What do the Cincinnati Bengals do with Andy Dalton, their Red Rifle? The season was good, the post season bad, but the answer is simple. Its risk vs. reward with Andy. Dan Salem and Todd Salem finish off the Bengals in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
Andy Dalton missed the mark in all but one category in his third year under center for the Bengals. The major compliment you can give him is that his team had an excellent record, a better record, and made the playoffs. Again its worth mentioning, this only has partly to do with Andy’s own performance. How did he do as a quarterback statistically? Did he work harder to get better at his job? I say no.
Andy Dalton plateaued in year two and stayed put in his third season under center. His numbers are consistent, but consistently above average at best. The one area that matters most, late season games and the playoffs, was atrocious for Andy. He recoiled like a scared turtle and has the stats to prove it. Does he deserve a fourth season?
The short answer is no, he hasn’t shown me enough to be the continued starter for my football team. However, since the NFL is big business and we have to take risk, reward, and money into account, Andy Dalton should get a fourth season to get better. The money is low, since he’s under a rookie deal, and the risk too is low. A baseline expectation is that he’ll stay on the plateau. Considering how well his mediocrity worked out in 2013, the 2014 Bengals could once again be playoff bound and lose early. That’s good for business. It’s also good for Andy, as four straight playoff seasons will get him a job somewhere else.
Andy has to improve to keep his job. Staying on the plateau is a fireable offense. My gut feeling is Andy is replaced by week eight, as the team stumbles to a 2-5 record with Dalton looking very much the same, but his team no longer as dominant as it once was. Year four is a short leash year for quarterbacks on the plateau. Andy Dalton only has to look to Mark Sanchez to see what a worse team around a plateaued quarterback looked like. It wasn’t pretty.
Although I agree with all of your points and qualifiers, I disagree with your decision, and it really is more of a gut feeling than a statistical measure. In fact, I am fully aware that I set up the beginning of the conversation to err on the side of moving on from Andy. However, leading the witness or not, I think the Bengals should keep Dalton as their starting quarterback.
This is really a similar situation to what the Chicago Bears just went through with Jay Cutler. Cutler is not an elite quarterback, but he seems above average. Dalton is solidly a step below Cutler yet the situation warrants comparison. The Bears had no options better than Cutler in-house or on the horizon. Can Cincinnati really do better than Andy Dalton?
Now not having a replacement is a poor reason for keeping someone bad in tow, but Dalton isn’t particularly bad all the time…just when it matters most. And that, as odd as it sounds, can be a building block. Having a quarterback who excels at times during the regular season and struggles in the playoffs is a common trend. Quarterbacks have to build up to playoff success. Just ask Peyton Manning or John Elway. By showing for long stretches of the regular season that Dalton is a capable signal-caller, he deserves a longer shot than three games to dispel the notion that the playoffs are above him.
And that brings us to a possible replacement. If you are sure as all hell that Andy Dalton will never succeed in the playoffs, who is Cincinnati replacing him with? Go ahead and take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft if you want. The Bengals do not have a pick that will even sniff Teddy Bridgewater, but let’s say they were able to draft him in May. Is there any chance he’s as good as Dalton this coming season? Are you even confident he would be better four years from now, because I’m not. If given the choice between Dalton and any of these top-flight rookie QB’s, I would take Dalton over all of them.
I think Andy Dalton is a solidly serviceable starting quarterback. As uninspiring as that sounds, there aren’t very many of them in the league right now. Teams can win a Super Bowl with sub-par QB performances. Seattle just traversed the entire playoffs with nothing but.
Perhaps I am being swayed by that three-game stretch from the middle of last season, when Dalton went all Dan Marino on the Bills, Lions and Jets back to back to back. But there is something to be said for having a quarterback with that type of upside who also knows the team, the system, the coaches and has already experienced some poor playoff moments to use as learning experiences.
You realize we are talking about the Bengals right? If this was a different team then perhaps I’d agree, a serviceable above average quarterback is more than enough to win. But we are talking about the Bengals. I just can’t ignore their history, their consistent inability to construct a winning football team on all sides of the ball. I like what I’ve seen from Dalton, don’t love it, but I like it enough to believe he can stay the course. That being said, if history is any indication then the Bengals will get worse as a team, a horrific sign for an average quarterback.
What the Bengals need to get over the hump is a consistent playmaker. Andy at his best has been awesome and this upcoming season will prove whether he can shed all that awfulness that has plagued him as well.