Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley’s strong preseason beginning is the source of much buzz around the Bengals right now, but it is important to not make too much or too little of it.
What it doesn’t mean
It happens every year somewhere in the NFL. A relatively unknown backup quarterback outplays an established starter in the preseason and Twitter explodes with people proclaiming the backup should start when the games count, or something close to that. See the tweet below that was a reply to a tweet from Hall of Famer Kurt Warner where he gave Finley a small shoutout. Notice the engagement it got.
There were also tweets that took things a step further.
Stuff like this is why 99.9% of people on Twitter don’t run NFL franchises or do anything close to it. Finley has had a nice first couple of preseason games by completing 75% of passes and throwing just one interception.
Still, on no planet does it make sense to put a fourth round rookie in over a guy like Andy Dalton when it matters anytime soon. Dalton has limitations, but his teams are 18 games over .500 when he starts in his career. If the Bengals start 1-6 with Dalton this year, we can revisit this. For now though, it is nothing short of idiotic. However, that doesn’t mean Finley’s preseason should be entirely dismissed.
What it does mean
In the short term, not having a competent backup quarterback really hurt the Bengals last year and hurts many teams every year. All any team wants from a backup quarterback is someone who can keep the ship afloat if the starter goes down. What we have seen from Finley thus far suggest he can fit that bill.
In the long term, Dalton has two years left on his deal. Frankly, he hasn’t done anything that would make it easy for the team to move off him, but his era in Cincinnati also lacks the kind of success in January that gets a quarterback a third contract, even beyond the age of 30. It really is a tough call. However, if he can build on the early positive signs, Finley clearly has the tools to make that call not so tough when the time comes.
For now though, in a league where six to eight teams don’t have one quarterback that can lead a team to wins on consistent basis, it looks like the Bengals have two. That is a beautiful thing.