We've said it before and we'll say it again: the third year of an NFL quarterback, in terms of development and production, is a huge one. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is entering that critical third year in 2013 and expectations are high for the club. Even though he has had some solid statistics and 19 wins in his first two seasons, Dalton has a long line of critics.
You can add Adam Schein of NFL.com to that list of Dalton critics. In a piece that he wrote up recently, Schein not only talks about the team's decision to appear on HBO's "Hard Knocks" documentary, but some possible story lines (we did the same recently). One of those projected scenarios was Dalton's development into a leader and taking the next step in his game. To put it bluntly, one-and-dones in the playoffs aren't going to cut it for this Bengals team anymore.
Schein predictably points to Dalton's poor performances in his two playoff appearances as evidence backing his claim of ranking him as the No.22 starting quarterback in the NFL.
One NFL executive told me on Monday night the ranking was "spot-on," while another wondered why he was "that high on the list."
Meanwhile, another executive from a playoff team said he would rank Dalton higher than I did, putting him "in the 17-20" range. I responded to that exec by asking him if Dalton was a franchise quarterback. His answer? "You can win with him if you have a great offensive coach and a strong defense."
Schein also uses what we at Cincy Jungle like to call the "ChiliDog Argument" on Dalton, named after one of our site's faithful. Those of you who are avid readers and commentators on this site are undoubtedly familiar with ChiliDog's comments on Dalton, and Schein himself took a page out of that argument:
Andy Dalton does not have a strong arm. He doesn't have great accuracy. He doesn't put fear in the opposition.
There may be some truth to the shortcomings of Dalton, pointed out by Schein. Perhaps those of us who follow the club have overblown Dalton's contributions to the team, given that he has helped us all get past the Carson Palmer debacle. Perhaps we give him a bit of a pass because of the mess of a situation that he was thrown into.
Then again, 47 touchdown passes and 19 wins in your first two seasons is hard to duplicate and I find difficulty knocking it. That's also when taking over a club that went 4-12 before he took the reigns in a lockout-shortened 2011 offseason. Perhaps we will all be apt to give Dalton more credit if he puts up similar numbers and wins again this year--especially if last year's rookie phenom quarterbacks stumble in their respective second years.
I have a close friend that I talk football with that has told me that "Andy Dalton is the perfect quarterback for the Bengals because he's good enough to get them into the playoffs and keep them competitive, but he's not going to get them over the hump and win a championship. He's just good enough to keep his job for years".
Maybe he and Schein are correct in their Dalton observations. Then again, maybe Dalton is just scratching the surface of what he can be. Reports have him working hard on his deep ball, and he's looking as if he is even more of a leader this year than the previous two.
So, we'll ask you: do you think that the Bengals have their franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton?