Since being selected 35th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Andy Dalton has held his own as the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Increasing his quarterback rating and leading his squad to the playoffs in every season he’s been apart of the league, Dalton has been quite the find for Cincinnati, considering Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder were 3-of-4 QB’s taken 20-plus spots ahead of him.
Although the man has revitalized a team that was once witnessing nearly all of its players behind bars, Dalton’s wet the bed in the postseason. Yeah, I forgot to mention, he hasn’t won a playoff game in three tries.
Failing to escape the Wild Card round by owning a career record of 0-3, Dalton has thrown just one touchdown in those three games combined, to go along with six interceptions. Matter of fact, the most points Cincinnati has been able to muster on the scoreboard is 13, when they lost 19-13 in 2012 to the Houston Texans.
The Bengals seemed to be one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl these past playoffs after finishing the regular-season with a record of 11-5, and tying for the third-best win-loss ratio in the AFC. Yet, despite having a defense ranked third and an offense ranked 10th, Cincinnati fell flat, losing to San Diego by 17 points – at home no less.
That loss right there might just be the tipping point for general manager/owner Mike Brown, because he now decides whether or not Dalton – whose contract is set to expire after this season – will receive an extension or be free to test the market.
Of course, there’s the franchise tag, but Brown’s feelings towards Dalton became clear when he went out and drafted Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
Expected to go within the first four rounds, McCarron fell all the way to the fifth-round and into the Bengals’ laps at pick No. 164. And given McCarron’s track record at Nick Saban’s juggernaut of a football program, he could wind up succeeding Dalton should Cincinnati turn in another clunker. Nonetheless, McCarron has a chance to be a steal.
Capturing two National Championships and owning a 36-4 record in 40 career starts with Alabama, McCarron is just a pure winner, and that was arguably what Brown’s motives were when he drafted him.
Collecting the Maxwell Award (college football player of the year), the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (nation’s most outstanding senior quarterback), and finishing second to Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the Heisman Trophy voting in his senior season, McCarron’s accolades and champion aura should translate effortlessly to the pros.
Now, McCarron won’t start, and will have to earn backup duties when he competes with Jason Campbell this upcoming training camp, but Cincinnati won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on him for the 2015 campaign. Just ask Dalton, whose started every year since entering the league, and who now has an immense spotlight on him.
Even though McCarron certainly puts the heat on Dalton, I still think Cincinnati will tag him when the season is over. Have the playoff losses hurt his reputation? Sure. However, you can’t ignore the fact Dalton’s guided them to the postseason, and given them a chance at the Super Bowl annually. The question is, how long is Cincinnati going to keep rolling with Dalton?
The answer: not long.
Although there’s a possibility the Bengals will place the tag on Dalton, it’ll only go into effect if Dalton can win a playoff game. Should he falter, there are plenty teams who would be willing to talk to Cincinnati about acquiring his services. The Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans – don’t think there won’t be an team not interested.
The way I see it playing out, is McCarron taking Dalton’s job. I really applaud Dalton’s diligence and admirable persistence, but there are a number of teams in the AFC that will derail his Super Bowl bid this season. Not that there wasn’t any last year, but those collectives who made the playoffs only got significantly better.
Dalton’s got the weapons around him to propel past the first-round – Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones – but they’re only as good as how well he executes. If he can’t, consider a quarterback controversy surfacing.
Welcome to the jungle, Andy.