Duelin’ Dalton

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After two years of watching Andy Dalton as the Bengals starting quarterback, I’ve come to three general conclusions about the redheaded TCU product.

  1. He isn’t quite as good as the average Bengals fan thinks he is…yet.
  2. He isn’t quite as bad as the average non-Bengals fan thinks.
  3. Both groups need to realize he’s only been in the NFL for two years, and, as a second round draft pick, he started right away.

Although his arm strength will continue to be questioned, Dalton saw significant improvements in every major statistical category in his second year as a starter. Statistically speaking, he’s not out of place when compared to the early years of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Here’s a breakdown of Dalton’s first two seasons, compared to the first two starting seasons of the seven active quarterbacks with Super Bowl victories:

Quarterback

Comp

Att

Comp %

Yards

TD-INT

Rating

Record

Andy Dalton

300

516

58.1

3,398

20-13

80.4

9-7

 

329

528

62.3

3,669

27-16

87.4

10-6

2 Year Total:

629

1,044

60.2

 7,067

47-29

83.9

19-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peyton Manning

326

575

56.7

3,739

26-28

71.2

3-13

 

331

533

62.1

4,135

26-15

90.7

13-3

2 Year Total:

657

1,108

59.3

7,874

52-43

80.6

16-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Rodgers

341

536

63.6

4,038

28-13

93.8

6-10

 

350

541

64.7

4,434

30-7

103.2

11-5

2 Year Total:

691

1,077

64.2

8,472

58-20

98.5

17-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady

264

413

63.9

2,843

18-12

86.5

11-3*

 

373

601

62.1

3,764

28-14

85.7

9-7

2 Year Total:

637

1,014

62.8

6,607

46-26

86

20-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drew Brees

320

526

60.8

3,284

17-16

76.9

8-8

 

205

356

57.6

2,108

11-15

67.5

2-9

2 Year Total:

525

882

59.5

5,392

28-31

73.1

10-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eli Manning

294

557

52.8

3,762

24-17

75.9

11-5

 

301

522

57.7

3,244

24-18

77

8-8

2 Year Total:

595

1,079

55.1

7,006

48-35

76.4

19-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Roethlisberger

196

295

66.4

2,621

17-11

98.1

13-0


168

268

62.7

2,385

17-9

98.6

9-3*

2 Year Total:

364

563

64.7

5,006

34-20

98.3

22-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Flacco

257

428

60

2,971

14-12

80.3

11-5

 

315

499

63.1

3,613

21-12

88.9

9-7

2 Year Total:

572

927

61.7

6,584

35-24

84.9

20-12

*Denotes Super Bowl Winning Season


Rankings:

Comp %

Yards

TD-INT Ratio

1. Roethlisberger (64.7)

1. Rodgers (8,472)

1. Rodgers (2.9)

2. Rodgers (64.2)

2. P. Manning (7,874)

2. Brady (1.77)

3. Brady (62.8)

3. Dalton (7,067)

3. Roethlisberger (1.70)

4. Flacco (61.7)

4. E. Manning (7,006)

4. Dalton (1.62)

5. Dalton (60.2)

5. Brady (6,607)

5. Flacco (1.46)

6. Brees (59.5)

6. Flacco (6,584)

6. E. Manning (1.37)

7. P. Manning (59.3)

7. Brees (5,392)

7. P. Manning (1.21)

8. E. Manning (55.1)

8. Roethlisberger (5,006)

8. Brees (0.90)

 

Rating

Win %

Playoff Appearances/Record

1. Rodgers (98.5)

1. Roethlisberger (88)

1. Roethlisberger 2(5-1), Super Bowl Win

2. Roethlisberger (98.3)

2. Brady (67%)

2. Flacco 2 (3-2)

3. Brady (86.0)

3. Flacco (62.5%)

3. Dalton 2 (0-2)

4. Flacco (84.9)

4. Dalton (59%)

4. Brady 1 (3-0), Super Bowl Win

5. Dalton (83.9)

5. E. Manning (59%)

5. E. Manning 1 (0-1)

6. P. Manning (80.6)

6. Rodgers (53%)

5. P. Manning 1 (0-1)

7. E. Manning (76.4)

7. P. Manning (50%)

5. Rodgers 1 (0-1)

8. Brees (73.1)

8. Brees (37%)

8. Brees 0


A few things to note:

1. Aaron Rodgers benefited from three years as a backup under the NFL’s all-time leading passer, Brett Favre.

2. Both Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger missed significant time during their first two seasons with injuries.

3. Andy Dalton’s average statistical ranking is fourth.

4. Every Quarterback on this list, with the exception of Dalton, has won at least one Super Bowl since their second season.

First and foremost, stats can be overrated, particularly in this scenario. It’s virtually impossible to make an accurate comparison of multiple players that entered the league at various times in very different circumstances. For example, the Indianapolis Colts were absolutely egregious when they drafted Peyton Manning with the first pick in 1998—it’s impressive on his part that he led that team to three wins the next season. On the opposite side of that, you have Ben Roethlisburger joining a defensively dominant Pittsburgh Steelers team in 2004, proceeding to win his first 13 games as an NFL starting quarterback. However, the stats, for Bengals fans, should be encouraging. Dalton ranking fourth out of this group of eight in any sort of comparison is somewhat reassuring.

What should be most exciting about these rankings is the lowly positing of Drew Brees, because the aspects surrounding the beginning of Brees’s career and Dalton’s career are eerily similar. Both Dalton and Brees were second-round draft picks (similar expectations) and both took over as first time starters after equally disappointing seasons. Brees took over the Chargers starting job in 2002, after a 5-11 season. Dalton started as a rookie following the Bengals 4-12 performance in 2010. In comparison, Dalton outperformed Brees in every major statistical category and led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. To say that Dalton will ever be mentioned in the same category as Brees is a stretch at this point, but it isn’t out of the question considering the way both began their careers.

With gifted Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert joining the Bengals already talented receiving group (A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham), it’s hard to imagine Dalton’s completion percentage and redzone production going anywhere but up. I expect the majority of Dalton’s stats to improve for the third year in a row. But as Joe Flacco showed this year, it’s fine to be in the middle of the pack statistically as long as you can produce in the playoffs. This is where Dalton has struggled mightily in his first two appearances. 

Here’s a list evaluating the same eight quarterbacks’ first two playoff starts:

Quarterback

Comp

Att

Comp %

Yards

TD-INT

Rating

Result

Andy Dalton

27

42

64.2

257

0-3

51.4

Loss

 

14

30

46.7

127

0-1

44.7

Loss

Total:

41

72

56.9

384

0-4

48.6

 

 

 

           

Peyton Manning

19

42

45.2

227

0-0

62.3

Loss

 

17

32

53.1

194

1-0

82

Loss

Total:

36

74

48.6

421

1-0

72.2

 

 

 

           

Aaron Rodgers

28

42

66.7

423

4-1

121.4

Loss

 

18

27

66.7

180

3-0

122.5

Win

Total:

46

69

66.7

603

7-1

121.9

 

 

 

           

Tom Brady

32

52

61.5

312

0-1

70.4

Win

 

12

18

66.7

115

0-0

84.3

Win

Total:

44

70

64.1

427

0-1

77.4

 

 

 

           

Drew Brees

31

42

73.8

319

2-1

101.2

Loss

 

20

32

62.5

243

1-0

96.2

Win

Total:

51

74

68.2

562

3-1

98.7

 

 

 

           

Eli Manning

10

18

55.6

113

0-3

35

Loss

 

16

27

59.3

161

2-1

85.6

Loss

Total:

26

45

57.8

274

2-4

60.3

 

 

 

           

Ben

17

30

56.7

151

1-2

57.8

Win

Roethlisberger

14

24

58.3

226

2-3

78.1

Loss

Total:

31

54

57.4

377

3-5

67.9

 

 

 

           

Joe Flacco

9

23

39.1

135

0-0

59.1

Win

 

11

22

50

161

1-0

89.4

Win

Total:

20

45

44.4

296

1-0

74.3

 

 

Dalton’s playoff QB rating of 48.6 and interception to touchdown ratio of 0-4 are the worst of the bunch. He’s has been at his absolute worst in the games that matter most. Although Dalton wasn’t the only QB on this list to struggle in his first two playoff starts (the Manning Brothers), we already know how the careers of the other seven men have turned out.

Ultimately, these are just stats and it’s only the offseason. Whether or not Dalton is ever regarded amongst these quarterbacks will be decided over the next several Januarys.

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