Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB
Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

Bengals to World: ‘Andy’s Our Guy’

The Bengals are showing faith in Andy Dalton, but they’ve got enough of an out if he doesn’t produce that the new contract makes some sense

CINCINNATI — The outside world has lost faith in Andy Dalton the playoff quarterback, but that’s not the case inside the walls of the Bengals offices at Paul Brown Stadium. And Sunday afternoon, when the quarterback reached a six-year, $115-million deal with the team (“It’s done,” Dalton texted coach Marvin Lewis), the head coach had a sigh of relief instead of a feeling of dread that many Cincinnati fans who don’t trust Dalton had when the news broke today.

“We never wavered in our support for Andy,” coach Marvin Lewis said today. “I never wavered. [Owner] Mike Brown never wavered. Quarterback is Mike’s position, and he loves Andy. Andy’s our guy, and will be.”

I asked Lewis about how Dalton will be able to tune out the noise from fans and analysts who think he’s a pedestrian player who crumbles in the playoffs. “He’s got strong enough makeup to understand that’s part of it,” said Lewis. “His maturity and intelligence is such that he can handle that stuff.”

The contract is structured in a way that makes it a pay-as-you-go deal, similar to the nearly year-by-year contract his 2011 draft buddy Colin Kaepernick signed in San Francisco. Dalton is guaranteed $17 million; the contract’s base value, according to The NFL Network, is $96 million over six years, with incentives boosting it to a potential $115 million. The Bengals can walk away with minimal financial penalty after any year of the deal.

The signing is controversial, of course, because the quarterback’s career is A Tale of Two Daltons. He’s one of only three QBs ever to win at least 30 games in his first three seasons. But he’s crashed and burned in three straight Wild Card games: 31-10 at Houston in 2011, 19-13 at Houston in 2012, and 27-10 in a particularly disastrous three-interception home game against San Diego last January. Charting Dalton in the regular season versus postseason shows why so many Bengals fans were against paying him big money:

  W-L Comp % Yds/Game TD-Int Yds/Att Rating
Regular Season 30-18 .609 236.7 80-49 7.0 85.7
Playoffs 0-3 .569 239.3 1-6 5.8 56.2

 
Dalton told me after his news conference today that he knows he has to play better in the playoffs. “But I knew the contract would get done, because everyone here wanted it to get done—Marvin, Mr. Brown, me, everyone in the organization. I appreciate the confidence they’ve shown in me.”

That confidence surprises those outside the organization. And I was surprised by something Lewis said to me today: “From the day we worked him out at TCU [in spring 2011], he has never disappointed me.” I am sorry. I can’t believe Lewis wasn’t disappointed by Dalton’s play in the second half against San Diego.

“He’s played well, and then we’ve lost in the playoffs,” Lewis said. “The important thing, we all lost in the playoffs. Last season, we fumbled to cost us early, then the quarterback fumbled, and then quarterback threw an interception, and in the second half, the defense couldn’t stop [San Diego] on third down. I think it’s on us, all of us, and not just the quarterback.”

Said receiver A.J. Green: “He gets too much crap for … us not winning the playoff games, but we all put a hand in that.”

dalton-chart-800

That has been the coach’s constant theme, and several players repeated it here. So Lewis’s mantra around the team is working. But Dalton deserves more than just a little blame for the playoff losses. His reaction to pressure, particularly in the second half against San Diego, was terrible. If he and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson can’t fix that, Dalton’s contract won’t look so good, no matter how many regular-season games he wins.

Last point: The Bengals didn’t want the Dalton deal to hang over their season. They didn’t want to risk him being franchised at the end of the year if he had a good year and his contract was up and the team decided to keep him; by then the price would be higher. But on the flip side, if the Bengals have a poor year and Dalton struggles, his market in free-agency could be weak, and the Bengals could have gotten a bargain. It was clear entering a walk year in 2014 (or at least the NFL’s version of a walk year, in which players are tethered to a team with the franchise tag) that the Bengals didn’t want to risk Dalton not being under contract for the long term. With all quarterbacks in the competent-and-above area getting $17 million to $23 million a year, Dalton’s deal is outlandish, yet understandable.

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17 comments
Ciscos
Ciscos

A contract that fair to the organization? Yes it is. The hard number isn't as shocking as the soft number.  I guess that's that's the new normal for a QBs that haven't won a Superbowl, much less a playoff game. 


I wish Dalton well.

JohnInserra
JohnInserra

Tony Romo? He sucks in big games and the playoffs. Andy Dalton will get better 


ianforbes
ianforbes

Andrew Luck has pretty much sucked in his playoff performances so far. Is King saying that Luck won't deserve the big money contract either?

JohnMarshall1
JohnMarshall1

I wonder what people were saying about Peyton Manning after his first three playoff games. Manning's first three games: 0W-3L, 1 touchdown, two interceptions, and topped 50% completion rate only once (53%). His third playoff game was also his worst, when he had a 31.2 QB rating and got smacked 41-0. Dalton is younger than Manning was when he played that game. Manning has long had a reputation as a phenomenal regular season QB and a playoff loser. I'm not saying Dalton is as even as good as Peyton, but it's crazy to completely write him off. Peyton's stats in his first 3 years were only slightly better than Dalton's. If Rich Gannon can win you a superbowl, Andy Dalton sure as hell can if he's given as many chances to embarrass himself in the playoffs as Manning has been given. I guess that's the luxury of being a #1 pick and having a family pedigree (and not having bright red hair).

extexdave
extexdave

The Bengals have an out clause(cap wise) for each season;  is that real "confidence"? 

GodofAcid
GodofAcid

This feels to me like the Bengals are saying "It's hard to get yourself a superstar QB, this guy is OK, so we'll settle for him".. which I guess is fine if you're OK with quick exits from the playoffs.

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

Said this elsewhere, it bears repeating---Andy Dalton puts up a 79.3 in his 1st 17 starts, including the playoffs, & including getting a lot of the #1 work in training camp. The Punchline (initials T.T.) puts up a 80.1 in his 1st 16 starts for the Broncos (including playoffs), with zero #1 training camp reps. The Punchline has a playoff win, dragging a 4-12 (& 1-4) team w/the 24th ranked D. to the 2nd round of the playoffs, getting defeated by the best defensive mind ever on the road---while Mr. Dalton has 0 playoff wins (same amount as his *3 teams gave him a starting job* successor, Carson Palmer) in 3 years...& is given 115 million, while Punchline is unemployable. 'Ol Punchline never had a team say he's "our guy" (Josh McDaniels was shown the door in Denver). Sorry about the rant, but B.S. like this (& the Ray Rice v. marijuana suspension disbelief) leads me to believe this league is just mostly nonsense, & arrogant, macho nonsense at that.

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

It seems to make sense.  Yes, they are probably overpaying him for this season.  But it's a show of confidence and that could make a difference.  If it turns out that what we have seen of Dalton is all he will ever be, then they have the option of cutting their long term losses at any time.  If he steps up his game some with experience, the money is pretty much in line with NFL salaries for QBs.

Wombat
Wombat

I'm glad he's signed... there are quite a few other teams that would have been glad to have him. Let's see what Hue's offense can do for him before we go wailing about a bad deal. We'll see at the end of the season.

NewsatTwm
NewsatTwm

Doubts about Dalton's ability to guide the Bengals through the play offs and some people dismiss national championship winner AJ McCarron as 'just a game manager'

mesteve8
mesteve8

@JohnMarshall1 IIRC, Peyton was always consider a choke artist in the playoffs until he won the Super Bowl

BY
BY

@liquidmuse3 I'm a lifelong Gator fan and I truly believe that Tim Tebow is in the discussion for the greatest college player of all time. I also believe that he is a terrible NFL qb and I'd take Dalton in a heartbeat. 

Evan5
Evan5

@Wombat What "quite a few other teams" would have been glad to have him?

Wombat
Wombat

@Evan5 @Wombat Any of the teams without a QB... Texas, Oakland, after this next season Cleveland, Tennessee just to name a few. He wouldn't be without a job long...

Evan5
Evan5

@Wombat @Evan5 Maybe, though I don't think any of those teams would be willing to put up a lot of guaranteed money.  That's the issue, why give up the money if the market for him isn't there.  Also I don't think Cleveland is correct, I don't see them giving up on both of their QBs after this year barring injuries. 

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