If you’re a Bengals fan, I have good news and bad news for you regarding your hometown red-headed step child quarterback…
First, the good news: Andy Dalton is really consistent and we now know what kind of quarterback he is with a decent amount of data to back it up.
The bad news: Andy Dalton is not very good at football.
This was going to be Andy Dalton’s breakout year; at his disposal is a monster receiver in AJ Green, a competent red zone target in Mohamed Sanu, an athletic freak at tight end in Tyler Eifert, and a new shifty running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield in Giovani Bernard.
Five games into the season and it's already clear that all of these new toys have led to more of the same for Dalton. Over his first two years as an NFL quarterback, he’s averaged a 60.2 percent completion rate, about 3,534 passing yards, 23.5 touchdowns and 14.5 interceptions. He is currently on pace for a 63.5 percent completion rate, 4,012 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in 2013. Yardage total slightly up, touchdowns down, and interceptions up. Not exactly a breakout by any stretch of the imagination.
Dalton by the Numbers
The excuses for Dalton are really wearing thin. Could it be Gingervitis? Not likely since that’s not a thing.
He’s got receiving weapons, and the running game is now both competent and exciting with the Law Firm/Gio combo. So what are the Bengals to do? Unfortunately the team is too competent to get into the Teddy Bridgewater competition with all of the aforementioned weapons pulling their weight. Would it have been worth going for the newly released Josh Freeman, or are they forced to stick with Dalton?
Comparing him to other starting quarterbacks since he entered the league, the numbers are actually pretty clear: He hasn't even been an average starter.
Rank is among quarterbacks with at least 250 pass attempts (or extrapolated to 250 pass attempts for 2013)
|NEP/Play Rank||24th of 34||21st of 32||19th of 34|
The man is consistent. Too bad he's consistently bad at football. The numbers above show how many points above or below expectation he's added for the Bengals with each dropback, and as you can see, it hasn't been good. Not only has he failed to break out and take that next step in becoming a franchise quarterback, he's actually regressed some since his rookie year. You know what other quarterback was tied with Dalton last year at a 0.02 NEP/Play? A man by the name of Christian Ponder. Yes, that same Christian Ponder who was so inspiring that the Vikings decided to go out and sign Josh Freeman.
Is the Problem Situational?
You know who comes to mind when thinking about Dalton’s situation this year (one monster receiver and a brand new pass-catching running back)? Matthew Stafford, the man who tosses the ball to Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and occasionally Joique Bell when he isn’t moonlighting as a frat boy stunt double. So is Stafford having the same trouble as Dalton this year? Spoiler alert: no, no he is not.
|Player||2013 Passing NEP||Touchdowns||Interceptions|
The net expected points (NEP) values may not mean much to you in isolation other than realizing that 27.68 is much more than -3.22, but remember that these numbers represent the value, in real game points, that each quarterback has brought to the field so far this year. For some perspective, the average NEP for the top-10 quarterbacks on pace for at least 250 pass attempts is 37.47. Nobody is arguing that Dalton is a top-10 quarterback, I get it, so what about the average for the top-20 quarterbacks? 24.11. Dalton is behind such prolific signal callers as Brian Hoyer, Ryan Tannehill, and Christian Ponder so far this year...
Going back to Stafford: the Lions throw the ball all over the field like the forward pass is going out of style, so there’s no way you can compare him with Dalton, right? Well, Stafford has already completed 160 passes, enough to put him at 13th-most among starting passers. Dalton? 155 passes, putting him at 16th-most. Not exactly the kind of difference that would be a good reason for skewed numbers.
When you consider how dominant AJ Green has been despite the fact that a Ponder-esque quarterback is at the helm, all fantasy football degenerates should be drooling at the prospect of a quarterback upgrade in The Queen City. It's definitely not outlandish to imagine AJ Green as the most valuable wide receiver in the league if he had an above average quarterback throwing his way.
The trickle down effect of an actual threat of a passing game would also likely open up some running room for Gio to really shine the same way that Reggie Bush is tearing it up in Detroit. So if you bought stock in any of the young up-and-coming Bengals players in your dynasty leagues, you have every reason to hope that the Bengals wake up and decide to move on sooner rather than later.
What Should the Bengals Do?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a great solution here. Dalton is a competent quarterback in that he won't single-handedly lose any games for the Bengals, but is that really enough? For a team that is looking to greatness and moving past the rebuilding phase, Dalton is just not the guy they need moving forward.
The free agent market is limited with teams overpaying for any competent or seemingly competent quarterback that hits the market (*cough* Flynn), which is why they didn't overpay for a ticket on the Freeman roller coaster.
Instead, the best option may be patience and crossing fingers that a solid passing prospect manages to slip to the Bengals so that they can finally shake off the chains of mediocrity and move into the realm of true Super Bowl contenders.