Don’t get me wrong, I like Dalton. I want him to succeed. After all, Dalton is the quarterback of the team I root for on Sundays. Well, another eight months from now. However, sometimes football isn’t about whether you just “like the guy.”
During the beginning of the year, I saw the impressive Andy Dalton lead the offense to touchdown after touchdown in each game. The Bengals quickly churned out a three-game win streak, despite a slow start in Baltimore.
Even in their next few losses, the offense usually wasn’t fully to blame. Dalton continued to put up big numbers, even though the turnovers were ever-present as well.
Then, something happened. The defense got injured players back, and they started performing like everyone knew they could. The turnovers decreased, and we were winning football games. However, we were not winning because of Andy Dalton.
He had a solid Cincinnati defense to back him up, and he began to lose the impressive stats he had started the year off with. He was relying on the defense to get the job done, as the Bengals approached a group of must-win games to fight back into the playoffs.
Dalton visibly lost confidence in the pocket. His accuracy began to dwindle, and the Bengals were just barely putting up enough points to win the games kept close by the strong defense.
While he was getting the football out too quickly in the beginning of the season, he started holding onto the football too long during the final stretch. He was freezing in the pocket.
I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what was going on in Dalton’s mind as he faced those must-win games. However, I can say what I saw from the outside.
A lack of confidence, and a lack of leadership in the times when we most needed those important traits in our quarterback.
Dalton has already shown flashes of brilliance in his short career in the NFL. However, for him to truly be the quarterback the Bengals want, he will need to get his confidence back. He will need to be able to face the pressure that every good quarterback has to handle during a crucial game.
Then, and only then, do I think we will see the Andy Dalton we all believe he can be.