Andy Dalton has been steadily improving his game each season since his rookie campaign and its time to take notice. Can he lead the Bengals to an AFC Championship in 2015?
Andy Dalton is getting better
Everybody’s favorite winning quarterback/whipping boy (Tony Romo might have something to say about that) has been improving consistently since his rookie season. By the way, his rookie season was pretty good, too. It wasn’t like he took over some juggernaut perennial contender and had the chance to screw up a dynasty. The Bengals were 4-12 the year before Dalton joined them. We like to judge quarterbacks on whether they win or not. Except when they do win, then we look for other flaws.
Andy Dalton has won. He just hasn’t won in the playoffs.
Since Dalton was drafted and immediately inserted into the starting lineup, the Bengals records have been 9-7, 10-6, 11-5 and 10-5-1. Dalton has won 20 of 32 one-score games. He also has won 12 of 24 games decided by more than a touchdown. His career is progressing nicely, too. Last season was a bit of a blip in his ladder of progress, but let’s take a look at some key stats from his rookie year in 2011 through this season.
Completion percentage: 58.1 62.3 61.9 64.2 67.2 (11th in the NFL)
Yards per attempt: 6.59 6.95 7.33 7.06 10.23 (2nd in the NFL)
Touchdown/interception ratio: 20/13 27/16 33/20 19/17 9/1 (3rd in the NFL)
Passer rating: 80.4 87.4 88.8 83.5 123.0 (2nd in the NFL)
QBR: 44.5 48.6 56.8 53.9 87.7 (2nd in NFL)
I saw where some pundits prior to this season stated the Bengals have all the pieces in place, the only thing holding them back was the centerpiece of the offense. Until something was done about that the Bengals were doomed to fail. Something did happen...Dalton got better at everything.
It wasn’t all that long ago that they typical m.o. for a quarterback was to develop over a few seasons and It wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Steve Young was in and out of lineups for the Buccaneers and 49ers until he was 31 years old. He then went on to a Hall Of Fame career. Some folks put him in the conversation when discussing the greatest quarterbacks of all time. For those of you who think the 1990’s are ancient history, take a look at Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers never started an NFL game until his fourth year in the league. He had a total of 1 touchdown pass to his credit. Of course his record and reputation zoomed since then. Now he is entering the discussion for the greatest quarterback in the game’s history. Andy Dalton’s playoff record is not good. There is no way to get around that. However, some other quarterbacks took a while to mature into a winning quarterback when the games count the most. Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo won their first playoff games in their 4th year as a pro. Matt Ryan took 5 years, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees 6 years.
We’ve got a long way to go to the end of the season. No one will remember the best team from September. This year looks different. They have a serious inside track to a division crown. If Andy Dalton was the only thing holding back the Bengals, then Katy bar the door. This team is about to break out. Personally, I think they are ready to compete with the best teams in the AFC for a Super Bowl berth.
Look for a deep playoff run this season from the Bengals.