Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

January 9, 2014

AARON SNYDER: Dalton set bar bit too high

ASHLAND — Andy Dalton popped the question too early.

Cincinnati, will you marry me?

Yes was the answer in 2011, but oh how quickly the honeymoon has ended.

The Bengals and their fans fell head over heels for a second-round rookie quarterback who helped guide them on a majestic white horse into rarely entered territory called the postseason.

The 2010 year, in which Cincinnati sank to 4-12 with the circus sideshow of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, wasn’t a precursor to another doomed decade like the 1990s after all.

Dalton, along with fresh faces A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and others, resurrected hopes and dreams that hadn’t been thought of since the “Ickey Shuffle.”

The Dalton Scuffle, though, has since established itself as the hot topic.

Most are quick to throw his 29-22 overall record, franchise marks in season passing yards and touchdowns and 3-for-3 clip in the playoff appearance category aside because of his apparent ineptitude in the postseason.

My question is, though, should we stash Dalton away as a never-was solely based on a sample size of three games?

Granted, they’ve been subpar performances, consisting of just one touchdown and six picks — all of which seem to come at the most inopportune times.

However, remember that he is just 26. And he’s just one of five QBs in NFL history to make the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.

Dalton simply set the bar too high as a rookie out of TCU. His 20-TD, 13-interception campaign was so widely unexpected that everyone was too fast to embrace Dalton and company as the saviors of Cincinnati.

Now, he’s playing limbo.

Critics have piled on Dalton after the latest flop, so he’ll have to be more mentally strong than ever to rebound.

If the all the negative media attention isn’t enough, Bengals owner Mike Brown even recently admitted that he wanted 49ers star Colin Kaepernick over Dalton in the 2011 Draft.

Thanks Mike, says Andy.

But, head coach Marvin Lewis publicly has Dalton’s back, and that goes a long way.

Lewis, Dalton, Green, Atkins and plenty others — Giovani Bernard, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones and Carlos Dunlap are among those — make up a group that figures to mostly return for 2014.

As people grow more and more impatient, it becomes tougher for someone in Dalton’s position to succeed. But, with that surrounding cast returning, it’s best to give the man at least one more year to prove himself.

Coach Conundrum

When is it time to pull the plug on a coach?

In Cincinnati, there are mixed signals.

Several steps to the east of Paul Brown Stadium lies a franchise that deemed it necessary to react rapidly.

Dusty Baker was let go in favor of Bryan Price despite having guided the Reds to three postseasons in the last four years. They still haven’t won a playoff series since 1995.

For the Bengals, the drought of no playoff wins is going on a quarter of a century. Despite that, Lewis has retained his position as head coach. The second-longest tenured NFL coach is 90-90-1 overall record since 2003.

He’ll likely be without at least one of his coordinators in his 12th season at the helm. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has reportedly interviewed with the Titans and Redskins and is supposed to meet with the Vikings, too.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has generated some attention, but for some reason no team has given him that chance yet.

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