Another year, another impending Super Bowl appearance for the New England Patriots. Sure, the Conference Championships featured some new faces like Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles, with Foles also making it to the big dance, but Tom Brady is still proving many talking points.
Yes, he’s likely the greatest quarterback who has ever played professional football, and yes, teams should never count the Patriots out of a contest, no matter how big of a lead they have amassed. But, he also proving a point about the position and the remaining importance of franchises to find “the guy”
Check out this nugget from Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, after the Patriots punched their ticket to Super Bowl LII:
AFC Super Bowl quarterback by year:— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 21, 2018
Furthermore, the names on this list have battled each other, in some form or another, in the AFC Championship game eight times in the above-mentioned time span. For every other fan base outside of the six mentioned on this list (Patriots, Raiders, Steelers, Colts, Broncos and Ravens), the Super Bowl seems like a record needle stuck on the same annoying part of the vinyl.
Back in 2003, the Cincinnati Bengals used the No. 1 overall pick on Carson Palmer, in hopes that his name would be a regular on this list. Because of injuries, bad luck, poor roster management and more-than-questionable operating practices by the front office, Palmer never made it to the level of Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or even “Elite” Joe Flacco.
When the team was rebuilding its roster in the post-Palmer era back in 2011, Andy Dalton was their guy to take the baton and hopefully lead them back to postseason prominence. To their credit, the team was aware of Dalton’s shortcomings and surrounded him with talent.
Even so, Dalton re-wrote some of Palmer’s single-season franchise passing records and led the Bengals to five straight consecutive playoff berths. But, oh, that pesky first round.
Over the past two seasons, some of those perceived weaknesses of Dalton have reared their ugly head. It’s not entirely his fault though, as the franchise let important players walk in free agency, sawing off some of the stilts they once used to prop him up.
By all indications, Dalton will remain the team’s guy for 2018 and beyond. We’ve discussed some of the nuances that present the Bengals a possibility to move on this year, if they’re so inclined—namely a multitude of first round talents at quarterback in the draft and a team-friendly out in his contract.
But, perhaps the most convincing argument is this morsel from Smith. Sure, Bortles, Keenum and Foles have reinvigorated their fan bases and teams can somehow get to randomly far with Rex Grossman or Mark Sanchez as their signal-caller, but the evidence shows that it isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Side note: if you are in the camp of “just wait until these guys retire and then it’s our turn”, I’m very thankful you are nowhere near the Bengals’ front office. It’s a downright lazy and cowardly stance.
Anyway, in a number of senses, the Bengals start each season with handicaps that other franchises don’t. An owner who still seems stuck in his old-fashioned ways, a limited scouting staff and other outdated practices put this team behind the eight ball.
It’s also an argument for the need to draft someone who may be a transcendent talent at quarterback. If the team can find a player who is good enough to rise above these internal shortcomings, while also raising the level of play of those around him, these issues become almost moot points.
Again, given the team’s penchant to stick with “the devil you know”, we don’t think quarterback will be in play this year in the first round, despite the plethora of talent that might be available. So, the team will likely attempt to re-surround Dalton with as much talent as possible in hopes that a full roster can get them back into and through the postseason.
But, if they are to achieve this feat, will it merely get them to where they’ve been and max out to the level of the 2017 Vikings and Jaguars? Or, will they be able to buck that trend and create a team consistently able to sniff the Super Bowl with Dalton remaining at the helm?