Boomer Esiason isn't immune from having his own disasters as a former NFL quarterback. On Nov. 15, 1992, Esiason completed 11 of 33 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions during a 17-14 loss to the New York Jets. His quarterback rating was an 18.4. Years later, as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Esiason completed four of 12 passes for 22 yards and two interceptions against the New England Patriots.
Even Kenny Anderson had nightmares during his illustrious 16-year career. Cincinnati lost 5-0 to the Buffalo Bills in '78 with Anderson failing to complete a single pass (out of only five attempts) for a quarterback rating of 0.0. Esh. During Anderson's MVP year, he completed only five of 15 passes against Seattle, for 39 yards, two picks and a quarterback rating of 2.8. Anderson was actually benched during that game (more on that in a minute).
We bring this up because Andy Dalton joined their chorus of shattered dreams after piecing together a legendary performance with a passer rating of 2.0. It happened during Cincinnati's 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. It's also marks the first time that Dalton submitted a quarterback rating below 41. Boomer Esiason had 21 games with a passer rating below 41. Ken Anderson had 18. Again, Dalton now has one.
The obvious difference between Dalton, Anderson and Boomer is that the latter two have won playoff games and played in the Super Bowl.
During CBS' NFL pregame show on Sunday, Esiason offered advice to Dalton, who completed only 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards and three interceptions on Thursday.
"If I'm Andy Dalton, I have to re-establish who I am on this team," said Esiason. "They have three tough road games. They're in a tough division. They have to play Pittsburgh twice. So it's still all in front of them. But somehow, some way they've got to get their confidence back. If I'm the quarterback coach and calling plays for Andy Dalton, he is throwing the ball 50 times. I don't care. Get him in the game."
Fans are pissed off at Dalton... and they should be. Against the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Browns, teams riding towards a postseason berth, Dalton completed 45.3 percent of his passes and generated a combined passer rating 51.9 (Dalton was actually decent against the Patriots, who dominated Cincinnati's unprepared defense).
Back in the day, fans were equally mad at Ken Anderson. During a Sept. 17 game against the New England Patriots in 1979, Anderson suffered back spasms and was forced to leave the game. After Bengals fans reportedly cheered, former first-rounder Jack Thompson, who was deeply concerned about Anderson at the time, led a Bengals team that fans booed.
"We didn't quit, but to hear boos, it saddens you," Thompson said at the time. "It's sad, but that's the way it is. Everyone wants a winner."
The boos were significant and loud during Thursday night's game.
Yet Anderson still started 15 games in 1979, posting 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. While still grooming Thompson, Anderson started another 12 games in 1980, throwing 13 interceptions and posting a 5-7 record. Thankfully for Anderson, Thompson just wasn't growing well enough to take over as the Bengals starting quarterback.
Then 1981 happened.
During the first game of the year, Anderson posted two first half interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks (read above), forcing head coach Forrest Gregg to bench the quarterback in favor of third-string quarterback Turk Schonert at half-time with Cincinnati facing a 10-21 deficit. Largely thanks to Pete Johnson and Archie Griffin scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns, Schonert led the Bengals to a nice comeback win, beating the Seahawks 27-21.
Coach Gregg didn't immediately name Anderson the starting quarterback against the New York Jets the following week. He considered Schonert, as well as Thompson. Eventually Gregg picked Anderson and the Bengals quarterback had one of the best seasons in franchise history. Anderson threw multiple touchdowns in ten games, threw more than one interception once, led one of the league's top ranked offenses and posted a league-high 98.4 passer rating.
Anderson was elected to the Pro Bowl that year, named as the First-Team All-Pro quarterback, the AP MVP, the PFWA MVP, the AP Offensive Player of the Year and the AP Comeback Player of the Year. He was by all definitions, the best player in the NFL that year.
Oh yeah. And he led the Bengals to their first ever Super Bowl. Even though he posted 300 yards passing, completing 25 of 34 passes, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another, the Bengals would go on to lose 26-21. Damn Joe Montana. Damn Bill Walsh. And damn those damned 49ers.
During the strike-shortened 1982 season, Anderson would post a 70.6 percent completion rate, though his career never played out the way that season did in 1981. In the five seasons after the Super Bowl, Anderson would go on to throw 37 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. Anderson has been named a Hall of Fame finalist in 1996 and 1998, but never receiving the vote to be enshrined. There's arguments for and against Anderson's entry into the Hall of Fame. But one thing is for certain, the quarterback drafted in the third round of the 1971 NFL Draft out of Augustana wasn't so sure he'd make it that far in the late 70s.
Anderson's career dimmed in the early 80s, eventually giving way to the team's youngest starting quarterback, Boomer Esiason. And now we've come full circle.