Andy Dalton will face a lot more scrutiny in 2013.
It was an interesting wildcard weekend. For my picks, I went 2-2 against the spread and 3-1 straight up. Had Andy Dalton and Cincinnati been able to move the ball early on against Houston, and at least gotten a field goal on one of their early drives, I could have gone 3-1 against the spread. But alas, Andy Dalton proved to be Andy Dalton.
The Bengals didn’t even move the ball past Houston’s 45-yard line until midway in the third quarter. The big question that arises in Cincinnati after their loss to the Texans is whether or not Andy Dalton is really their franchise QB. What appears to be happening in Cincinnati is the classic case where people are more focused on wins than they are production. Despite the Bengals record under Dalton, he has showcased himself to be nothing more than a below average to average quarterback.
Dalton is still young and has a lot of development to do. I don’t want to sound like I’m writing him off after his second season. The Chargers basically did that with Drew Brees, and look how that turned out. But the thing that is worrisome about young quarterbacks is not whether they are missing throws, it’s missing reads and making bad decisions that is concerning. You can’t have a guy that is afraid or unwilling to pull the trigger. And you cannot have a guy that is not seeing the field. Dalton is now in his second year in Jay Gruden’s offense, and the Bengals should not be forced to manage him as much as they have this year. That’s not a good sign going forward.
It doesn’t mean that they need to not give Dalton another year to showcase his skills, but they need to start thinking about a contingency plan in case Dalton doesn’t show the strides in 2013 that they hope to see. The problem is that you don’t want to find yourself down the same path that the New York Jets went down. The Jets under Mark Sanchez were 19-12 during the regular season in his first two seasons, and 4-2 in the playoffs. The Bengals are 18-13 with Dalton and 0-2 in the playoffs. With Sanchez, the Jets won despite him. There are similarities with the Bengals. They have a very good defense and one of the top defensive coordinators in the league in Mike Zimmer. Their offense is also predicated on the ground game, although not quite to the degree of the 2009 and 2010 Jets (who ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively in rush attempts in those years). They have one of the league’s best offensive lines, and they have one dynamic weapon on the outside in A.J. Green.
They don’t need to do anything dramatic this off-season. But I think a contingency plan that involves having another young, talented QB on the roster waiting in the wings makes a lot of sense. You don’t want to go into 2013 with just Bruce Gradkowski and Zac Robinson as your backup quarterbacks. If they can find a Nick Foles type in the third or fourth round, I think Cincinnati should jump all over that.
A lot of the talk also today has been about whether the Redskins should have pulled RG3 from that game. I don’t get it. Maybe, I wasn’t watching the same game that everyone else was watching. But I don’t understand how people can say that the franchise quarterback that had practically single-handedly carried that team to a seven-game winning streak and into the playoffs, one of the few times in league history where a 3-6 team managed to make the playoffs, should be pulled from the game because his knee is hurt. His knee looked messed up the week before against Dallas, but they still won the game.