The Bengals came into the offseason needing to make one of the biggest decisions in the franchise's recent history: Do they commit to Andy Dalton as their franchise quarterback going forward, and in the process, give him a long-term extension?
Not only did they make the right decision to keep him, but they also did so by giving him a contract that most would call very favorable to the Bengals.
Now, the team can focus on its goal of winning the Super Bowl, and when healthy, they have the team to do it. That's one reason why keeping Dalton was the best option.
This team is in win-now mode, and even if the coaches and front office determined Dalton wasn't their man, there was no one else that's better than him this year, and there likely won't be for years to come.
That's the conclusion Neil Pain of FiveThirtyEight Sports came up with in a fascinating piece on Dalton and the Bengals. He first concluded that the Bengals' odds of ever winning a Super Bowl with Dalton are unlikely.
For Dalton, that means a Super Bowl is a remote prospect. Paired with merely a good - but not historically great - defense, like last year's Cincinnati's side,7 Dalton's middle-of-the-road quarterbacking would project to be enough for a championship only 2.2 percent of the time in a given season.8Astonishing championship runs like the one Eli Manning (91 ANY/A index) and the Giants (+0.4 DSRS) made in 2007 are highly memorable, but that's because they're not the norm.
Moreover, Dalton isn't even likely to get better, nor to be as good as he is now for very long. He'll turn 27 during the 2014 NFL season, the age at which quarterbacks normally have their best seasons before Father Time erodes their skills.
Pain's study ultimately showed that, though the Bengals may never win a Super bowl with Dalton, he'll consistently get them to the playoffs and have them in position to at least contend for a title. That's something the Bengals probably wouldn't get if they moved on from Dalton.
As maligned as Dalton and his contract are in Cincinnati right now, it's unlikely the Bengals will see better alternatives on the horizon anytime soon. Based on the historical pattern of teams who replaced their starting quarterbacks, the probability of the Bengals' next starter being better than the league-average Dalton is only 42 percent.
And an average quarterback, while unlikely to move the needle much for a team's Super Bowl odds, can still be useful in getting to the playoffs. According to another model I developed,17 a perfectly average QB18 and a good defense19 (like the Bengals had in 2013) can get a team to the postseason 57 percent of the time. A replacement-level stopgap would be hard pressed to deliver a playoff berth under the same circumstances.