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Bengals Exit Interview: Quarterback Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton may have played his last snap for the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s a look at how his 2019 season went.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton just concluded his ninth — and potentially last — season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Statistically, it was about as insignificant as it can get.

He posted his worst record as a starter, his second-worst completion percentage, his worst yards-per-attempt average since his rookie year, his worst passer rating, his lowest number of passing touchdowns and his second-worst net yards gained per pass attempt average.

League-wide, he ranked 30th in completion percentage, 30th in yards per attempt, 32nd in passer rating, 29th in touchdowns (31st in touchdown percentage) and 26th in net yards gained per pass attempt.

Yikes. But there were some positives!

He posted his fourth-best total in passing yards, and he had a career high in passing yards per game (probably because he posted his third-highest number of total pass attempts despite being benched for three games).

And for a number of reasons, it’s hard to look at Dalton’s stats through an honest lens. He was benched for backup Ryan Finley for three games before the Bengals realized that was a disaster and put him back on the field.

In addition to that, Dalton was on a team which scored nearly 20 fewer touchdowns than its opponents, meaning Cincinnati was playing from behind and throwing heavily in a lot of games.

So at best Dalton’s season was average and at worst it was very bad. It’s about as complicated as Dalton’s entire tenure with Cincinnati, in which he’s sometimes been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but more often been the living embodiment of a quarterback that can only take you so far.

Even if Dalton’s time in Cincinnati isn’t up, his time as Cincinnati’s best quarterback is up. He has been that undoubtedly for nine years. AJ McCarron and Ryan Finley both got starts thanks to Dalton injuries and a benching, but both proved to be subpar.

Let’s take a moment to see what Dalton has meant to the Bengals during his tenure.

Since entering the league, Dalton is:

  • 8th in wins among quarterbacks
  • 9th in passing yards
  • 10th in completions
  • 10th in passing touchdowns
  • 4th in fourth-quarter comebacks
  • 5th in game-winning drives

Dalton’s been good enough in his regular seasons to make the Pro Bowl three times. He was even a legitimate MVP candidate before his injury in 2015. But He’s also got some not-too-flattering rankings since entering the league:

  • 34th in passer rating
  • 41st in completion percentage
  • 4th in interceptions
  • 4th in pick-sixes
  • 25th in touchdown percentage
  • 5th in losses among quarterbacks

The largest contribution Dalton has made to the Bengals’ franchise is leading them to five consecutive playoff appearances. His supporters use that as their biggest talking point — until it leads to talking about his playoff performances.

Dalton was injured for the 2015 playoffs after breaking his thumb against the Pittsburgh Steelers 13 games into the season — but he’s infamously 0-4 in the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 playoffs. His playoff completion percentage is 55.7%. His yards-per-attempt average in the playoffs is 5.5. He has one touchdown and six interceptions in his playoff career.

At some point, middle of the road in the regular season and horrendous in the playoffs isn’t good enough. The Bengals are expected to stop accepting that level of play by drafting Heisman winner Joe Burrow in the 2020 NFL Draft.

What happens to Dalton?

It’s unlikely that Burrow isn’t the QB1 from Week 1. Dalton would be a fine backup, but the Bengals would owe him $17.7 million if they kept him for the final year of his contract. Plus, he deserves the chance to make his career work elsewhere.

His contract is beneficial for Cincinnati in this aspect. The Bengals can trade or release him without a cap hit, saving that full $17.7 million.

Andy Dalton’s time as Cincinnati’s QB1 is over, and while the Bengals are going to get a rock-solid franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow (if they draft him), it’s important to remember that they could have done a lot worse than Dalton over the last nine years.

The second-round draft pick carved out a spot for himself in the NFL, and there’s likely room for him elsewhere in the NFL.