in 2006 were as follows:

Ben Roethlisberger: 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 3,513 YDs, 59.7 COMP% and (2) 300+ YD games

Jon Kitna: 21 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 4,208 YDs, 62.4 COMP% and (4) 300+ YD games

2007 Fantasy QB Rankings: Jon Kitna #6 / Ben Roethlisberger #10

Only time will tell the outcome of this season and only time will tell how many years Kitna has left in him. Regardless of how long his career lasts from this point forward, however, you have to admire his sheer grit and determination even if he lacks some of the physical skills necessary to be a dominant NFL quarterback.

I don’t think there are many die-hard (and knowledgeable) Cincinnati Bengals fans that would deny Jon Kitna as the original savior of our failing franchise.

One last time, for good measure, on the cusp of this preseason meeting between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions:

THANK YOU, JON KITNA!

UPDATE:

In another article from Bengals.com, More than numbers in a legacy, Chad Johnson attributes his explosive career to Jon Kitna and a talk they shared after a dropped pass on 4th Down in a 2002 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Here are just a few of the quotes in this article regarding Jon Kitna:

“Kit is cool. We still talk. Man, the talk he gave to me after that Indy game (five) years ago, it turned me right around… You remember, after that, I just took off after that speech,” Johnson said. “That saved my career. I was at a point right there where my career could have gone right down the tubes. Seriously, it could have gone either way, and no one ever mentions how important that was for me. I think it was the fact that it was coming from somebody not on the outside. It was somebody who was in the middle of it, who knew what was going on and had been around.” –Chad Johnson, on Jon Kitna

“I wish him nothing but the best. When I see him I’ll give him a big hug,” said Bratkowski, Kitna’s main man in Seattle and Cincinnati. “He was instrumental in turning it around here. He helped change the attitude. I’ve got the utmost respect for him as a football player and as a man.” –Bengals’ Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski, on Jon Kitna

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3 Responses to “Why We Love Jon Kitna”

  1. boney said

    When Detroit signed Kitna, it made me cringe. When he played well last season I wrote it off to “anyone can play well in Martz’ system”.. when he didnt play well I said “yup, just like I thought”..

    after reading his influence over Palmer and the rest of the Bengals, I have earned more respect for him… but that still doesn’t excuse his 10 win guarantee.

  2. Just2Cocky said

    I love him because he’s the only hope my Lions have of finally breaking that .500 plateau for the first time in over a decade.

    And about that 10 wins thing….have you SEEN that schedule? I think one or two college teams might win 10 games with that schedule.

  3. Billy Skeegins said

    I love Jon Kitna because he brings hope to detroit. When was the last time WE EVER seen a leader in Detroit? Not even Barry Sanders, though hes the greatest back of all time. We just went to watch him not the team. This is the first time that we are seeing the Lions actually rebuild, and Kitna is taking control. Mark my words, I see Detroit winning 10 games this year. Rod knows exactly what hes doing. Getting rid of Martz was smart. GOd bless Jon for bringing hope back. Kevin Smith is gonna be the sleeping giant of rookies you all watch. GOOOOOOO Lions forever your faithful fan

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