Going back almost a quarter century, to the 1992 NFL Draft, the Bengals have shown a clear distinction in their thinking regarding quarterbacks. Either you are drafted early with the clear intention of becoming the team’s future starter, or you are drafted very late, with the hope of being nothing more than a deep backup with little expectation to do more than hold the clipboard. There are zero shades of gray between the two sets of quarterbacks the Bengals draft.
Since 1992, the Bengals have drafted four quarterbacks to be franchise caliber starters. They were all drafted in the top 35 picks of the NFL draft and were all drafted to become the future of the franchise at the quarterback position, handed every opportunity to become the team’s starter.
- 1992 – David Klingler (#6)
- 1999 – Akili Smith (#3)
- 2003 – Carson Palmer (#1)
- 2011 – Andy Dalton (#35)
That group of quarterbacks has started a total of 277 games, attempting 9,119 passes and accumulating 64,250 passing yards.
Between Dalton at pick #35, and Jeff Rowe at pick #151 in the 2007 NFL Draft, there are over 100 picks that the Bengals totally pass over when looking for quarterbacks. Since 1992 there are been 97 quarterbacks selected between picks 35 and 151, zero of whom were selected by the Bengals. This means most of the second round, all of the third round, all of the fourth round, and much of the fifth round are avoided by the Bengals as a spot to grab a quarterback.
Then, at the tail end of the draft, the Bengals select their second class of quarterbacks – those with no real chance to ever become the team's starter.
- 1995 – John Walsh (#213)
- 1999 – Scott Covington (#245)
- 2004 – Casey Bramlet (#218)
- 2007 – Jeff Rowe (#151)
- 2014 – AJ McCarron (#164)
Three of these five quarterbacks never attempted an NFL pass, and between the five of them, they only started a total of four games, attempting 129 games with 884 total passing yards. And, of course, the bulk of this came at the end of the 2015 season due to an injury to the thumb of Andy Dalton.
With this history in mind, it seems clear that the Bengals won't give McCarron a legitimate shot to unseat Dalton as the team’s starting quarterback, and his opportunity of ever seeing the field while in a Bengals uniform is based on Dalton’s health. It also means that if the Bengals draft a quarterback in 2016, which is unlikely, it won't happen until round 5.