Head Coach Zac Taylor’s complete U-turn, as he names Andy Dalton as the starter for Sunday’s game.
Andy Dalton returns under center for the winless Cincinnati Bengals after being unceremoniously benched on his birthday. The decision is a curious one and makes no sense for a team spiralling into the abyss of irrelevance.
Following an 0-8 start the Bengals decided it was time to make the switch to rookie quarterback Ryan Finley following the teams bye week.
The move seemed premature, why make a December decision in November? Surely leaving Dalton under center until the season was totally unsalvageable before handing over the reigns to the rookie down the stretch made more sense.
What’s the reason behind the decision?
Is first time NFL coach Zac Taylor desperately trying to avoid becoming only the third coach in NFL history to go 0-16? (Rod Marinelli ’08 Lions, Hue Jackson ’17 Browns). A feat that would besmerch his coaching credentials going forward.
Is the franchise furiously scrambling behind the scenes in a bid to repair the relationship with Andy Dalton? As they plan they utilise him as a mentor for the next quarterback.
Are they planning to use the 2019 season as a diminishing factor/bargaining tool for any future negotiations for Dalton’s services?
Tale of the tape
Finley’s path to the Bengals began back at Boise State where the 6ft 4″ 207lb signal caller started seven games for the Broncos. Finley’s sophomore year was bitter sweet, he was named the starter only for his season to come to an abrupt end with a broken ankle.
With Jacoby Brissett heading to the NFL (third round draft pick by the New England Patriots) NC State’s quarterback position suddenly had a vacancy. Finley transfered to the program to be reunited with his former coach Eliah Drinkwitz.
During his time with NC State, Finley was a three-year starter, during which he passed for 10501 yards and 60 touchdowns.
Fast forward to the NFL and it’s fair to say Finley endured a batism of fire. During his three starts the offense failed to score more than 13 points in a game, he was sacked 11 times, fumbled four times and threw two interceptions. His completion percentage for those three games 55.33, 41.94 & 46.15.
Dalton a former second round pick back in 2011 (35th overall) has performed admiraly during time his in Cincinnati. The 6ft 2″ 220lb signal caller has thrown 197 touchdown passes in 128 games completing 62.2% of his passes.
During 2015 Dalton played some of his best football with a career high 66.1 completion percentage. Dalton also threw 25 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. His finest moment came in week 5, as the red rifle rallied the troops from a 24-7 fourth quarter deficit against the Seattle Seahawks for 27-24 victory in overtime.
Two weeks later on the road in Pittsburgh, Dalton once again lead the team to another memorable fourth quarter comeback. The 16-10 victory over division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers also signaled the team’s first 7-0 start in franchise history. The Bengals won again a week later to improve the record to 8-0 (lost to the Texans the following week).
Dalton sustained a fractured thumb on his throwing hand on December 13th, derailing his finest season. Whilst the injury was minor Dalton failed to recapture the magic of the 2015 season.
Despite the pelyotrol of weapons at his disposal Dalton’s failure to win a playoff game (0-4) under the scrutiny of the national spotlight, simple added fuel to the fire of the detractors that plagued Dalton on a weekly basis.
During his four postseason outings Dalton threw six interceptions and just one touchdown whilst completing just 55.7% of his attempted passes.
The Red rifle returns against a resurgent New York Jets team. Jets fans are all to familiar with the pending smack in the face that awaits them when riding the crest of a wave, be it in another lost season or not.
The Bengals could seriously jeopardise their shot at the number one overall selection should the team discover a new found competitive edge with the return of Dalton. The Bengals play the Jets, Patriots, Browns (twice) and a potentially huge game against the Dolphins in week 16.