Andy Dalton is not the best quarterback in the NFL, but he is the best quarterback on our team. Yes, it's fun to rib him by saying that Sanu has a better deep ball to Green. But does anyone really believe that there is someone better than Dalton sitting on their couch a la Carson Palmer? That Josh Johnson is actually better? Didn't anyone watch Hard Knocks? Johnson's accuracy is crap and if anyone did exist who could be better for us, then they'd be on our team or the Jaguars or the Raiders.
I want to say that all Andy Dalton has done so far in his career is win. Well, that's not entirely true, but the point is that all he's ever known are winning seasons. Andy only knows the playoffs. Sure, a quick exit to a substantial team, but 2 playoff berths nonetheless.
Anyone remember being picked to go 0-16 in 2011? Well, we made the playoffs by backing in at 9-7. Was Andy Dalton's performance pathetic? Lacking? Unsatisfactory? Yes, yes, and yes. But he was also a rookie who had over achieved. We really had no business winning that game and anyone expecting to win that game was just delusional. Sure, I wanted to win. I wanted to be a true underdog/cinderella story, but those stories are rare. Even Luck, RGIII, and Russell Wilson got bounced from the playoffs early in their first year.
So 2012 we manage to both under and over achieve. We start 3-5 losing to the Dolphins and other mediocre/winnable games. Yet, we come together and pull off a 7-1 second half to our season and reach the playoffs yet again. We were still young, but we also improved. Anyone pointing out that Dalton had a bad game in his second post-season game, yes, sherlock, you are correct. He missed AJ on some deep balls. We were in it til the end. But we would not have advanced past Denver or New England or Baltimore. Baltimore owned us last year. I don't even just mean that lopsided Monday night loss at Baltimore. I'm talking about the last game of the season before Baltimore put their scrubs in and EVEN INTO when they had their scrubs in, we had trouble scoring.
So after 2 seasons in which our team has overcome its youthful naivete and managed to make it into the post season, all we seem to point to are the negatives, specifically of Andy Dalton.
Well, he improved year 1 to year 2. The team improved their record by a game. The team also lost to better teams in that time frame. Some losses were to teams of an equal caliber and we were/are mad, because we thought we should have won those games. Well we didn't win those games and if we had and then gone 13-3 or some other stellar record, then Dalton's performance in the playoffs would be egregious. But he didn't lead the team to 12-4 records. He didn't lose to a Jacksonville Jaguars team in the playoffs.
The team lost.
Andy Dalton is a competitor. He hasn't felt a losing season. He doesn't not play in January.
So he's 0-2 in the playoffs. There are many quarterbacks who have never even gotten to the damn game in the first place.
Dalton's down field accuracy is sub-par to date, but I would posit that he doesn't need to throw the accurate deep ball like Palmer to be successful. I think Dalton can be very successful throwing the ball in the 20-30 yard range and possibly 40 yards to AJ Green.
For instance, Dalton hit AJ on that deep out against Pittsburgh to set up our game winning field goal that propelled us to the playoffs. That was a 20ish yard pass. Then, consider Dalton's Touchdown pass to Green against Green Bay (it was only a 20 yarder). Dalton doesn't need to throw it tremendous leagues down field like a Joe Flacco to win games. He just needs to play within his game to give the team the best opportunity to win. Dalton is a short to intermediate field length passer and that's ok. Our TEs this year need to be utilized in the middle of the field at 10-20 yards on almost every pass play. WRs not named AJ Green need to step up (and hold onto the rock when taking hits/getting tackled).
Dalton hasn't been Bengalized yet and until he does quit on the team and becomes a "bungle", I'm not gonna write him off.