The crisp feel of fall is in the air. The sounds of marching bands, practicing their sometimes heavily distorted pop tunes, snake into evening rituals. It’s time for football. It’s time for Andy Dalton to prove he’s the one. It’s way past time for Dalton to step up and be the leader of the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s been 25 years since the Bengals have won a playoff game. Andy Dalton has been at the helm since 2011. Dalton’s awards and accolades are wicked: Two -time AFC Pro Bowl player (2011, 2014), three-time AFC Offensive Player of the Week (2012, 2013), NFLPA Emerging Player Award (2011), NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month (2011), two times Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week. With all the accomplishments and hype, why hasn’t Dalton delivered where it counts?
Cincinnati isn’t drooling for a new type of chili. The city isn’t waiting on pins and needles for their new street car to ding around the tracks. Ask any Porkopolis native during pigskin season what they truly want and the answer will be overwhelming. Andy Dalton has to win a playoff game. In four years as a starter for the Bengals, Andy Dalton is 40-23-1. That translates to a winning percentage of .640. Why hasn’t Dalton produced?
Marvin Lewis and his staff have surrounded Dalton with the weapons of mass destruction. Each year, Andy Dalton has had the type of teammates NFL quarterbacks dream of. The running game is sound, the receivers are speedy, and shifty ballerinos with catchers have mitts for hands. Dalton must look in the mirror and find his inner will to win during the post season. Andy led the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University to a Rose Bowl victory. It was his last game as a college player. He left TCU as the all-time leader in wins and other passing statistics. Dalton must tap into that legacy and remember the championship feeling.
Earlier this summer, the New York Times described Cincinnati sports fans as one of the most cursed in the country. Dalton is under pressure to remove the stigma of doubt from the subconscious of Bengals fans.
In an interview with ESPN, Dalton expressed his feelings on that pressure to win.
“When I first came in, they didn’t expect us to win a game and we won nine and made it to the playoffs and made it to the Pro Bowl, so there wasn’t any negative then. It’s just because time has gone on. I think it just comes down to the whole playoff thing. At the end of the day, the way I go about it is don’t let somebody else’s opinion of you define who you are.”
Time has indeed gone on. It’s time now for Andy Dalton to define the player his numbers and awards claim he is.
[Photo by John Grieshop / Getty Images]