Commentary: Why John Clayton Is Neither Right Or Wrong About Andy Dalton

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 25: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass in the first half of an NFL preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

ESPN's John Clayton unceremoniously ranked Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton 33rd during his annual quarterback rankings on Wednesday (in unrelated news, the sales of Pitch Forks have tripled in the past 24 hours). Considering there's only 32 teams in the NFL, being graded 33rd is worse than being picked last when we were kids playing backyard ball. Clayton wrote:

Carson Palmer gave his heart, soul and body to make the Bengals a winning franchise. After two playoff losses and years of enduring frustration, Palmer gave up. Now it's Dalton's turn to try to do the same with a smaller body and not as strong an arm.

Doesn't this sound like one of those best friends coming to the defense letters, even if said best friend knew he was wrong with defending his buddy. If Palmer gave his heart, soul and body to make the Bengals a winning franchise, one has to ask, "that's the best you could do?" With only two playoff losses and continuing years of frustration, at some point Palmer has to accept the same responsibility for going 46-51 during his career as the Bengals front office does for their super-villainous roles maintaining this team. But that's neither here nor there.

Our issue really isn't so much that Clayton ranked Dalton 33rd; Clayton knows about as much as we do concerning Dalton's career in the NFL. There's no baseline for historical analysis, therefore it's impossible to judge such things. Maybe he becomes the next Greg Cook, whose great start for an NFL career ended just as quickly with a career-ending injury. Maybe he becomes the next Carson Palmer, who makes as many mistakes on the field as the front office did off the field; though often performing earlier in his career (read 2005) in which he deserved elite status. Maybe he's the next Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason or David Klingler. Guessing about that right now is about as useful as filling a glass without a bottom full of water.

It's no different than Clark Judge's praise of Dalton:

There were six quarterbacks taken with the first 36 picks of this year's draft, including Cam Newton at No. 1, and I can see all but maybe one starting at some point this season. What I can't see is all but maybe one having immediate success, and I'll tell you whom I like there.

It's not Newton, and it's not Jake Locker, the first two quarterbacks off the board. It's Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, and I'll tell you why: Because he will start from Day 1, he has a decent supporting cast and he looks as if he played the position -- no coincidence since scouts believed he and Florida State's Christian Ponder were the most ready to step into an NFL huddle.

Our issue isn't that Clayton adds an arrow pointing down, suggesting that Dalton, who is ranked dead last will get worse. How can someone in last place get worse? Would he rank Dalton 41st with only a total of 32 quarterbacks? Either way it's hilarious that borders on Mel Brooks comedy or the self-righteousness nature of elitism that we have to face from time to time.

In reality, we just don't have an issue; electing not to take Clayton's point of view to heart. When there's news on player transactions, Clayton's the guy to follow. Judging NFL talent, not so much from our perspective.

Either way the only thing that matters from here on out starts next Sunday, when the regular season kickoffs and we can start judging Dalton's career, one game at a time.

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