Immediately following Cincinnati’s 19-13 loss to the Texans in Houston, the internet boards, chat rooms, blogs and radio shows were overwhelmed with irate fans beside themselves with frustration. It quickly boiled over from the angry to the surreal. I couldn’t believe some of the things I heard.
But as the Bengal Universe spun way off its axis, I was most flabbergasted by the withering criticism thrown at Andy Dalton. Suddenly, he’s gone from being a franchise QB to build a winner around to things like (actual quotes):
“Journeyman at best”
“Bust City, USA”
“Worse than Mark Sanchez“
Can we have some perspective here, please??
Yes, Andy had a bad game, but wow. Really? Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are 20 NFL teams that missed the playoffs, and several of those would love to have Andy Dalton under center. Think Kansas City, Arizona, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Buffalo to name a few. My point here is the absurd criticism of Andy Dalton is completely overblown, and Marvin Lewis is absolutely right to stand by his quarterback.
So before the lynch mob shows up at PBS with pitchforks and lighter fluid to burn a red straw man in effigy, I’d like to humbly submit the following points to Who Dey Nation for your measured consideration:
Andy is a winner: That’s clear to me. He carries himself like a winner. He has the respect of his coaches and teammates. They all refer to him as a winner. He has been a winner everywhere and at every level. Look at his win-loss record at TCU. It’s ridiculous. Heck, look at his win-loss record in Cincinnati. Sure, he’s now 0-2 in the playoffs, but in the regular season he’s now 19-13. That’s a .593 winning percentage, and tops among Bengal QB’s. He’s also the first quarterback to lead the Bengals to the playoffs in consecutive seasons since most of you were in diapers (or unborn!). Plus, and this may just by my perception, he seems to have that intangible quality of the better quarterbacks in the league. An air of confidence and unflappability you never saw in Carson Palmer. Just wait until he’s truly matured as an NFL signal caller. Then we should see some real winner-ness. That leads me to my next point…
He’s only 25 for Pete’s sake: He’s got a lot of football ahead of him. He will doubtlessly improve as a quarterback next year, and the year after. Don’t believe me? Then consider…
He’s improved in virtually every statistical category from 2011 to 2012. And he has the third most TD’s in two season in NFL history behind Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. And that’s not good enough? Sheesh. Tough crowd. Sure he threw a few ill-advised passes, but don’t they all? Andy’s taking steps forward, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t next year. That being the trend, we can then look forward to the fact that…
The best QB’s don’t truly “break out” until year 3: Most QB’s don’t become confident field generals until their 3rd, and sometimes their 4th seasons. That’s true for guys like Manning, Ryan, Rivers, Brady and the rest. That being the case, it’s likely that his best football is immediately ahead of him. But let’s not forget that…
Every QB needs help: The offensive line went into the toilet with Kyle Cook’s return, the offense slowed down considerably when Mohammed Sanu got hurt, Jermaine Gresham is as inconsistent as they come, and the running game was never truly utilized. Without an offensive identity, or players to create threats and mismatches besides A.J. Green, there’s only so much a QB can do. The good news is, those pieces will also mature or get upgrades.
He’ll get better at the deep ball: Seriously, I think this one annoys me the most. First, we were told last year that he just chucks it up too much and expects A.J. to come down with it. Then we’re told he’s not chucking it up to A.J. enough, covered or not. Well, which is it? Half the time we’re told he’s got a noodle arm, and then we’re complaining that he’s overthrowing the receivers too much. It’s all ridiculous. Personally, I happen to believe Andy has an NFL-quality arm, and his deep accuracy will improve, as will the rest of his game, as time goes on.
Do you REALLY want to go looking for someone else? Are we too young or too spoiled, or both, to remember the names David Klingler, Jay Schroeder, Paul Justin, Jeff Blake, Gus Frerotte, Akili Smith, Jon Kitna, and Neil O’Donnell? I’m not. Those are a few names in the long list of attempts at a franchise quarterback between Boomer Esiason and Carson Palmer. None of those guys came CLOSE to Andy’s success for their entire Bengal careers—let alone two seasons. But let’s say we draft somebody. Do you really wanna gamble in the draft again? Fine. You might get another Andrew Luck or RGIII, or you may wind up with Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert. Despite the millions of dollars and thousands of man hours spent in scouting, it’s ultimately a crap shoot. A percentage of them flame out no matter what you do. It’s a franchise-stifling waste if you go that route and fail. The better option is to recognize that we have a solid player right now. Let’s invest in him and use the draft capital on ways to improve around him as the known commodity. Still not convinced? Call Larry Fitzgerald and see if he’d take Dalton in the desert. I’m sure he’d like a crack at A.J.’s numbers.
All I’m saying here is “Red” deserves another year before we start writing his obit as the starter in Cincinnati. Give him some decent protection so he’s confident in the pocket. Get him some legit targets besides A.J. in the receiving corps, and for cryin’ out loud teach Gresham to catch and use both hands. Maybe even get him a dynamic running back (perish the thought!). From there, with another year of experience under his belt, we can potentially make an honest, fair assessment without the emotion.
PS-Maualuga, on the other hand, needs to go.