"Well, I’m very confident in what I’ve done. The people who are the critics, they look at all of the negatives. They don’t look at all of the stuff that I’ve accomplished. They don’t look at that I’m one of three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to do certain things. They don’t look at that kind of stuff. They want to find ways to tear me down but I’m not worried about that. They can say whatever they want. All that matters is what everyone believes in this organization and what I believe in myself. That’s how I go about my business."
- Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (via the Cincinnati Enquirer).
Dalton is certainly right.
There are critics that appeal only to the negatives. Three seasons into his NFL career, Dalton has helped led the Bengals to three straight postseasons -- not singlehandedly, of course. That would suggest that Cincinnati's defense had no hand in it and we all know that if not for this defense, this team loses more games.
Regardless, Dalton is only the fifth quarterback in league history to take his team to the postseason in his first three years. He's a former Pro Bowl player that's already broke franchise marks in touchdowns thrown and yards passing in a single-season -- better than Boomer Esiason, Kenny Anderson (who played partly in 14-game seasons) and Carson Palmer. And if he's not the one telling you how successful that he's been, just take an unbiased look at his statistics. They're great! These are not achievements that suggests Dalton is bad and anyone ignoring them does a disservice to themselves. No doubt, Andy Dalton is among the regular season champions.
But it's one thing to win player of the month by "dominating" the Bills, Lions and Jets. It's quite another to beat division opponents, win during a primetime game, and achieve the holy grail in Cincinnati sports: Win an NFL playoff game -- the basis for which most criticism actually exists. Failure to understand the narrative transforms a reactionary defense, a miscalculation of the plot. We're seeing that now. "Haters gonna hate." Losing a fumble without contact, two interceptions in the second half of a playoff game... aren't these legitimate criticisms?
Save for a small blurb on the mothership, there are no actual quotes, articles and reports (at least yet) that centralizes the disastrous postseason performances as a basis for the criticism. It's too generic. It makes fans the enemy because it the general sense as the quarterback is bad. He's not. Most don't believe that. Many don't see that through all 48 regular season games. But there is one-and-done fatigue in the three postseason games, and many point to the 1-6 touchdown-interception ratio in the playoffs. That's legitimate.
Maybe it's the unspoken nature of how obvious those goals are. Of course Andy Dalton wants to win a playoff game; just as much as Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown (despite the bone-headed belief that they don't). When the loss to the San Diego Chargers was complete, no one appeared more down on himself than Dalton.
That could be the problem too.
Dalton doesn't project strength. You're more likely to see him promoting how others believe in him when we're not really sure that he believes in himself.
Understand that the criticism is based on the postseason -- not the regular season. Take this renewed strength, win a playoff game and find out the criticisms whisper away. We have every reason to believe that Dalton is working to become a better player. What he won't do is win over critics by reciting only the good parts of his resume. He won't win over critics by responding to questions regarding his contact when the owner is clearly not comfortable in the first place. I get it, he's answering a question and was extremely generic in his response. Maybe, in my Herculean-like exception, I was hoping for something like, "I shouldn't get paid until we win a playoff game." That would have been cool.
Now he's calling himself the face of the franchise. That's a good start. Because win, loss or draw -- fairly or not -- he will be the focal point this year no matter what happens.