Andy Dalton has been the punch line to many jokes throughout his career. One being the answer to this question: “Is Dalton a top ten QB?” Ask a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and they’ll probably laugh before they even answer. However, with a deeper look into the Red Rifle’s career, he might be better than what NFL fans give him credit for.
When Cincinnati drafted Andy Dalton in the second round of the NFL Draft, Who Dey Nation did not know exactly what we were going to get. For a losing team, heading straight to the playoffs wasn’t necessarily in the cards, to say the least, but the dynamic duo of Dalton and A.J. Green got the job done. Dalton experienced two solid seasons to start his young career and then exploded in 2013.
The Ginger ranked eighth in completions, seventh in yardage and third in touchdowns. Despite setting career highs in yardage and touchdowns he ranked fifth in interceptions and his completion percentage was the worse it had been since his rookie year. Pile that on with another one-and-done in the playoffs and the league developed their thoughts on Dalton.
As Cincinnati kept providing their QB with more weapons and protection, fans demanded more out of him. A 2014 season that saw Dalton regress and move to third on the league interception list only further put Dalton on the back-end of quarterbacks in the league.
Suddenly, here comes 2015. Dalton looks like an MVP candidate. Cincinnati is primed for a playoff win and it all goes down the drain in a conversation all Bengals fans are sick of having. However, the Rifle looked great that year. So great that his NFL peers ranked him 35th in the NFL Top 100.
Under the tutelage of Hue Jackson, Dalton finally emerged. Although when Jackson left to become a head coach, fans everywhere wondered if he could continue his new-found success. Could he maintain an elite level?
A 6-9-1 record at face value shows not, but Dalton quietly had a productive season without the big names. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovanni Bernard, Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu. The running game was spotty at best. It was tough, but he still managed to rank eleventh in yards and twelfth in completion percentage.
Without a thousand yard rusher or receiver Cincy’s signal-caller managed to land one spot out of the top 10. Just imagine if he had either.
Dalton isn’t there just yet. He’s proved that he can play at an elite level, but injuries and an inconsistent running game have caused him to slip out of the top 10. However, now that he has John Ross–the fastest man on any football field–and Joe Mixon, the next Leveon Bell (fingers crossed), the Rifle could finally make the leap and change everyone’s opinion.
Personally, there are only five quarterbacks I’ll take over Dalton year in and year out. The suspects are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. If we’re talking Fantasy Football, alright there may be a few others, but I’ll ride or die with Andy to lead the Bengals.