In an NFL era dominated by passing, how does Andy Dalton stack up against his contemporaries?
Andy Dalton is the Bengals’ franchise quarterback. After his 2015 season, it’s undeniable. Sorry McCarronites, I’m sure your man will get a chance somewhere. Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs every year, since he was drafted. He’s their winningest QB since Boomer Esiason. Yet, he still hasn’t gotten them over the Wildcard hump. With Dalton at the helm, where do the Bengals rank at quarterback relative to the rest of the league?
Ranking quarterbacks is never easy. You have to take into account injury history, career stats, surrounding talent, playoff experience, and age. In the midst of this chaos, focus slightly into the future.
The following rankings are projections for the 2016-2017 season. Imagine if each team drafted a quarterback for next year and next year alone. Where would Andy Dalton be drafted?
If we’re trying to pinpoint exactly where Dalton ranks on the 1 to 32 list of starting quarterbacks, the first order of business is to name all the quarterbacks clearly above him. Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and (as much as it pains me to say this) Ben Roethlisberger all fit that description.
Next is a tier of quarterbacks closer to Dalton’s level, though still slightly above. Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Andrew Luck all find their way into this category. Despite his poor playoff performance and injury concerns, Carson Palmer is boosted up over Dalton by his tenure and late-career revival (this is by the narrowest of margins). Eli has two Lombardi Trophies to his name and virtually no injury history to speak of. Luck’s level of play and promise speaks for itself. Interceptions are the only thing between him and the “elite” label.
And then there’s Andy Dalton. With 18,008 passing yards and five playoff appearances in his first five years, he’s looking pretty good at number 11. Call me a Tony Romo hater, but I’ll pass on a guy who hasn’t played a full season since the Mayan Calendar predicted the end of the world. Alex Smith is a fine quarterback as well, yet he hasn’t shown anything spectacular since San Francisco. Blake Bortles has been extraordinary for his age, but he has yet to show his ability to consistently win games. Others in contention show promise but need a few more years to develop.
Dalton is the complete package. Bengals fans rejoiced last year as Dalton finally eliminated the biggest flaw in his game: interceptions. According to NFL Network, his interceptions dropped from 17 in 2014 to just 7 in 2015. He’s developed the deep ball that he was said to be missing in college, and his short accuracy is better than ever. This is evidenced by his significantly lower interception totals. He even makes plays outside the pocket, with his underrated athleticism. Let’s not forget the touchdown he caught last year against the Titans.
“Everybody respects him just like everybody respects Brady.”
Perhaps most important of all are Dalton’s newfound leadership skills. Last year, under the watch of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Dalton took control of the offense both on and off the field. Praised as being the first guy in the team facilities and the last to leave, Dalton is now drawing comparisons to Tom Brady from his teammates, per the Cincinnati Bengals’ official website. Former Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lafell was full of compliments for Dalton, claiming “Everybody respects him just like everybody respects Brady.”
If he picks up where he left off last season—before his thumb injury—Dalton could easily climb into the top 10 NFL quarterbacks next year. With the amount of talent on the Bengals roster, he could even make a Super Bowl run. For now though, he remains firmly at number 11.
Not bad, for a guy we all wished Mike Brown had dumped to draft Colin Kaepernick.