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Cincy Jungle Mailbag: Ebbs And Flows Of Andy, 2011 Draft Do-Over, And Hill Or Bell?

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We take a look at some of the burning questions of the week, including three of the skill position spots on the Bengals.

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(Editor's Note: Tweet your weekly Bengals questions to Anthony Cosenza's Twitter handle @CJAnthonyCUI and/or Cincy Jungle's @CincyJungle to have your questions answered in this weekly feature.)

This week we start with some Andy Dalton tidbits. It's only fitting after the Bengals' quarterback raised his quarterback rating from one game to the next by over 141 points.

Early this week, I posted my weekly "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" piece here at CJ. These go up after each game and I dissect the facets that I place in each respective category. Almost every week, a particular reader seems to call me out for being the ultimate Andy Dalton-basher in some form or fashion. In truth, "JWBlackout" does make some good points at times, but there is a bit of blind loyalty toward No. 14. This comment was left earlier in the week:

Dalton!

Had a hell of game! The highest passer rating of his career!
But? To make the statement " one of his worst games"? You are insinuating he has had multiple performances like that!
C’mon man! That Thursday night game was the worst of his career! He has never ever had a performance like that!

The "worst games" portion of the comment obviously stems from Dalton's putrid performance versus the Browns on Thursday Night. "JWBlackout" is correct that Dalton's passer rating of 2.0 on that evening was the worst of his career, so perhaps I should have chosen my words a little more carefully.

However, to state that Dalton hasn't had a number of poor games in his career that sniff that stinker from two weeks ago, simply isn't true. Thanks to "JWBlackout" calling me out, I decided to look over Dalton's three and a half years of play to analyze how many "bad games" he has had as the Bengals quarterback and how the team fared in those games. What you find may surprise you.

Dalton Rating Range Number of Games Bengals W-L Rec. In Playoffs
40-49 3 0-3 1
50-59 7 1-5 1
60-69 12 6-7 1

Now, there is an obviousness to this chart, namely in that if your quarterback doesn't play well, your team isn't likely to win. The 7-15 record in these games shows that and also plays to how solid the Bengals' defense was from 2011-2013, to be able to overcome Dalton's poor play. I mercifully threw the deplorable Thursday Night performance in the "40-49" range. There is more than meets the eye here, though.

Stay with me here.

To date, Andy Dalton has been the quarterback for the Bengals in their past 61 games, including the playoffs. I gauged a poor quarterback performance in the chart above, at least rating-wise, on a sub-70 number (usually the traditional rating, not QBR). With Dalton having poor play in 22 of 61 games, that means he has a bad game at a staggering 36 percent clip. Furthermore, the team only wins 32 percent of the games in which he plays poorly, with that 7-15 record.

I haven't done more research on the other quarterbacks around the league, but I'd venture to guess that the others who have a Dalton-like mega-contract don't play poorly in more than one-third of their professional games. Like it or not, this is where the "Good Andy, Bad Andy" stigma is formed.

Conversely, Dalton has shown streaks of great play as well. He's had twenty 100-plus rating games and five more in the 90s. Not surprisingly, the Bengals are 21-3-1 in those games. Something to note: out of 10 primetime and/or playoff games, Dalton has just one great performance (the loss to New England this year), six poor performances and three others that fall somewhere in between (rating 70-89). Dalton's overall win-loss record in primetime games, including the playoffs, is 2-8.

Think about that for a second: in 47 of his 61 games (77 percent), Dalton has either played excellent or horrible, with a breakdown of 41 percent good/excellent and 36 percent poor. The other 23 percent is "meh" or decent play from the team's quarterback, though some would determine ratings in the 80s as "good". I may or may not be persuaded into that thinking.

The moral of the story is that Andy Dalton almost single-handedly determines whether or not the Bengals win or lose football games. So, if I or others criticize poor play of his one week, try and keep some of these statistics in mind. Yes, the other players and units make a difference, but Dalton is the key to this team's overall performance, much like many other quarterbacks in the NFL.

******

We discussed this topic on this week's episode of Inside The Jungle and it became a spirited debate. In short, no, I wouldn't change it. Green was deemed the safest pick in that Draft and has been a franchise-saver for a team that was in a tailspin after 2010. They didn't have their "franchise quarterback" (Carson Palmer) anymore, or their "franchise receiver" (Chad Johnson). Beyond that, the coaching staff was excited by three young players on their defensive line in Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Add Domata Peko and Pat Sims to the mix and you can see how the defensive line wasn't perceived as a need.

Green has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons, while Watt has been just in the last two. It's possible that the Bengals' wideout will miss out on it this year due to his early-season injury, while Watt will make it because of his blend of big plays, big personality, and being the league's newest darling.

The rumor I had heard was that the Bengals really only had Von Miller ranked ahead of Green on their board, which disputes my aforementioned "need notion". Regardless, Miller went No. 2 overall and the Bengals were almost on the clock. The team obviously knew that they weren't taking Blaine Gabbert that high, and wanted to wait until the beginning of the second round for guys like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Christian Ponder to fall their way.

Because they knew they were getting their quarterback later, the team went with the best available player and one who could be a major crutch for a rookie quarterback being thrown to the wolves. The decision supposedly came down to Mallett, Kaepernick, and Dalton with "The Red Rifle" winning the argument.

What has ensued from there is 18 100-yard receiving games, 32 touchdowns and 4,300 yards (Bruce Gradkowski had 41 yards and a touchdown to him in the opener). I can understand an argument for either, but given where the team's defenses ended in the NFL rankings from 2011-2013, I'd say they made the right choice.

******

Just for fun, I decided to ask a "would you rather" question. No, not one that would come out of a gutter, but one centering around a preference of running backs.

For the record, it's close, but I think I'd still go with Hill for a couple of reasons. First, he has far less tread on the tires, as he had about half as many carries in college than Bell. Secondly, though both are physical runners, the Steelers' Bell slams into guys with his head, shoulder and/or neck on almost every carry. That's going to get him hurt at some point.

That being said, both can catch and are very talented. I guess that I just see Hill lasting longer, especially with having Giovani Bernard to share carries, and Bell being more of a flash-in-the-pan type of guy with big success for a few years. We'll see though because Pittsburgh knows running backs and it looks like they found a good one in last year's draft.

To end with some laughs, here are some responses that I received from some wannabe comedians on Twitter:

Thanks for the questions and comments this week!