The Bengals shocked the Cincinnati fan base on Tuesday when they announced that they will bench Andy Dalton for Ryan Finley in their next game against the Ravens. To make matters worse, the news broke on Dalton’s 32nd birthday.
This was surprising because this breaks the Bengals’ M.O., especially when it comes to their franchise quarterback. Marvin Lewis stuck with him through thick and thin, and it even Zac Taylor expressed his admiration for Dalton since his TCU days.
But when the team is 0-8 and you’re offense is one of the worst in the league, you have to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
Some of Dalton’s teammates were less than thrilled about seeing their quarterback benched for the first time in his career.
“Nothing seems to be going right this season. It’s not Andy’s fault,” Tyler Boyd said, according to the Bengals’ website. “There are plays he wishes he had back out there and every guy in this locker room feels the same way. The quarterback is just the most pressured position. I praise Andy for doing what he’s done here. He’s got great numbers. A Pro Bowler. He’s a No. 1 quarterback in my eyes.”
Boyd admitted that it was personal for him. There was a time when he looked like a bust, but Dalton helped him get out of his funk and became the first Bengals’ receiver not named A.J. Green to gain 1,000 receiving yards in this decade.
“I give all the credit to him because he helped me where I’m at now,” Boyd said. “I’m very strong on Andy’s game. He’s a great leader. He does everything right. This season everything is going wrong and it kind of looks like it’s his fault and it’s not.”
But he realizes that football is a business, and if your team isn’t winning, then things need to change.
Some former teammates spoke out as well. Brandon LaFell, Tra Carson, and George Iloka all took to twitter to express their confusion over the move.
Smh— Tra Carson (@PlutoCarson) October 29, 2019
Bench him if you must. But this is real scapegoatish. Oline poo, defense 32nd in the league and he’s without his best WR. https://t.co/Oorr3Euuvr— George Iloka (@George_iloka) October 29, 2019
They have a point when they say that Dalton isn’t what’s wrong with this team. In fact, you could say that he isn’t the only thing that’s wrong. When the offensive line is giving up unrelenting pressure, the team can’t run the ball, and two of his top receivers are sidelined with an injury, it’s astounding that Dalton is performing the way he is.
Following his last game as a starter (at least for the foreseeable future), Dalton passed for 2,252 yards through eight games, which is good enough be sit at fourth in the NFL. Despite absorbing 29 sacks already this year, Dalton was on pace to throw a career high number of passes in 2019.
However, the reality of the situation is much more complicated. The Bengals desperately need to turn things around, and they see this as the best way to proceed. While Dalton is not the reason why the Bengals are still winless, they just can’t go on doing the same things because it clearly hasn’t worked.
But Dalton is a stand-up guy, and he has clearly made an impact on many of his teammates. Business is business, however, so now it’s Finley’s turn.
“He has to find a way to learn how to lead and I think he can do that because he’s been a quarterback his whole life,” said Boyd. “As he matures he’ll understand that and he’ll take that role. He has to trust them. ‘We’ve got your back. We don’t care how old you are or the experience. Just help us get in the end zone. You’re the boss, you’re in control.’”