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Carson Palmer vs. Andy Dalton: Who’s better as Bengals QB?

Both quarterbacks have played seven seasons as the Bengals starter and Dalton is gearing up for year eight to begin today. But who was better in their first seven years in Cincinnati?

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Many Bengals fans recall how Carson Palmer ended his seven year run in the Queen City: in a defiant stand against Bengals owner Mike Brown, insisting he would never play in Cincinnati again. But before that sour note that marked the end of his Bengals tenure, Palmer was highly regarded by the team and fans. He had brought Cincinnati long-sought stability at the quarterback position, replacing the carousel of failed draft picks and unwanted veterans who preceded him. And he was rewarded by being made one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL.

In seven years as a starter, Palmer made a pair of trips to the Pro Bowl, and helped bring the Bengals out of the NFL’s basement, leading them to their first playoff appearance in a decade and a half. He averaged over 3,600 yards and 25 passing touchdowns in his six healthy seasons as the team’s starter.

Palmer’s second season was his best, setting the bar for his Bengals career with a 67.8 completion percentage and 32 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. After that season, which ended with a devastating knee injury in the playoffs, his play slowly dropped as evidenced by his continually declining passer ratings; from 101.1 to 93.9 to 86.7 to 83.6 and finally to 82.4.

When Andy Dalton joined the Bengals following Palmer’s final season, he did not come in as the heralded top overall draft pick, nor did he possess a beautiful deep ball along with all the physical attributes that one desired in a franchise quarterback. In fact, he was the fifth quarterback selected in the 2011 draft, after such noteworthy counterparts as Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder were already selected.

Expectations were not as high for Dalton, but he came in and immediately got to work, reeling off five consecutive winning records and playoff trips with the Bengals, reaching three Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons. His best season came in 2015 when he set personal bests with a 66.1 completion percentage and a 6.5 touchdown percentage. Like Palmer, his best season was also cut short by an injury, and also at the hands of the Steelers.

Comparing the teammates they had surrounding them, Palmer had much better offensive lines in front of him, and his sack numbers bear this out (only one season with 27 or more sacks, compared to four of them for Dalton, and zero seasons of 37 or more sacks, compared to three for Dalton). Palmer had stalwart protectors such as Willie Anderson, Levi Jones, Andrew Whitworth, Rich Braham, Kyle Cook, and Eric Steinbach in front of him.

Palmer’s teams were highlighted by great wide receivers (Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens, and Chris Henry), while Dalton has had better receiving options at tight end (Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert) and running back (Giovani Bernard) to throw the ball to in most of his seasons.

Dalton also had a much better defense on the other side of the ball, which helped his teams secure five playoff trips, compared to only two for Palmer’s teams.

Palmer v Dalton - Bengals Careers

QB G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/G Rate Sk Sk%
QB G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/G Rate Sk Sk%
Palmer 97 46-51-0 2024 3217 62.9 22694 154 4.8 100 3.1 7.1 234 86.9 160 4.7
Dalton 109 63-44-2 2217 3556 62.3 25534 167 4.7 93 2.6 7.2 234.3 88.7 220 5.8

Comparing their career numbers, Palmer has a slightly better completion percentage, and touchdown percentage. Although these barely edge out Dalton. Palmer also has many fewer sacks and a much lower sack percentage. Dalton has played more games and has a much better winning percentage. He also has a better quarterback rating and interception percentage.

Palmer & Dalton - best seasons

QB G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/G Rate Sk Sk%
QB G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/G Rate Sk Sk%
Palmer 2005 16 11-5 345 509 67.8 3836 32 6.3 12 2.4 7.5 239.8 101.1 19 3.6
Dalton 2015 13 10-3 255 386 66.1 3250 25 6.5 7 1.8 8.4 250 106.2 20 4.9

Comparing their best seasons, Dalton had the better passer rating and lower interception rate. He also has more yards per game, while Palmer took the edge on completion percentage and was sacked fewer times.

So based on the numbers, what do you think? Dalton leads the Bengals into his eighth NFL season today while Palmer begins Week 1 in retirement.


Who was the better quarterback in their first seven seasons with the Bengals?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Carson Palmer
    (133 votes)
  • 81%
    Andy Dalton
    (587 votes)
720 votes total Vote Now