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Numbers don’t lie: Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback

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Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) on the field before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) on the field before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Andy Dalton was elite in 2015, but a late-season injury has people forgetting the greatness he showed early on. Here’s why he’s a franchise quarterback.

Andy Dalton was an MVP candidate before bowing out of the Bengals’ Week 14 loss to the Steelers with a thumb injury. Yet somehow, people are already assuming that Dalton’s 2015 season was an outlier in an otherwise mediocre career.

Let’s get something straight: Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback. Whether he can win a playoff game has yet to be determined, but plenty of past and present franchise quarterbacks have had struggles winning playoff games–most notably, Matthew StaffordMatt Ryan and Carson Palmer.

Only 10 active NFL quarterbacks have playoff records above .500, and the names on the list are actually fairly surprising. Both Colin Kaepernick and Mark Sanchez are 4-2 in the playoffs, yet they aren’t starting quarterbacks. So does a quarterback’s playoff record really suggest whether he’s a quality, or even great, player?

To further the evidence, Philip RiversTony RomoMichael VickAlex Smith and Matt Hasselbeck have losing playoff records, and 11 active NFL quarterbacks who have appeared in playoff games (Dalton included) have never come out with a win.

The most convincing stat of all: 10 teams haven’t made the playoffs a single time in Dalton’s tenure and 14 teams (Bengals excluded) haven’t won a playoff game during that same time span.

And if it’s any solace, the only other quarterback in history with an 0-4 playoff record (Y.A. Tittle) was a seven-time Pro Bowler and was elected into the Hall of Fame.

Dalton is certainly far from a Hall of Fame election, but the fact remains that playoff wins aren’t everything in regards to a quarterback’s abilities. Numbers don’t lie: Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback.

In December, Andy Dalton became the second quarterback in NFL history (Peyton Manning was the first) to pass for at least 3,000 yards in each of his first five seasons. Dalton’s top target, wide receiver A.J. Green, entered the record books on the same day as Dalton, becoming the second receiver in NFL history (Randy Moss was the first) to record five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons to open a career.

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In 2015, only

Russell Wilson

(110.1) had a higher passer rating than Andy Dalton (106.3). Only Carson Palmer had more yards per attempt (8.70) than Dalton (8.42). Despite missing three games, Dalton finished in the top 10 in several significant stats: completion percentage, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and most importantly,

wins

.

Andy Dalton’s 0.769 win percentage was fourth to only Cam Newton, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer among quarterbacks with at least five starts.

In regards to the clutch factor, Dalton has 12 career fourth quarter comebacks and 16 game-winning drives, recording at least three of the latter in every season.

Here’s a table of Andy Dalton’s career statistics to further display Dalton’s year-to-year progress:

[table id=116 /]

If one thing’s clear, it’s that Andy Dalton is progressing year-to-year. And given that he’s just hitting his prime, it’s hard to see Dalton backing up a career year with a dud, barring another injury to A.J. Green (which put a damper on his 2014 numbers) or another injury to the quarterback himself.

The bottom line is this: Andy Dalton has been good, but in 2015, he was great. And because Dalton has evidently progressed on a yearly basis, it’s hard to expect him dropping off. In fact, the quarterback hasn’t even hit his ceiling. He’s excellent under pressure, his footwork and mechanics have taken off and he’s somehow even improving his arm strength.

Next: Top 10 Bengals Games of 2015 Season

One of the winningest quarterbacks since entering the league, despite playing for a team that was supposed to go 0-16, Andy Dalton has quietly become a franchise quarterback. Numbers don’t lie.

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