For nine years, the Bengals have gone as Andy Dalton has. That is no longer the case.
Dalton was cut by Cincinnati last Thursday and signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. He may not even see the field next year, as he will be Dak Prescott’s backup. Don’t let his less-than-minimum contract fool you. As ESPN’s Todd Archer noted, the Cowboys like to pay a premium for competent backup quarterbacks, from Brad Johnson to Jon Kitna to Kyle Orton. Dalton fits that mold, and, with the current pandemic, the man is just trying to go home and make some money, not try to challenge a QB on the verge of making about $40 million a year.
However, Dalton’s career is far from over. At only 32 years old and with great health (save his right thumb), there is likely to be a Red Rifle shootout again one day.
Even the biggest Dalton supporters have come to terms with the fact that his talent comes nowhere near that of Joe Burrow, and thus they were okay with drafting the LSU star knowing it would signal the end of the Dalton era.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little hard to say goodbye. While Dalton was never the kind of QB to carry a team, rarely delivered in primetime games, and was historically bad in the playoffs, he actually leaves quite a legacy in Cincinnati. The Andy & JJ Dalton Foundation has touched many lives not just by its financial support but by way of considerate and sincere demonstrations of emotional support, like creating date nights for parents of autistic children.
On the field, Dalton made the Bengals a consistent, playoff-worthy offense for the majority of his career. Most importantly, the Dalton-A.J. Green-Marvin Lewis Bengals teams created a new set of expectations for fans. Steadily improving from 9-7 to 12-4 from 2011-2015, the Bengals - for the first time ever - were one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL. The fact that fans made so much noise that the team was forced to pander to them with the slogan “New Dey, ” fire Lewis, and go on its first ever free agency spending spree tells you a lot— in the 90’s, a 6-win season would be considered a moderate success and fans would’ve remained silent. Dalton is largely responsible for changing that dynamic.
Unfortunately, like a lot of good teams, the Dalton/Green/Lewis Bengals reached their potential right before their downfall after the 2015 season. Similar to a lot of Super Bowl losers, the heartbreak after years of tireless work was too much to overcome for that loaded 2015 team, and the Bengals refused to revamp their roster immediately. Dalton was gradually surrounded by less talent on the offensive line, incompetence at offensive coordinator, and was often without his favorite target, Green. He struggled, losing a bit of his confidence and a lot of his value, resulting in him becoming a contract no one wanted.
Now he gets up to $7 million to go home and play for one of the richest and most loyal NFL team owners. Dalton probably won’t end up playing very much. But if he gets in good with Jerry Jones, he could end up retiring in Dallas and getting a cushy coaching job afterwards, like another mediocre redheaded quarterback or current offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
So this is goodbye, or rather, until next time, for Bengals fans, as Cincinnati hosts Dallas this upcoming season. It’s yet to be determined when that game will be. But just imagine if it’s in primetime, Dalton’s number is called, and he shreds the Bengals’ secondary, leading the Cowboys to a blowout win.
That would be rather ironic and absolutely hilarious. And yet, because of the love for Dalton, Bengals fans probably wouldn’t even mind all that much.