Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
While it's currently unclear as to whether or not Jay Gruden will still be the Bengals offensive coordinator in 2013, he praised quarterback Andy Dalton's play throughout his first two years in the league, despite the offensive troubles moving the ball down the field late in the season.
Jay Gruden and Andy Dalton both came into the league as rookies in 2011 and after two seasons they both have been to the playoffs twice. Unfortunately, their record in the playoffs is 0-2, but the fact that they made it into the playoffs two years in a row is nothing to be taken lightly, especially in Cincinnati since it hasn't happened in 30 years until now. If the Bengals continue on the route they're on now, I personally think the playoff wins will come.
Some Bengals fans have begun to wonder, though, whether Dalton is the right guy for the job. While I personally believe it's a little too early to make a call for that, you can't blame the frustration that many fans feel. After all, the best receiver on the team, A.J. Green, who is one of the most talented receivers in the league, didn't get a single look before halftime in the team's playoff loss this past weekend, and the team has only scored one offensive touchdown in the last three games.
Gruden, however, believes completely in his young quarterback and believes that Dalton is the right man for the job. He just needs to work on a few things.
"I think Andy is the guy. If you compare his two-year stats to Drew Brees and the other great quarterbacks now, I think you'd be surprised what he's done his first two years," Gruden said. "Obviously he has shown some flaws he has to work on, but every other quarterback in their first two years in the league has shown that."
Dalton is the only quarterback other than Peyton Manning and Dan Marino to throw for 20 touchdowns or more in his first two seasons, which is good company to be in. When you compare his statistics over the last two years, they're comparable to Manning's and Marino's (though Dalton didn't throw 48 touchdowns in his second season) as well as some other Super Bowl winning quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady when they were in their first couple of years in the league. It would obviously be irresponsible to say that Dalton will be as good as any of these quarterbacks, but the fact that he's on pace early is a good sign.
With some more help at the wide receiver position to take some of the attention away from Green, and with more consistent play from tight end Jermaine Gresham and a better running game, Dalton could help turn the Bengals offense around and play on par with the defense, hopefully taking them deep into the playoffs.