No matter how unfair it is for Andy Dalton to be the focus of Cincinnati's postseason woes, that's the narrative. Mostly everyone paid to analyze and write about the Bengals that are presently living outside of the 275 loop, ignore the (lack of impact) provided by Cincinnati's defense or... to a similar degree, wide receiver A.J. Green.
That's the storyline and even his offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, is buying into that in a Peter King preview.
"We have to exorcise the elephant in the room," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said to me Thursday night, in one of the great lines I have heard all season. The elephant is Dalton’s horrible postseason record (0-3, one touchdown, six picks, 56.2 rating), and Jackson made it clear to me that while he wasn't publicizing it in team meetings this week, he was making clear to the team that for whom much is invested, much is expected. Dalton was rewarded by the Bengals before the season with a six-year, $96-million contract (with some outs for the club) that brings with it the weight of expectations.
"The contract was given by the organization with the expectation that we would be back here, in the playoffs, again, and not just for one year," Jackson said from his office in Cincinnati after the work day Thursday. "Now is the time we really need to earn our keep. [Coach] Marvin Lewis and [owner] Mike Brown have put a lot of faith in us. The guy who signs our checks, Mike Brown, deserves a return on his investment. I mean, you have to acknowledge that. You can’t let it go. We have to validate all the work we’ve done this year on Sunday."