I feel the need to defend Andy Dalton.
Not for his play. I think most reasonably-minded fans agree that he’s been good in the regular season and bad in his three playoff games. As a result, I understand why many people question the Bengals’ stated desire to extend Dalton’s contract now instead of allowing him to play out the final year of his deal like the Ravens did with Joe Flacco before he led them to a Super Bowl title.
But I’m bothered by the reaction to Andy’s comments on Monday when discussing his contract status with a group of about seven reporters (myself included).
For example, Dalton saying, “I do” when asked if he considers himself to be the face of the franchise.
On the surface, it might sound arrogant. What about A.J. Green or Geno Atkins or Marvin Lewis?
Here’s the backstory. The Enquirer’s Paul Dehner Jr. asked Andy if he ever gets wowed by the amount of money that NFL quarterbacks make.
“It’s a quarterback-driven league, so quarterbacks get rewarded a lot of money,” Dalton responded. “If you’re the quarterback of the team, you’re the face of the franchise. These teams obviously believe in their guy so they’re going to pay him that way.”
At that point, ESPN’s Coley Harvey asked the natural follow-up: “Do you feel you’re the face of this franchise?”
“I do,” Dalton said. “And I feel like everything that Marvin’s said and Hue’s said and everybody here has told me that.”
Is that arrogant? Or obvious?
Dalton is basically saying he believes he’s a franchise quarterback and the coaching staff has given him every indication that they agree.
A few minutes later, I brought up Flacco’s defiant attitude during his walk year in Baltimore. More specifically, how the Ravens’ QB publically referred to himself as an elite quarterback and basically said “screw you” to anybody that disagreed. I then asked Andy if he ever felt like saying the same thing to his critics.
“I’m very confident in what I’ve done,” Dalton answered. “The critics look at all the negative – they don’t look at all of the stuff that I’ve accomplished. They don’t look at the fact that I’m one of three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to do certain things. They don’t look at that kind of stuff. They want to find ways to tear me down. I’m not worried about any of that. They can say anything they want. All that matters is what everybody believes in this organization and what I believe in myself.”
If you only read his answer, it might come off as whiny, but Andy was specifically responding to how he deals with criticism.
Paul Daugherty wrote a story today in the Enquirer making the case that Dalton needs to be a better leader by taking more blame when things don’t go well. It’s a case that Doc has made a few times since the Bengals’ playoff loss to San Diego.
One of the reasons why Paul is a great columnist is that he has strong opinions and expresses them well. In this case, I think Andy has already realized that he needs to change.
In another interview session on Monday with local TV reporters (you can watch it here), Dalton was asked about last year’s playoff failure and said, “I didn’t play my best and the team as a whole didn’t play its best.” Later he added, “I could have played better.”
Perhaps that’s not the “This one’s on me” tone that Doc is looking for, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.
After listening to Andy’s press conferences for three years, it’s clear that he’s been well-trained to avoid providing bulletin board material (Bill Belichick would approve). He keeps things pretty generic and generally talks about the team instead of himself. But I don’t ever recall hearing Andy throw a teammate under the bus. Has he ever complained about a bad game by the offensive line? About a dropped pass or a poorly run route? While it would probably play well in the locker room if he accepted the lion’s share of the blame after playing poorly in a loss, I am not under the impression that his comments have caused locker room friction. At least not yet.
Let’s face it, what Andy Dalton needs to do is lead the Bengals to postseason success. Period. Everything else – including his comments on Monday – is just talk.
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