It's getting harder and harder to deny that Andy Dalton is one of the league's best quarterbacks. The ultimate test will be how he performs when the Bengals return to the playoffs for the fifth time in as many years during his tenure, but for now, the evidence is mounting. He's up to set a few particularly eye popping records that will put him in the same conversation as great names like Peyton Manning and Dan Marino.
With 29 more passing yards, Dalton will join Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks to throw for 3,000 or more yards in each of their first five seasons. Granted, Peyton Manning's first five seasons resulted in over 20,000 yards passing and Dalton is currently about 300 yards away from 18,000. With only five games left in the season, you could safely bet your house that Dalton won't catch up to Manning's total yards.
Either way, it's still an impressive feat. This record isn't a statement that Andy Dalton is the best quarterback since Peyton Manning, and there's no point in forecasting him to live up to that lofty standard. But, to be in the same company as Manning in terms of success throwing the football is impressive. That shows the kind of consistency that he has taken so much heat for supposedly not having over the years.
You might remember at the beginning of the season, I explored the potential for Andy Dalton to set a different record. That one dealt with the potential for Dalton to finish third all time in total touchdown passes thrown by a quarterback through his first five years. The magic number for Dalton was 29, and I said that he has the potential to do it, but Hue Jackson's offense might not allow him the opportunity.
In hindsight, it seems like a pretty misguided thing to say, although not many people would believe you if you told them that Andy Dalton was poised to have his best statistical year with an offensive coordinator who is known for sticking to the run.
As of right now, Dalton has 23 touchdown passes on the season, putting him on pace for 10-11 more by the end of the season, depending on how you're rounding. He only needs six more touchdown passes to sit behind Dan Marino and Peyton Manning in touchdowns thrown through a quarterback's first five years. With five games left to go and two of those games against a Browns team and a Ravens team that he threw three touchdowns against earlier in the season, you've got to like his odds to exceed those expectations. Again, this would be a great record for Dalton to set.
Dalton is on pace to exceed just about every significant stat that he's set in his career.
By most accounts, Dalton's 2013 season was by far his best statistically. That season, he threw for 4,293 yards, 33 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and had quarterback rating of 88.8. Based on his current statistics heading into Week 13 and assuming he will continue playing at the same level for the next five weeks, he is currently on pace for 4,321 yards, 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a season quarterback rating over 100. Those are career numbers in every category, perhaps the most telling being his lowest number of interceptions by a wide margin. Dalton currently holds the single-season touchdown record (33) and the single-season passing yards record (4,293) from that 2013 season, and it's very possible that he'll break his own record in those categories this season.
Perhaps the most telling stat this season is the total number of games that he has recorded a quarterback rating of at least 100. In seven of 11 games Dalton has scored a quarterback rating of more than 100 and he had a rating of 99.8 in Week 11 against Arizona, just barely missing the mark. That's an impressive level of consistency no matter who you are, and it ranks 30th all time in the NFL so far, separated from Philip Rivers's 2008 and 2013 seasons by a degree of only 0.2.