In the cult TV comedy sketch series The Fast Show there is a character called Dave. Dave lives in the middle of pub debates and, bless him, is immediately swayed by whichever opinion he heard most recently. If one of his friends says The Godfather is the greatest movie ever he will immediately, convincingly extol the virtues of the perfectly scored family dynamics, the complex morality of their world, the beauty of Pacino and Brando’s performances. Yet, as soon as another pal argues that Casablanca is superior, Dave is unequivocally taken with Ingrid Bergman’s beauty, Bogart’s wit, and the incomparable ending.
Examples of the species “Dave” are most easily located in the sports media. Two weeks ago Cam Newton was universally accepted to be either “a poor man’s Mike Vick” or “the next Vince Young;” in other words pejoratively compared to any black quarterback going (yes, intriguingly, he was never compared to the strong-armed, athletically gifted Aaron Rodgers, or the number one draft pick bust Tim Couch, but I digress). Either way, to say that there were huge doubts about his ability to be an NFL QB is a huge understatement. On the back of two—undoubtedly impressive—four-hundred-yard passing games, the sporting world cannot control itself. SB Nation has Cam Newton “cruising” to Rookie of The Year. Fox Sports calls him a “monster” (in the good way). Oh they mention the prior attacks of course; the “naysayers” and the “critics,” they simply never include themselves in those categories.
But what of Andy Dalton? Despite five other quarterbacks being taken between them in the draft, their fates seem somewhat intertwined as the only two rookies starting under centre. Indeed, after Dalton schooled Newton in a pre-season game Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks found the connection so strong that he combined their stats from the game (Dalton’s: excellent, Newton’s: poor) to show that they made one mediocre player. Yet somehow Dalton is being overlooked. In Banks’ Sunday evening “Snap Judgments” he is yet to mention the Bengals in two weeks, despite his premise of referencing every single team to have played as it goes to press. Peter King, long a champion of Dalton well before the draft, could find no place for him in his MMQB despite, again, its express intent of covering each of the weekend’s games. Mike and Mike’s early morning Jet-adulation Fests are interrupted only for a little Cam-love. And, let me be clear, the reason I reference these journalists is because they are ones who I thoroughly admire.
Since the merger only two quarterbacks have begun their careers with back-to-back ratings of over 100: Dan Marino and Andy Dalton. As of right now, only three starting QBs have no interceptions: Aaron Rodgers (Super Bowl MVP 2010), Drew Brees (Super Bowl MVP 2009), and Andy Dalton. He’s outperformed Newton in completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, quarterback rating, and, of course, wins.
I come not to bury Cam but to praise Andy. And the last thing I want to do is jinx the poor lad—let us not forget that he plays for the Bengals. He also has only faced mediocre sides where Newton faced the mighty Packers (and the horrible Cardinals). Undoubtedly Newton’s staggering yardage is spectacular and praiseworthy. The Panthers are surely thrilled with their number one pick. Dalton, by contrast, comes from a consistently underrated TCU program (and Marvin Lewis, also by contrast, very rarely talks about how good-looking Andy is), so maybe this is the sort of public perception that fuels him. Let Newton keep making the headlines…the Bengals are best when nobody notices us anyway.