For those of us who are Andy Dalton fans, the worst scenario has entrapped the red-headed Frog of Fort Worth.
He is stuck in Cincinnati surrounded by a cast of dummies and an organization that together are his professional football tomb.
Andy needs to escape Cincinnati, but he won’t because he’s too nice. Be a jerk, get out while you’re still young.
Dalton may sometimes sound like a little league football coach, but if the team has any prayer of unseating itself as the Kansas Jayhawks of the NFL it would be better off to follow his lead, or do the humane thing and allow him to go to a place that takes winning seriously.
Dalton is back in town to promote his annual fundraiser for the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation event on Sunday, April 3 at Joe T. Garcia’s. The man is all that is right about the Bengals, who do nothing but undermine his efforts to ensure they remain a franchise with no expectations.
I say this as someone who passionately rooted for that team when I was a kid, who shed a tear when they lost the Super Bowls in the 1981 and 1988 seasons. They were the better team in ’81, and had Lewis Billups not dropped that interception at the goal line in ’88 there would never have been that immortal Joe Montana-to-John Taylor play that I still can’t watch.
I proudly owned a Bengals No. 14 jersey, the number worn by the great Ken Anderson. It’s the same number Dalton wears today, and he carries that legacy with the distinction befitting a player who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (looking at you, Charean Williams and Rick Gosselin).
It’s chic to crucify Dalton for not being Peyton Manning, or his other shortcomings, but no one has done more in spite of his surroundings than Red 14. You can hate on Jerry Jones as a general manager until the end of days and he’s still better than Bengals owner Mike Brown.
You see, 2015 was Andy Dalton’s year, and it was supposed to be the season the Bengals made noise in the playoffs.
The last time we saw Dalton was Jan. 9 when he stood on the sidelines in Cincy wearing a protective cast over his broken thumb that prevented him from playing in the Bengals’ playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dalton was having a shut-up season to his legion of haters when he suffered that injury in Week 14.
“This year definitely changed the perspectives in people’s minds,” Dalton told me in a recent interview. “The way we were winning games before the injury; we were 10-2 and we were playing at a high level. And we were one of the best teams in the NFL. I don’t think they are questioning that anymore.”
Dalton was completing the types of throws his critics said he could not; he averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt and threw 25 touchdown passes with seven interceptions. What remained was to carry that in the playoffs, something he has not done, which slaps the label that he is a lucky bus driver on a talented team.
Then he broke his thumb. All he could do was watch his teammates and coaches as they executed a handful of penalties and errors ruined the season in a wild-card loss against the Steelers. It was all so Bengals.
The Bengals did not choke; they pointed the gun in their face and pulled the trigger multiple times to ensure they would avoid winning their first playoff game since January 1991.
Predictably, the Bengals did nothing in response. Actually, that’s not true. They gave Pacman an extension and Burfict will return, too. This entire merry cast of boneheads is set to surround Dalton again.
Head coach Marvin Lewis looked weak, the ownership group doesn’t care as long as it’s cheap, which leaves Dalton stuck to do the right thing and defend all of it.
“A lot of people that are talking about those guys aren’t around those guys all the time. The same aggression, the same thing that got us in trouble, are the same things that got us there. We hurt ourselves,” Dalton said. “You can’t have penalties at the end of the games. I think our guys understand that. It’s knowing when it’s going to hurt your team and for us, and those guys, I think we grow from it. You wish you didn’t have to learn from experiences like this.”
The Bengals never do.
Andy’s thumb is healed, and he has been working out at TCU in preparation for another Bengals season.
While he has progressed as a player, the organization he plays for has not.
He would never say it, so I will for him — get out while you can.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.