Andy Dalton took on one of the biggest tasks of his career before he even walked onto an NFL field.
When he chose to wear the No. 14, he instantly put on a very big pair of shoes, shoes that were once filled by Ken Anderson, the Bengals’ all-time leading passer. He was also the quarterback for the Bengals when they went to the Super Bowl in 1981.
Something that fueled that run was a change in offensive coordinator, which is something the most recent No. 14 is also going through.
“Everything was different,” Anderson told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “How we called the formations, how we called routes, how we called protections. It forced me to get back into the book. Took nothing for granted. It was rejuvenation for me.
Anderson experienced this change after playing with the Bengals for nine seasons. He had experienced quite a bit of success up to that point, throwing 131 touchdowns and repping a winning record with the Bengals. Anderson was 0-2 in the playoffs and coming off two losing seasons when the Bengals made the switch to Lindy Infante as offensive coordinator.
“We did a lot of option routes where the receivers had a lot of different things,” Anderson said. “In ’80, at the end of the year we were getting better and, of course it, all clicked in ’81. We were kind of one of the first ones to do the quarterback bootlegs. The out-of-pockets. The nakeds. Whatever you want to call them. We had a lot of success with it. Lindy was an innovator.”
Anderson’s career got a huge burst of adrenaline as he led the Bengals to a 19-6 record over two seasons as well as a Super Bowl appearance. Change can easily have that impact on players. When doing roughly the same thing year after year, people have a tendency to get lackadaisical in their approach. Anderson can see the parallels in Dalton and his own situations. That’s especially true when it comes to the offensive coordinator leading the charge.
“What’s nice is [Bill Lazor has] been around a lot of really good offensive minds,” Anderson said. “He’s got a lot to draw on. You pick out the best things and what you think your guys can do and I think they’ll be exciting.”
Lazor is also coming in with a familiarity of his offensive personnel after serving as the interim offensive coordinator for 14 games last year. He was running mostly Ken Zampese’s offense during that time though. This offseason though, Lazor made it clear he would be bringing a new playbook to the table and scrapping the Jay Gruden-based one that Dalton has run for his entire career in Cincinnati.
The other thing the Bengals did this offseason was bring in players to help protect their quarterback. The team also has some young weapons looking to make the next step. That is another factor Anderson thinks will benefit Dalton.
“I think it will be fun for him... I think the offensive line will be more solidified this year. It will give him a chance,” Anderson said. “If you can score some points and the defense plays with the lead that makes the defense better. It all ties together.
“He’s got a couple of new linemen that are going to help him and he’s got weapons at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. We’ve got to get (wide receiver) John Ross healthy. It’s going to be fun for him.”
The Bengals also brought in Frank Pollack to coach the offensive line, which is a huge change after the Bengals parted ways with Paul Alexander. Alexander had coached the Bengals offensive line for more than 20 seasons. Pollack is tasked with trying to get more out of the young offensive linemen who have yet to show too much process on the field, mainly Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher.
When you combine all these things it seems like a formula for success for Dalton and the Bengals’ offense as a whole. It’s a formula that the Bengals have already used once with Anderson. One of the biggest things Anderson believes will help the Bengals is a change from the monotony and the NFL becoming fun again for Dalton.
“No question. Change can be good,” Anderson said. “Lindy helped me get back to fundamentals where I had got into some bad habits. We worked a lot on just the basics of playing quarterback and with the new offense it became a lot of fun again.”
Hopefully Anderson is right.