The Cincinnati Bengals had a good season, a poor post season, and are left confused at quarterback. What do they do with Andy Dalton? Dan Salem and Todd Salem tackle the Bengals in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a quarterback conundrum on their hands. For three years now, the team has been led by the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton.
He has been rather ordinary, to say the least. His first season was impressive in that it was his rookie season. The numbers don’t jump out at you. But he was successful, following in the footsteps of fellow rookie success stories at QB like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.
However, unlike his peers, Dalton has not progressed much since that first season.
His quarterback rating has been in the 80’s every season. His yards/attempt numbers have stayed consistently between 6.5 and 7.5. Although his counting stats have gone up, his peripherals may have plateaued already, which is bad news if it is in fact true.
The real problem is the interceptions. That and the playoffs. Dalton has been terrible thus far in his career in the playoffs. In three career games (one each in 2011, 2012 and 2013), Dalton has completed 57% of his passes for 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. This past season’s playoff loss would have been epic if it wasn’t more of the same for Andy.
So what do the Bengals do with this man? Everyone knows a team cannot contend with question marks behind center. And delaying a QB decision is simply delaying a team’s future.
Dalton will be playing under his rookie contract for one more season. After 2014, his contract is up and Cincinnati will be on the clock to either give him a long-term deal or let him walk.
For a man who is 0-3 in his playoff career and seems to get worse as the games get more important, a long-term deal is hard to stomach. However, how many teams in the NFL right now would love to have Andy Dalton as their starting QB? The answer is certainly more than one. Although, the only one that matters at the moment is Cincinnati.
You know me, I love to make the hard decision. I also fully believe that every quarterback needs a few seasons to prove himself. An NFL quarterback’s rookie year will most likely contain mistakes, miscues, and some bad games. I look to see how they respond to the mistakes, respond to the late season pressure, and whether their team rallies behind the man as their leader. The playoffs are gravy, but being competitive is a must. Andy Dalton met all of these criteria in his rookie year, even getting the gravy of post season competition. I’m still on Andy’s bandwagon at this point.
In year two we normally see a quarterback do one of two things as a second year starter. If the quarterback blew away his season one expectations, a la Cam Newton, we are usually in for a downturn. A sophomore slump occurs and the quarterback is good, not great, and makes more mistakes than he did in his rookie year. My main sticking point is that his team remains competitive and behind him as a leader. It’s okay to regress, but falling into a complete pit of despair is not optional. The other more common year two trend for quarterbacks is a carry over plateau. They did well in their rookie season, even got to the playoffs in some instances, but no improvement was made in their second season. The touchdown and interception numbers remained consistent and the completion percentage fluctuated only slightly. We don’t know whether the quarterback will become the strong leader we want, improving with time, or continue on the plateau only to succumb to the media pressure to improve, achieve more, and ultimately get worse for it. I call this the Mark Sanchez, or Sanchize, effect.
In year two Andy Dalton was the latter quarterback, on the plateau statistically and playoff wise as you pointed out. He got his team back to the playoffs, which is great, but did not do anything better than in his rookie season. Perception is everything and doing the same thing is often viewed as a failure. In Andy’s case I see year two as more success. He brought stability and the post season to a franchise that has been without either one for many, many years.
Year three was the kicker for Andy Dalton, and is the turning point year for quarterbacks over all. I believe if a starting quarterback traversed year one and year two as I noted above, then he has earned a third year starting job. The team rallied behind his leadership, competed in the top half of the league, then you get year three to prove you want it more than others. The only way to be great is to work harder than other people. And if you want to keep your starting quarterback job, you better do just this. I expect in year three to see statistical improvement across the board. Fewer interceptions, fewer mistakes, a higher completion percentage, poise and confidence in late season games. These are things a quarterback can control. Touchdown numbers and your team’s record are harder to gauge, but your team can’t tank either and lose a ton of games. That means you’ve lost the team as a leader.
So where does that leave Andy Dalton? I think you know the answer already.