Joe Burrow’s rookie goals with the Cincinnati Bengals were set by his predecessor.
Cincinnati Bengals fans all have that dream of Joe Burrow hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Alright, maybe not this season — but hopefully someday. The first overall pick in the NFL Draft out of LSU has already brought a lot of much-needed hope to the Bengals organization. We’ll have to wait and see how his Heisman level success in Baton Rouge translates to the NFL.
So what should the realistic Year 1 expectations for Burrow look like? Time and time again, we’ve seen top-ranked rookie quarterbacks flounder in their first full season at the wheel. A practical goal for Burrow would be to land somewhere in between absolute mess and MVP contender.
Maybe the best example for this situation would be the rookie season of the now-former Bengals quarterback and Burrow’s predecessor, Andy Dalton.
Let’s put it this way: If I told you Joe Burrow will throw for at least 20 touchdowns, complete at least 58 percent of his passes, throw 13 or fewer interceptions and lead the Bengals to nine wins and a playoff spot this season, would you take that deal? Don’t overthink this, the playoff spot alone seals this one. And yes, those numbers are a basic recap of Dalton’s rookie season back in 2011.
No matter what you think of Dalton’s career, his rookie campaign was exceptional for a second-round pick out of TCU. His stats certainly were not lighting the world on fire, but that was silly to be expected from a quarterback who was thrown into the fire replacing Carson Palmer.
The main point of drawing some similarities to Burrow and Dalton has little to do with their playing styles but rather the situations they’ve been placed into. The uncertainty surrounding the Bengals franchise after their dismal 4-12 season in 2010 was clear.
Not many people saw them starting the next season 6-2 under Dalton, but that’s how things played out. And while confidence has been steadily growing since the Burrow selection, it is safe to say the Bengals are still on the train of media negativity.
Plus, there’s a good chance Burrow will start by relying on Dalton’s favorite target throughout his Bengal career, A.J. Green. Also a rookie in 2011, Green lived up to the hype by racking up over 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Maybe Burrow will look more toward Tee Higgins to establish a rookie-to-rookie connection of their own. Without a doubt, Burrow has some pretty good options for a team fresh off of two wins.
And of all the meaningful stats, wins are what really matters. If Burrow can help bring a win increase of at least five games like Dalton, that would be a success regardless of playoffs or not. Unfortunately the landscape of the AFC North hasn’t changed much since 2011. The six in-division games will be some of the most difficult but as always the most interesting.
The way Joe Burrow has composed himself over the past year could be enough means to set the bar much higher than Dalton’s rookie numbers. I think there’s a chance we see something truly special this season. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I think fans need to have an open mind that things might not be so smooth sailing to start. Yet if he’s able to resemble some of the first-year numbers Andy Dalton put up, that will be just fine.