It was another year and another early playoff exit for Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. The San Diego Chargers, a team known for its playoff duds, bounced the Bengals in round one. Immediately following the loss, the media circus in the Bengals locker room began. Along with the media criticism, an already infuriated Cincinnati fan base began to publicly question the ability of its quarterback, Andy Dalton. Also named as a potential off-season casualty is head coach Marvin Lewis. Adding to the disastrous ten day stretch for the Bengals, both offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins) and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings), have been hired as head coaches. While there’s no telling how many player and personnel changes there will be in Cincinnati going forward, this has been a tumultuous start to the off-season.
Should Andy Dalton be replaced?
|Player Comparison||Andy Dalton||Cam Newton|
|Yards Per Attempt||7.3||7.1|
|Comp for 1st Downs||204||169|
|Yards Lost on Sacks||182||336|
|Rushing 1st Downs||15||45|
|%Rush for 1st Dn||24.6||40.5|
|Runs of 20+ Yards||0||2|
Since entering the league in 2011, Dalton has improved rapidly as an NFL signal-caller. His 2013 season was statistically unmatched by any Cincinnati Bengals signal caller. His 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns set franchise records and his 11 wins were the third most in team history. His first round match-up with the San Diego Chargers turned out to be an absolute disaster, which caused all of the speculation around his ability to perform “when it matters.” The NFL is a “What have you done for me lately?” league, and Andy Dalton’s scenario is a prime example of just how brutal it can be. Many fans want Dalton out and the Bengals to spend their first-round pick on a quarterback. If Dalton’s growing pains are bothering them now, could you imagine the uproar in Cincinnati if they revert back next year with a rookie at the helm? When I carefully reviewed the 2011 draft class of quarterbacks, I noticed the similarities between first overall pick, Cam Newton and Dalton. While I would never make an athletic comparison between the two, it is odd just how similar a situation they inherited. In 2011, the Panthers were coming off of a year where they went 2-14, earning the first pick in the draft. The Bengals weren’t much better, at 4-12, with the fourth pick. As I mentioned earlier, Andy Dalton immediately led the Bengals to the playoffs, while Cam struggled in his first two seasons. Dalton’s immediate turnaround of the team was attributed to a good defense, while Cam was mostly responsible for his outstanding division championship in 2013. Even their stats were very similar, yet Newton receives all of the hype. Well, after the postseason came to an end, neither quarterback has a playoff win and their postseason stats look very similar on average. Still, nobody is questioning Cam Newton’s job security and I find it strange considering the scrutiny of Dalton. The Bengals need to be patient with Dalton and shouldn’t look to screw a good thing up. It took Peyton Manning more than three years to win a playoff game, should the Colts have yanked him?
Should the Bengals draft a quarterback?
I think it would be foolish for the Bengals to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds, especially in this years’ draft. If the Bengals are able to snag LSU’s Zach Mettenberger anywhere past the second round, they’ve got an exceptional draft day steal. Mettenberger’s season ended due to a torn ACL, which may cost him a round or two, allowing the Bengals to possibly grab him in the third or fourth round. This would allow the Bengals to play out Andy Dalton’s final year of his rookie contract with a viable second option in-house if Dalton’s playoff woes continue. I think Mettenberger’s presence would help push Dalton to succeed, as he’s never really had any competition since arriving in Cincinnati. Zach Mettenberger has the size, strength and has shown the ability to be a very good NFL quarterback, which will really tempt the Bengals if he’s still on the board.
Is it time to move on past Marvin Lewis?
The Bengals early home playoff exit was a huge disappointment to the entire Queen City. While I have found a ton of fault with head coach Marvin Lewis in the past, I don’t put this one on his shoulders. Critical play calling errors by Jay Gruden had a greater contribution to the loss than anything that Lewis could have done. Previously, I have found that Lewis is an awful game manager as a head coach. He has boggled my mind with some of his poorly timed timeouts and weird personnel decisions. Lewis, like Andy Dalton, improved tremendously this season and should be retained. There is no memorable blunder, like Andy Reid’s timeout meltdown against Indianapolis, right after the two minute warning in this year’s Wild Card opener. Moreover, the Bengals won the AFC North and finished with an 11-5 record. It seems that the Bengals would have made their move by now if Lewis was going to be cut loose, but you never know in the NFL…
2014 Season Outlook
Regardless of how unhappy the fan base is, both Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis will be given a chance to save their careers in Cincinnati during the upcoming season. They are both in the last year of their current contracts, allowing for the Bengals to take a “wait and see” approach. If the team gets off to a slow start, Lewis could be jettisoned immediately. However, even if the Bengals win the AFC North division and an opening round bye, they’ll clean house if there is another early playoff exit. If the “Cardiac Cats” don’t get it together, changes will be made, starting with the two leadership positions. Hopefully for Dalton and Lewis, all of the small things that went wrong this time around, go right in 2014.