Cincinnati Bengals: Why Andy Dalton is a bridge to nowhere in 2020

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 yells to wide receiver John Ross #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 27-19. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 yells to wide receiver John Ross #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 27-19. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Keeping Andy Dalton might be a mistake in 2020, especially if the Cincinnati Bengals draft a quarterback like Joe Burrow.

More than a few people have made the observation that veteran Andy Dalton should be the “bridge” to the next quarterback the Cincinnati Bengals draft in 2020. That’s a mistake. Not because Dalton is washed up, and not because it’s an outlandish idea. More specifically, Dalton is a chapter that needs to end in Cincinnati, and for a smart example, they should look at what the Los Angeles Rams did in 2017 with Jared Goff.

When Goff went 0-7 in his rookie campaign, the 4-12 Rams didn’t think about keeping Case Keenum. Instead, they found a journeyman quarterback who would be a better presence in the quarterback room, versus a competitor for the starting position. For those who know the 2017 Rams, you also know that Dan Orlovsky was key to getting Goff ready for the starting gig full-time in LA.

It worked. Orlovsky wasn’t a threat to the No. #1 overall pick and Goff had a mentor he wasn’t looking over his shoulder for. In Cincinnati, should they draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the voice of a smart and savvy journeyman like Orlovsky could be critical. It is also a role Dalton isn’t suited for.

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For those who insist Dalton is suited to such a role, I remind you that Dalton still sees himself as a viable NFL starter, not likely as a mentor for the heir apparent. Few veterans who have been starters, especially successful, do. Also, he has been open about the Bengals not making an attempt to trade him to a team where he could be a starter. That’s not the reaction of a player looking for a mentorship type of role. That’s a player who still thinks he should be playing on Sunday.

It’s also fair for him to feel that way. The difference between someone like Orlovsky and Dalton is that Orlovsky knew his role. He knew how he could help a young player like Goff. His role was to be a sounding board for a young QB’s room. He also knew he was in play for the backup job, and not as the starting quarterback. Again, Dalton and his surrogates in Bengals fandom would be advocating for his starting in 2020.

Cincinnati needs a new and fresh direction. Frankly, so does Andy Dalton. Given 2019, it’s a Fool’s Paradise to think the Bengals are anything other than a .500 team or worse next season, with or without Dalton.

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The best plan for the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals and beyond is to draft Burrow, find a journeyman mentor like Dan Orlovsky was to Goff in 2017, and chart a new course. One has to bet Dalton would love the same opportunity elsewhere.