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Andy Dalton: On the Verge of a Breakthrough Season

Despite a consistently high record as a starter and his statistical success, there are a many who doubt Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton.  Some people think he cannot win big games, and others think he doesn’t even rank in the top half of NFL quarterbacks.  In fact, many people have looked past him to backup A.J. McCarron.  So what is all the negativity around Andy Dalton, and is it warranted?

Dalton has been a Pro Bowler 3 times in his NFL career.  He has passed for 22,214 yards and 142 touchdowns and has a career record of 56-35-2 (2016 and his rookie year being the only years he didn’t lead the team to at least ten wins).  So why is Dalton vilified?

First, let’s address the idea that Dalton has a weak arm.  A look at statistics shows that Dalton is one of the better deep ball passers in the league.  Having A.J. Green to throw to certainly can’t hurt, but Dalton has the arm strength needed for these deep passes.  Do not expect to see John Ross slowing down and coming back to balls in 2017.  Dalton has the arm strength to lead him on deep passes.  

The most common complaint about Dalton is his 0-4 post season record.  Of course the complainers fail to mention that Dalton led the team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons (in 2015 he did not play in the playoffs as a result of a season ending injury), but that is neither here nor there.  While Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a playoff win in his rookie campaign and Tom Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in his first shot at the playoffs, that is not always the way things happen.  Peyton Manning went 0-3 in the playoffs before tallying his first post-season victory.  In fact, Manning’s playoff record prior to leading the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2006 was 3-6.  Manning was billed as a great regular season quarterback, but all the pundits would ask “Can he win in the post-season?”  It is a headline that was soon forgotten once Peyton won his first Super Bowl and seems downright silly now that he retired after winning another.  By no means am I saying that Andy Dalton is Peyton Manning, but the point is that it doesn’t happen until it happens. 

As an interesting aside, while head coach Marvin Lewis has not been immune to the criticism of not winning in the post season, for some reason his offensive coordinators have been.  Jay Gruden was heavily sought after for a head coaching position before finally becoming the head coach of the Washington Redskins.  While it makes sense that coordinators do not wear a team’s record, or in this case 0-3 post-season record, to the same extent as head coaches do, it is interesting that Gruden would be separated from Dalton in this manner.  You cannot bash Dalton for not winning in the playoffs while praising Gruden (his play caller) for making the playoffs with Dalton at the helm.  The argument quickly cannibalizes itself.    

Only the future can tell what Andy Dalton’s legacy will be.  The fact that he has consistently performed at a high level bodes well for him and his legacy.  When players are consistent it is often the right mixture of players and coaches surrounding them that finally gets them over that hump to a higher level of success and appreciation of their abilities.  

 

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