December 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A penalty flag sits in the end zone during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys at Paul Brown Stadium. Dallas won the game 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Two Faces of the Bengals

The Bengals organization is where the fault should lie for the Andy Dalton controversy. It’s been overblown regarding what the team should do with the “face of the franchise” going forward. In reality, both sides are partially correct. It wouldn’t have been such an issue had the organization handled it’s message to the public in a more pensive fashion.

The Bengals have relentlessly aggravated and fractured its fan base by delivering an unclear message. In response to Dalton critics, they often have made comments supporting their quarterback, expressing a belief in his development, yet regard Dalton as strong-minded and possessing the ability to ignore these critics. If this is so, then why even make these statements so often? Why not simply deflect these questions as inflammatory rather than as pertinent or respond to them in jest? It just comes across as hypocritical. Dalton does seem to possess these attributes and being a seasoned veteran, he should be able to handle the criticism without the constant reaffirmations from the franchise. The organization must realize that words won’t change the critics. These types of statements, along with Dalton’s inconsistent performance, only serve to encourage them while leading fans to question if Dalton truly has this necessary mindset.

The organization has often spoke about the records Dalton has set and his place in NFL history regarding a player’s first three years. This sounds more like a team trying to justify it’s choice to stick with him rather than a true, unequivocal belief in him. The team clearly does believe in Dalton, and for good reason, but the message it has sent is, yet again, wrong. This goes right along with calling Dalton the “face of the franchise.” With all due respect to Dalton, this is clearly false. When fans think of a “face” of their franchise, they go to a player who exudes success and leadership. The offense has been on the upswing, but clearly the defense, led by Vontaze Butfict, is the reason for its success. Placing this title on Dalton is not only wrong, but lends itself to misconceptions and frustration amongst fans as they debate why a franchise would sacrifice so much for a guy who clearly isn’t the leader nor the focal point for its success. This especially takes place in light of Mike Brown’s comments implying that Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins were “lost” to be ready for Dalton’s extension. I understand the game of chess going on here, but that is an inappropriate and misplaced comment. That’s the kind of stuff that should be kept “in-house.” Brown was wrong to make this statement as the team was never going to sign a third defensive lineman to a mega-deal (after Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins), evidenced by their drafting of Margus Hunt. Anthony Collins played himself into starter’s money and signed for six million/year. If the Bengals chose not to pay him this money, that shouldn’t be applied to Dalton. This “quarterback money” would be spent on a long-term quarterback at some point regardless of the team’s choices with other players. Though the comment can be construed as true, it was really just another example of hypocrisy. The Bengals can’t call Dalton the “face of the franchise” and then not pay him “franchise” money. It may even have given Dalton’s representatives the idea that they should be chasing this type of contract. It has lent itself to false beliefs regarding the team’s stance on Dalton, along with continued vexation amongst the fan base.

Still, this PR mishandling doesn’t change what the team should do with Dalton. This is where both sides of the debate are partially correct. Marvin Lewis stated recently that Jay Cutler’s contract is the benchmark being used by Dalton’s representatives while seeking a new contract. This could actually be helpful when resigning Dalton. When looking at Cutler’s deal you immediately see the 7 years and 18+ million/year. Because of Mike Brown’s “losing players” comment, fans can’t help but engage in a debate over how much money Dalton should demand and how it will impact the retention of other players. A closer look reveals crucial information for the Bengals; Cutler could be cut following the 2016 season with no further penalty to the Bears. The Bengals could structure Dalton’s contract in a similar way, though he shouldn’t demand exactly this amount of money nor guaranteed money. These years would provide AJ McCarron with the necessary time to learn the system and potentially develop into a starting-caliber quarterback if Dalton continues to falter. This would happen near the end of McCarron’s current deal and resigning him at that point would probably be inexpensive, certainly no more than the Bengals would be paying Dalton in his new deal. If McCarron falters, these few “guaranteed” years on Dalton’s contract would also enable the team to draft another quarterback and develop him for a year or two. Whatever happens, the team would have the necessary time and a plan for the future.

The truth is Dalton has done pretty much everything that is expected of a young quarterback. He developed each year, but has struggled in the big moments. This isn’t unheard of. It took Peyton Manning six years to win his first playoff game and nine years to win his first Super Bowl. Drew Brees needed the same amount of time to win his first playoff game and Super Bowl. And Eli Manning needed four years for both of his wins. Dalton was put into the starting role from day one. His NFL development has taken place in a system that was foreign to him coming out of college and wasn’t built for his skill set. This is a difficult situation for any quarterback. During his tenure at TCU, Dalton played in a run-heavy system and the discrepancy in play-calling only increased during Dalton’s tenure. Simultaneously his completion percentage and the team’s record improved. Dalton’s career with the Bengals has emphasized the pass and the play-calling discrepancy has also increased over his three years. Although Dalton’s numbers have improved, his overall effectiveness has seemingly wavered; most telling is his interceptions and interception percentage, amongst the league’s worst. The Bengals knew this when drafting Dalton in 2011 and only now are they creating a game plan that befits Dalton. This all leads back to the “face of the franchise” comments. When your strong point is defense, you’re moving towards emphasizing the run, and your quarterback hasn’t reached a “franchise” level, why call your quarterback the “face of the franchise?”

The organization has taken the necessary steps towards success to this point. In this way they’ve stood behind their quarterback, but have sent incorrect and hypocritical messages causing misconceptions about the organization’s direction and Dalton. Going forward the team shouldn’t comment on a player’s contract situation but rather what the player needs to do in order to become better. And, when speaking, they should be willing to be honest about a player’s performance rather than provide unbefitting accolades to players in order to justify their decisions as it only and exasperates unnecessary debates. This would give the fan base confidence in the franchise’s management and vision while uniting the fans in support of the team.

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  • Ron Fulton

    The Bengals make the big mistake by resigning Lewis. Already he is undermining Brown. Brown is right, you don’t sign an unproven QB to a long term contract.

    • powdereddonuts

      “Unproven”? Guy owns the franchise marks for TDs and yards passing in a season. Has made the playoff 3 consecutive years, and is up there with the all-time greats for TDs in his first three years.

      Yeah. He hasn’t proven anything yet because he hasn’t won a playoff game. How many did Peyton win in his first 3 years?

      • Ron Fulton

        Would you give him a 20M contract? If so you are nuts. This guy still has to show me some accuracy. With that team around him they should have won the Division last year. Anyone can see his accuracy is in question. Anyone can complete a five yard pass. I would see how he does this year before giving him that big contract.

        • powdereddonuts

          How is his accuracy in question when he was 58% in his first season and 61.9% in his 3rd? That seems like an improvement to me. He averages over 14 more attempts per game than Kaepernick and STILL has a higher completion percentage than he does (60.9 -59.8). How can you throw the ball 14 fewer times per game and still not hit your target at a 60% clip?

          And you talk about the team around him, but how many of them are 1st and 2nd year players? It wasn’t that long ago that he was throwing to guys like Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, and Armon Binns. ARMON BINNS! Didn’t Kaepernick’s team make the NFC championship game his rookie year with him on the bench? Please don’t act like the Bengals were loaded considering they were 4-12 the year before he got there and were basically starting over on offense. Unlike Palmer, Dalton didn’t have the luxury of sitting on the bench for a year and learning. He didn’t even have an OTA. He also hasn’t had a respectable run game since he has been here, forcing him to have to take more chances in the passing game. Why do think a guy like Kaepernick only throws the ball like 20 times per game? Because he has a running attack!

          To be honest, if you told me we’d make one playoff game in three years after Carson “retired” I would have thought you were crazy. Dalton is a huge part of why this team has made it to 3 straight playoff appearances. Even the guy who arguably considered the best ever didn’t win a playoff game until his 6th season in the league, but we expect so much more from a guy drafted in the 2nd round quaterbacking a team that historically hasn’t even made it to the playoffs.

          Pay the man. The market dictates what a QB is worth. Not the fans. Hell, Bronson Arroyo is making 16 million for the Diamondbacks this year. Are you telling me Dalton is worth less money than him? I know they are different sports, but it speaks to markets. Even a back of the rotation pitcher in MLB gets paid. A starting QB who has been in the playoff three years in a row deserves to as well. Especially when all of his peers are seeing big pay days.

          • Ron Fulton

            Obviously you are a Dalton rooter. That is fine and you make good points, but his completion percentage is misleading because they were five yard passes. All I’m saying is I would not give that kind of money to him until he showed me his down field accuracy is much better. They should have learned something from all the gaffes Jocketty has made with the Reds about over paying.

          • powdereddonuts

            Not all QBs in this league have a great long ball. Blake had a great long ball but how good a QB was he? Ironically enough he was 5-7 on passes over 40 yards and still set a franchise record for passing yards. Perhaps you should play to the strengths of your QB? How about more seam routes to those two big TEs? I bet a decent run game will open up some of those passing lanes a bit more. I say he is worth at least 18 million based on what other QBs have gotten.

            And Arroyo wasn’t paid that money by the Reds. He got that in free agency. My guess is if we don’t pay Dalton, someone else will. It’s the nature of Free Agency and the relative scarcity of decent QBs in the NFL. That’s why a guy like Cutler got paid the way he did.

            Bengals fans act like the Bengals can go sign anybody off of the street and we would be successful. Bengals history doesn’t really prove that to be the case.

          • Ron Fulton

            Your absolutely right. That is why you draft a QB. You might need him. Dalton was given 5 years to prove he could do the job. Some will say yes and some will say no. I say I give him this year then I will pay or not and I don’t believe other teams will be knocking down the doors to get him.

          • powdereddonuts

            Dalton was given 5 years? He’s only been with the Bengals for three. This season will be his 4th. All he’s done is lead the team to 3 straight playoff appearances. I’m sure there wouldn’t be a market for his services in free agency. Not when you can draft someone with no proven experience to do the job.

          • Ron Fulton

            My mistake. He signed a 4 year contract and his going into the 4th year. But the point is if the Bengals don’t sign him long term no one else will either. Someone might sign him as a back up but that is not the money he is looking for. But I think you are missing the point. All those stats mean nothing when we can see the inaccuracy od his passing game. He must get better.

          • powdereddonuts

            A backup? Are you seriously attempting to say there are 31 starting QBs that are better than Andy Dalton? Lol.

            And how on earth does a QB that is so “inaccurate” set franchise records for passing and TDs?

            Of course “he must get better”. Looking at his body of work there’s no reason to assume he won’t. Outside of an increase in picks this past year, he improved in about every category. How many picks did Joe Flacco have last year? Eli Manning? I guess they “must get better” too?

          • Ron Fulton

            Anyone can set records throwing 5 yard passes. Don’t get me wrong I am in Andy’s corner but he just hasn’t shown me enough accuracy down field to endorse him yet.

          • powdereddonuts

            If anyone can set franchise passing and TD records throwing “5 yard” passes, don’t you think more QBs would be doing it? Listen to yourself.

            Regardless he averaged 7.33 yards per pass, which was better than Cam Newton, RGIII, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco. In fact he was tied with Matt Stafford for 11th in the league, while having a higher completion percentage.

            The numbers don’t seem to back up your argument.

          • Ron Fulton

            Like I said, you can do anything with numbers. I see what I see. And what I see is an inaccurate thrower, especially out of the pocket. I just don’t think you can teach accuracy. I hope I am wrong.

          • powdereddonuts

            Of course you see what you want to see. His numbers are objective. Your observations not as much. He got more yards per pass ON AVERAGE than any of those QBs mentioned above. For every pass he threw it resulted in more yards ON AVERAGE than theirs. If he is “dinking and dunking” what exactly are they doing?

            His completion percentage was also better than several of them. Including Stafford. How much did Stafford get again?

            Yeah, Dalton would be a backup on anyone else’s team. Perhaps you should be as critical of the other QBs he is in a market with then perhaps you’ll understand why he’s worth as much as they are on the open market.

          • Ron Fulton

            Possibly you are right. After looking in to Kaepernicks contract. I would not object to a similar deal. The Bengals would have the option to cancel the contact at the end of every season. That way if he fails Then the Bengals could release him and not be stuck with a big contract. In essense, he plays with a year to year contract. That works for me.

          • powdereddonuts

            From what I read, the Bengals like to front load contracts so they aren’t stuck with a big burden later on in the deal. I read that Carson got 36 million of his 96 million extension in the first 18 months. Hopefully if they can give him enough guaranteed money up front he will sign a deal that won’t hamstring the Bengals in future years if he doesn’t pan out. Dalton isn’t the sexiest QB out there, but he is a known commodity who has shown the ability to win games and manage a Top 10 offense. I think if Hue really works to improve the running game and play to his strengths, the offense will be just fine. Especially with all the young skill players coming into their own.

            The fact that Seattle made arguably the greatest QB of all time look rather average proves that you don’t need the best QB to win SBs. For as great as Peyton has been, his brother (who was horrible last year) still has more SBs than he does. Russell Wilson has just as many in two seasons of play and his didn’t come against Rex Grossman.

  • Richard Tony Ferreira

    Let Dalton play another year on his rookie contract and see if he improves. If he does then pay him his due. Even if they can’t resign him they can franchise him for 2015 thus getting two years of elite play for around 12 million per year average. If he doesn’t you haven’t hamstrung the franchise for 3+ years. Let’s face it we know the Bengals don’t have a Manning, Brady or Breeze, so why pay for a Mercedes when you are only getting a Ford.

  • David Petrocelli

    couldn’t agree more