The 2015 version of the Cincinnati Bengals has a new leader, but he was reluctant to take on the role. Andy Dalton has stepped forward and is playing lights-out. His confidence level is up, and he’s flaunting the killer instinct that winning quarterbacks should have. Dalton has the Bengals winning games. However, there’s another quarterback doing what Dalton has discovered on a weekly basis. That man plays for the New England Patriots. What will it take for Andy Dalton to be like Tom Brady?
The Cincinnati Bengals are doing big things this year. They’re in the midst of a franchise matching 5-0 start to the season. It’s been 27 years since the Bengals have managed to do that. That magical year of 1988 included a trip to Super Bowl XXIII. They had an emotional and spirited quarterback named Boomer Esiason. It would be easy to compare Dalton and Esiason since Boomer’s best year was 1988. But the standard of the new millennium is Brady. What will it take for Dalton to sustain a level like Brady?
One can easily point to the postseason situation in Cincinnati. Dalton has been the signal-caller for four years. For four years, the Bengals have been one-and-done. Before anyone decides to put Andy in the ring with Brady, the issue has to be addressed. Brady has won a staggering 21 of 29 postseason games. He stands alone at the top of the list among active and inactive quarterbacks.
Dalton will have to remain consistent to be like Brady. If he maintains his current level of play, that won’t be hard to do. The new and improved Dalton has come out of the gates like a gunslinger. Through the five games the Bengals have played, Dalton’s passer rating is a stellar 115.6. With the exception of games against Oakland and Seattle, his rating is 122.0 or higher. Mr. Dalton has definitely stepped his game up.
As a complete player, Andy Dalton has made the transition. The Red Rifle has learned to make better decisions. His placement of the ball for receivers has been amazingly different. This has led to fewer interceptions and better chances for the Bengals to sustain drives. Dalton’s completion ratio is at its highest also (67.5). Ball placement, making decisions, and completion ratio are crucial marks in an effort to be like Brady.
Dalton has also undergone an attitude adjustment.
Coming into the season, Andy Dalton wasn’t considered the leader of the Bengals locker room. That job belonged to Andrew Whitworth by default. But with four years under the same system and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s grooming, Dalton has taken the mantle and become more vocal.
The turning point may have been at the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, during a pre-game celebrity game, Dalton was booed by the home crowd. Getting booed in your own city has got to hurt.
“I’m not worried about it,” Dalton said. “Everybody has got an opinion. It doesn’t really matter. It comes with it. Everybody has their opinion here. There’s a lot of support and that’s all that matters.”
Dalton took that feeling into training camp and wore it as a chip on his shoulder. He’s one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league going into Week 6. The jeers he received from the fans at Great American Ballpark have helped transform him into the leader the maturing Bengals need.
Dalton is getting closer to being like Brady. His masterful come-from-behind victory over the Seahawks was reminiscent of Mr. Brady. He was poised and cool under pressure. A champion quarterback needs that ability.
Andy showed his new determination and leadership in a quote from SB Nation.
“Our goals have never been to win one playoff game. We are about winning the Super Bowl. I understand you have to win in the playoffs to do that. But we are going to keep the goal much bigger and larger. And keep working on becoming champions.”
Dalton hit a home run in that All-Star game. Big things could be on the way for him and the Bengals.
[Feature Image by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]