For the most part, it has been a pretty good run – five straight playoff berths to begin a career, and inclusion among the top tier of NFL quarterbacks as recently as 2015.
But all good things, or even pretty good things, must come to an end.
Is it time for the Bengals to make a change at quarterback and bench Andy Dalton?
After a solid start to the season against Seattle and a respectable effort against the 49ers in the early going of the second game of the year, the Red Rifle has turned into the Red BB Gun.
To say that Dalton has gotten off to a bit of a slow start in each of his last five games is like saying that the Bengals’ offensive line is in a little bit of disarray – both are understatements of incredible magnitudes.
Against Buffalo, Dalton started 0 for 4, and at one point stood at three completions in nine attempts for all of seven yards. The following week against the Steelers, he started 2 for 9 for four yards. Against Arizona, Dalton went into halftime with his worst performance yet – 4 for 10 for 22 yards.
The Bengals went into Baltimore hoping to turn things around and pick up their first win of the season. Dalton got off to an 0-for-3 start, and went into halftime having completed 10 of 18 passes for 127 yards and a red zone interception.
In the home loss against Jacksonville Sunday afternoon, Cincinnati’s seventh straight loss to open the season, Dalton put together what was without a doubt his worst performance of the season and one of the worst of his career. He got off to another slow start, completing just three of his first 10 passes for 23 yards. But the worst was yet to come.
In a span of six plays in the fourth quarter, Dalton threw a red-zone interception, a pick-six and another interception, all in a span of less than four minutes, to turn a 17-10 deficit into a 27-10 hole that there was no climbing out from.
“Well, some of those picks, the ball slipped out of his hand,” head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “I wouldn’t say he’s throwing it right to guys (on the other team) — some of those have been a little unorthodox. Today, those were picks. The ball left his hand and the guys made plays on them. One guy undercut (Tyler Boyd) and made a good play; the next one, I think there were two cornerbacks back there — we (need to) see the tape — and the other was a screen pass. It’s tough that that (the screen pass) got picked. That was a screen, and he’s got to get the ball out of his hands, and there’s a guy right in his face. That’s one of the ones that goes down as an interception, and really, that’s on the whole unit right there.”
But don’t mistake Taylor’s explanation for a ringing endorsement of Dalton as the Bengals’ starting quarterback moving forward. In fact, when Taylor was asked directly if Dalton’s struggles may spell an opportunity for his backup, rookie Ryan Finley, to see some playing time, Taylor hedged his bets.
“That’s not something I’m going to talk about right now. You know, it’s fresh after the game, (and) when the (starting) quarterback has a tough game, it’s the first question. But we’re just going to keep it steady now.”
For the last five weeks in a row, steady has meant a complete lack of offense early on, thanks, in large part, to a hugely ineffective Andy Dalton. Albert Einstein once said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It's time to do something different. It’s time for a change.