Bruce Gradkowski was the first NFL quarterback who got to mentor Andy Dalton.
Back in 2011, Dalton was a young second-round pick out of TCU who the franchise hoped could be its quarterback of the future. Gradkowski was signed during the offseason in order to mentor Dalton, who went on to become the starter for every game as a rookie, and he’s never looked back.
Now in Year 9, Dalton is at a crossroads for the rest of his career. With just two years left on his current contract, Dalton needs to perform well in 2019 to show he’s worthy of a contract extension next year that will keep him under center in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future.
But if Dalton struggles, it could lead to the Bengals looking for their next franchise passer next offseason.
Count Gradkowski among those who think Dalton will prove he’s the guy Cincinnati should be betting on.
“Andy is a top tier quarterback,” Gradkowski told Bengals.com. “He’s got plenty left in the tank. A.J. (Green) as well. It’s unfortunate with the injury to A.J., but he’ll bounce back like he always does.”
Gradkowski thinks that the newfound energy Zac Taylor has brought is just what this franchise needed.
“You hear about the good energy around here. Zac Taylor is a younger guy, he’s going to understand how to get the most out of the team. Marvin Lewis did a great job. Sometimes change is good. It’s uncomfortable. It’s like my shirts. Now they fit uncomfortably, but you have to change a little bit and maybe get a bigger size.”
Regardless of what you think of Dalton, there’s no question that the best-case scenario for this franchise is he gets back to the level we saw in 2015 when he was an MVP candidate and had Cincinnati looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
While a lot has changed since then, this year’s offense certainly has the kind of skill-position talent for Dalton to have a big year if he can just stay healthy.