Despite a lifeless showing in their 26-20 loss to Indianapolis on Monday, the Bengals’ low self-esteem and their bizarre “hey, the grass is always greener in the other cemetery” complacency won’t allow them to escape their abusive Andy Dalton-Marvin Lewis relationship cycle.
The second half of winter is upon us, marking the arrival of two things; playoff football of the college and NFL variety) and influenza season. Right around this time of year, ordinary Americans become slothful mouth breathers as mucus fills their nasal cavities.
It’s also the same time of year the Bengals are turning in for an offseason one n’ done and Andy Dalton starts slinging mucus around the field and sticks the Bengals offense’s wheels in mud.
The Bengals inability to matriculate down the playoff road or even get their Benz out of the garage, is reminiscent of a team Colts fans should find familiar. N=I'm not talking about the divisional Schaub-era Texans.
The Bengals pillars include a sturdy defense, a top five receiver in AJ Green, an upper-tier thunder and lightning backfield duo, in addition to a relentless top five defense, giving them a Texan-like structure. Like Schaub, Dalton is the opulent marble and gold knobbed bidet that serves no necessary function besides the ancillary duty of washing rear ends.
At the conclusion of CBS’ Bengals-Colts broadcast, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz kicked off the Fourth Annual Andy Dalton Pity Drive, with the ultimate goal of creating a consensus that would compel President Obama to pardon the Red Rifle for his fourth consecutive macabre playoff performance.
On and on, they guffawed about Dalton’s inability to win “the big game” as if winning in the Wild Card round were the equivalent of reaching the Top 10 of American Idol. The Bengals don’t just lose. Dalton’s waddled in excrement en route to becoming the first quarterback since Y.A. Tittle to lose his first four playoff games. Simply put, he stinks in the postseason.
Year 1 vs. Texans: 27/42 257 yards 0 TD 3 INT. Offense: 10 pts
Year 2 vs. Texans: 14/30 127 yards 0 TD 1 INT. Offense: 13 pts
Year 3 vs. Chargers: 29/51 344 yards 1 TD 2 INT. Offense: 10 pts
Year 4 vs. Colts: 18/35 155 yards 0 TD 0 INT. Offense: 10 pts
Thankfully, Dalton subsisted on a turnover-free diet, but that was because he was too conservatively sliding for two-yard losses and throwing the ball away from the action—especially against the blitz (five-man pressure).
The Colts' blitz made for a miserable day for Andy Dalton on Sunday pic.twitter.com/xYc8ksfmrY— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 5, 2015
Grantland’s football cognoscenti Bill Barnwell chronicled Dalton’s skittishness under pressure and criticized his illiteracy diagnosing blitzes prior to the snap.
Here’s a summarized version of what Barnwell said about Dalton this summer and clearly the status quo still stands.
The numbers suggest that Dalton just crumbles when attacked. It’s not as simple as merely big-blitzing Dalton and having him panic; the Bengals have a very good offensive line, and when that line keeps the opposition off Dalton, he remains a league-average passer. To pick an all-inclusive stat, QBR2 pegs Dalton as the 23rd-best quarterback in football over his three years as a pro, with a cumulative QBR of 51.5. When teams rush Dalton with five men or more, his QBR falls to 47.0, but since everybody’s a little worse when they’re blitzed, that’s good enough for 21st in the league.
Among the 34 quarterbacks with 500 or more dropbacks over this three-year stretch, the average passer’s QBR was cut by more than half (52.4 percent) when he was either hassled or hit by a pass-rusher. Dalton is not so lucky. Already just a league-average quarterback when nobody’s bothering him, Dalton’s QBR under duress falls to a lowly 11.1, a drop of 81.4 percent. That leaves him as the fifth-most stressed by pressure, and the four guys in front of him don’t make for a bright future:
The aforementioned quarterbacks worse than Dalton were Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Weeden, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez (GULP!)
The Bengals have recognized this and built one of the most impenetrable fortresses around Dalton, but the slightest disruption makes Dalton's systems go haywire.
Dalton’s cop-out this time around was the injury influenza. Without targets AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Marvin Jones, the Bengals $115 million quarterback was helpless to even make this matchup competitive.
Unfortunately, it’s a cop-out. The reason Aaron Rodgers is considered the MVP frontrunner over J.J. Watt’s historic season on defense or DeMarco Murray is because the lucrative quarterback position is considered the most important position on the field.
No wide receiver has ever been named NFL MVP. If Dalton’s lack of healthy, elite targets is to blame for his impotency Sunday, then maybe Rodgers and Watt should be sharing votes with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. Only when teams lose do the fingers start pointing at the supporting cast. Logically speaking, you can’t have it both ways.
Green, now has negotiating leverage negotiating an extension in the offseason where he can point to their playoff loss and say he deserves Dalton-money.
There have been multiple iterations of this saying, but the earliest one goes back to philosopher Edmund Burke, who was credited with the phrase, “If you don’t know you’re history you’re doomed to repeat it.” Dalton’s history indicates that he’s a dull knife in a draw full of butcher knives. Since 2011, Dalton has the 20th highest total QBR and it took a historically awful performance from the Cardinals’ Ryan Lindley to keep him from posting the worst QBR of Wild Card weekend. In fact, this weekend left them tied on the career playoff touchdowns list with one each.
Losing to the Colts was an appropo end to Dalton's season. Not so that he could meaure himself up against his development against that of fellow class of 2011 signal caller Andrew Luck, but because of the Bengals similarities to the early aughts Colts. Ultimately, comparing Dalton’s series of unfortunate circumstances to the early struggles of Hall of Famer and four-time NFL MVP Y.A. Tittle or Peyton Manning, future recipient of his own wing in Canton, is another a false equivalency that’s been used often to lay some of the blame off of Andy Dalton’s shoulders.
Andy Dalton’s playoff performance hasn’t measured up to what he’s done in the regular season pic.twitter.com/TrankR8EJM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 5, 2015
Prior to the beginning of his fourth season, Sunday Night Football had the gall to prop Dalton into young Peyton’s class, which is akin to putting B.I.G.’s heavily produced posthumuous Duets: The Final Chapter album against Life After Death and Ready To Die.
It wasn't without some merit. Dalton's 80 touchdowns was second to Dan Marino and Peyton for a player in his first three seasons. However, he has severely limited potential that may have already struck its zenith.
If you think Dalton’s statistical regression in year four spells the end of those Manning-Dalton comparison chryons, you’d be wrong. They’ll only ramp up.
Here’s Dalton’s fourth season in comparison to Peyton.
Peyton: 4,137 yards, 62.7%, 26 TDs, 23 INTs
Dalton: 3,398 yards, 64.2%, 19 TDs, 17 INTs
Instead of going 0-4, Manning’s change of fate came after a 0-41 loss to the New York Jets in 2002.
In the aftermath, Jim Mora was fired after his sixth consecutive playoff loss as a head coach, Tony Dungy was hired to resurrect the Colts from playoff afterlife and the rest is Super Bowl history. The only other head coach in NFL history to lose his first six playoff games is Marvin Lewis, but the Bengals are too masochistic or complacent to axe Lewis after his 0-6 playoff record, which means the beat will go on for another year.
After Dalton resumed his cadaver position, Tony Romo managed to muster life out of a 12.8 Total QBR in the first three quarters against Detroit. In the fourth, he earned an 80.7 included the game-winning strike trough a tight window.
Romo has only won two games—but has never benefitted from the type of titanium defense that’s stood behind Dalton for four years. These Bengals have a championship window open, but Dalton and Lewis keep dropping it on their fingers.
These Tigers can’t change their stripes, and that will continue to be their demise.