How Bengals’ Andy Dalton Can Reach The Next Level

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Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) reacts to the touchdown by running back Rex Burkhead (not pictured) against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) reacts to the touchdown by running back Rex Burkhead (not pictured) against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Andy Dalton has been at the heart of many Bengals disappointments. But, it wasn’t totally his fault. The 2017 season will be his proving grounds to level up and deliver a Super Bowl.

The past six years have been a blur for most Bengals fans. It seems like only yesterday that Andy Dalton was a wide-eyed rookie in the NFL. During that 2011 season, he endured the typical highs and lows of life as a fresh-faced signal caller. But, it’s time to throw the past aside. The 2017 season will be the time for Dalton to prove he has what it takes to lead the Bengals to a playoff victory and beyond.

Countless excuses have been made for the reasons Cincinnati has failed to make a valid splash in the postseason. As the face of the franchise, Dalton is going to be held accountable for the success and failures that the Bengals endure. Besides quarterback, the only position to take as much heat for losing…is the head coach. Even then, Marvin Lewis isn’t on the field. Yet, the burden lies with both of them.

Dalton recently said, per NFL.com, that he was inspired by the return of Lewis as head coach.

"“It’s been great to have Marvin and know that he’s going to be back this next year — just because there are some teams that turnover coaches all the time, and they can’t get that stability. He listens to the players and wants what’s best for us. He makes the work environment a lot of fun. I think that’s one thing for guys that are coming in. I think we have a good locker room and they like the way he treats the players.”"

Many Bengals fans feel differently about Lewis. And the words aren’t as flowery. But, is a friendly coach all he needs to win?

Daytime Andy vs. Primetime Andy

If anything is counterproductive to winning it has to be the dismal performance of the Bengals under the stars. With Dalton at the helm of the offense, the Bengals are 5-10 (.333) under the bright lights. Having a record like that debunks any talk of “elite” status. But, at the same time, there’s the sparkling sheen of Dalton in the noon sun. While working on his winter tan, The Ginger has racked up a 51-25-2 (.660) mark.

To achieve the mindset of a Super Bowl caliber gunslinger, Dalton must lose the deer-in-the-headlights mentality. Those are the games he has to live for. The pressure and chaos of nighttime football transforms a good quarterback into a battle-tested W machine. If he can win on national television–while the odds are stacked against him–there’s a good chance the butterflies leave in the huge games.

Just A Little Help

Dalton isn’t alone in his futile attempts. His teammates have also let him down. Just rewind the clock to Week 10 of the 2015 season. The Bengals were 8-0 and facing the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. Down 10-6,  A.J. Green fumbles on the Texans’ 23-yard line. After a review, the call stands and Dalton suffers another sundown loss. That wasn’t on Dalton but he gets the blame anyway.

Cincinnati was a mere 50 seconds from a possible comeback win. No, it wasn’t all on Green. The entire offense laid an egg. Dalton finished the evening with a QBR of 36.5 and the running game was invisible. In fact, Dalton was the second-best rusher with 31 yards on four carries (7.8 ypc). Um, that’s not a good look.

Oh For The Playoffs

No-brainer alert right here. To get anywhere close to Super Bowl LII, Andy has to capture that elusive playoff win and get the confidence up. One look at his 0-4 record warrants a deeper look at the factors. But, the safe money can easily go on preparation. Lewis’ playoff status is 0-7, in his 14 years with the Bengals. In that time, Dan Quinn has navigated the Atlanta Falcons to the Big Dance. It took him one year with a QB that fans considered average. But, I digress. This is about Dalton.

Consistency at the offensive coordinator position should help Dalton in 2017. Ken Zampese has been with Andy from the start and he feels comfortable with him.

"“Ken Zampese and I have a great relationship because he was my quarterback coach from the beginning, and I’ve been working with him since I’ve been in the NFL. I understand how he works and he understands how I work.”"

Next: A Running Game With Passion?

Their chemistry will be put to the test. The Rifle is entering his seventh year in the league. Cam Newton was in that 2011 quarterback class and passed his five-year curve. Now, it’s Andy’s turn. Fans have a hard time embracing Dalton because he’s not the stereotypical leader. Before the thumb injury, he was en route to becoming the league MVP. Needless to say, another visit to Tom House should help this year’s cause.

Did I mention the O-line? Yeah. Keeping him off his back would go a long way. Dalton needs Andrew Whitworth to guard his blind side….with a side order of Kevin Zeitler.

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