Thanks to accumulating injuries and the retirement of some of the franchise's great players, Anderson's production took a severe nose-dive in the late 70s. Paul Brown selected quarterback Jack Thompson third overall in the 1979 NFL Draft with the idea of transplanting Anderson with Thompson when the young quarterback was ready. See. Back in those days, the Bengals actually put together long-term visions, implementing their plans when it was ready -- some worked, some didn't. In most cases with Bengals quarterbacks, it rarely does.
Anderson largely kept his starting job, posting six touchdowns and 13 interceptions during 12 starts in 1980. It was so bad that by late September, the Bengals had lost 26 of their previous 34 games before hosting the Steelers on September 21, 1980. Anderson asked his son Matt the previous year what he'd like to do when he grows up.
"I want to be a football player, daddy," he answered.
What team would he like to play for?
"I don't know," the youngster replied.
"What about the Bengals?" Anderson suggested.
"No, they always lose," Matt replied.
Anderson even felt his Bengals career coming to an end, gladly becoming a mentor to Thompson to help ease the transition. The two actually developed a friendship that's not unlike the friendship that developed between Carson Palmer and Jon Kitna that began in 2003.
"He's (Anderson) helped me immensely in a lot of ways," said Thompson in October of 1980. "He's been a friend, first of all. He cares about my growth. He sincerely does."
Even though he was mentoring a quarterback that was expected to replace him, Anderson wanted to give Thompson something he didn't have. "Since I've been here, there really hasn't been an older quarterback who had been through it before."
There's no set formula. Thompson was groomed and eventually failed to unseat Anderson, who would secure his job in 1981 after setting career highs in touchdowns and yards passing. As a minor sidenote, Anderson led the franchise to their first ever Super Bowl. Just saying. Twenty years later, Palmer was groomed by a willing Kitna, eventually putting together one of the best seasons by a quarterback in franchise history during the Bengals 2005 playoff run. At one point, Palmer was even considered one of the elite quarterbacks before his elbow injury in 2008.
Even David Klingler had the opportunity to groom underneath another great Bengals quarterback. Boomer Esiason, after agreeing with Mike Brown to stay another season to allow Cincinnati to get their new quarterback ready, started 11 games in 1992 while David Klingler eased into the role. It seemed partially optimistic at the time. Klingler had a better passer rating than Esiason, a lower interception percentage, more yards passing per game and pass attempt. Additionally, Klingler was sacked during 15.5% of his drop backs during his rookie season; so there was a sense of hope if the Bengals would just build around him. Then we realized they wouldn't. The Bengals didn't bother upgrading the offensive line, only selecting a seventh round tackle in the 1993 NFL Draft and a sixth round tackle in the 1994 NFL Draft. Through his first three seasons, Klingler was sacked in 10.8% of his drop backs and his career in the NFL was largely over. In fairness, indecision and the lack of overall talent in the passing game were as much to blame for Klingler's sack totals as was the offensive line.
(Note to the Bengals: Do it better this time around)
How the Bengals transition this year has different variables; not least of all being that there's no veteran quarterback on the current roster for quarterback Andy Dalton to groom behind. The most experienced quarterback, Jordan Palmer, has 15 career pass attempts; all coming during blowout losses. In other shades of quarterback prosperity, some will actively point towards Thompson's bad work ethic that doomed him. Palmer's technique and intelligence helped him blossom (read: super-rich contract demanded that he start). From most of the reports we've read, Dalton is more like Palmer than he is Thompson. Still, Thompson, Klingler, Palmer and even Esiason, who groomed under Anderson, all had someone.
Unquestionably, the road for the team's future will rest on Dalton's arm. Will the team sign a veteran quarterback that can help Dalton ease into the game? Will the Bengals put him into the fire like they did with Akili Smith?