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Ranking Andy Dalton’s 8 Seasons from Best to Worst

(USA TODAY Sports)At this point in Andy Dalton’s career we all just about know who he his. The middle-of-the-road gunslinger known as the Red Rifle has been a mainstay in Cincinnati for the past eight NFL seasons. Over that time, we’ve been able to share in the glory and the misery of the Andy Dalton experience. What is the Andy Dalton experience? Well, he really wont wow you and carry a team on his back without tremendous help, nor will he elevate a team by himself. He is dependent on the pieces around him, but when he does have some toys to play with, it can be pretty exciting.

Overall, its been an up and down ride for the Dalton led Bengals, and who knows the ride may not be over, but it has been long enough to look back and see where his bright spots have been and where he hid in a shadow, and to figure out where to go from here.

#1: 2015

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2015 stats: (13 full games)
3,250 yards 25 TDs 7 INTs 106.3 rating

Its quite fitting that Andy Dalton’s best season is one that he didn’t even finish. At some points in his career, less Andy meant better Andy. But not in 2015. In the middle of his prime, he mastered Hue Jackson’s offense and with elite talent around him, he performed like an MVP candidate. For the first time in his career, he could truly be counted on to win a game or be that leader the team needed.

The best example of that was the 17 point comeback at Home against the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Down 17 in the 3rd, Dalton never let his team lose moral and took over the game with a rushing TD and a pass touchdown to Tyler Eifert adding to his two touchdown day. Finally, it took two clutch drives at the end of regulation and overtime to cap the improbable comeback. It was a coming out game for Dalton and the Bengals, and they proved to be legit.

#2: 2012


2012 stats:
3,669 yards 27 TDs 16 INTs 87.4 rating

Coming off his shocking rookie year performance where not only did the team surprise everyone by making the playoffs, they surprised by just winning more than five games. Dalton took a noticeable step in his game from his rookie year and it led to more big plays for the Bengals in 2012.

His decision making took a big step forward and allowed him to throw 7 more touchdowns than his rookie year, kept the offense on the field longer, and at the time had the franchise leader in regular season winning percentage with at least 10 career starts. with a regular-season record of 19-13 in his first two seasons, he was able to will the Bengals back from a 3-5 record and finish 7-1 and make the playoffs for a 2nd year in a row, the first time the Bengals have done this since the early 1980’s.

#3: 2016

Photo by John Sommers II /UPI

2016 stats:
4,206 yards 18 TDs 8 INTs 91.8 rating

Andy Dalton’s 2016 season is severely underrated. With key players such as Tyler Eifert, A.J. Green, Giovanni Bernard, and as well as a subpar offensive line that just lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, Dalton put up 4,000 passing yards, despite losing even more weapons such as Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu.

Dalton played brilliantly and did everything he could to keep his team in games and even almost won a handful of them that they had no business in winning. But ultimately, coaching, inexperience, injuries, and bad luck held them back.

Dalton limited his turnovers tremendously with only 8 interceptions in 16 games, showed that he was able to perform without key weapons, a rare feat in his career, and had one of his best years in terms of decision making. It was the team that deteriorated around him that made his underrated season fall in the depths of a playoff-less Bengal team for the first time since 2010.

#4: 2013

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

2013 stats:
4,293 yards 33 TDs 20 INTs 88.8 rating

Dalton’s 2013 season is overrated. But that certainly does not mean it wasn’t a good one. Its just overhyped. He was not smart with the ball and played inconsistently throughout the season. He could not be counted on to win the big game or protect the ball in key situations. Ultimately, he blundered in games they should have one, especially in the playoffs at home where they went undefeated in 2013, against the Chargers who they had beat earlier in San Diego.

Dalton’s 20 interceptions just kill me. If he limited his turnovers and bad decision making this may have been his best year in the league. But he did fail to take that next step from his sophomore year as an intelligent QB and failed to live up to the big game hype. But despite all of this, he did set some records.

Dalton set the Bengals franchise record for most passing touchdowns in one season (33) beating Carson Palmer’s 32. He also set the record for most passing yards in a single season for a Bengals signal caller, beating another Carson Palmer record. Despite his underwhelming intangible season, this did provide a bright future for him in Cincinnati.

#5: 2018

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

2018 stats: (10 full games)
2,566 yards 21 TDs 11 INTs 89.6 rating

It was truly a shame that Dalton’s 2018 season came to an early stop due to another thumb injury, but maybe it was for the best as the Bengals were starting to come apart at the seems. Early on, Dalton was looking like his 2015 self and had total command of the offense and had the teams confidence.

Tossing 11 touchdowns in the first 4 games of the season and leading 3 impressive comebackes all before the bye week had the Bengals making a surprising run at the playoffs. Dalton looked confident in his reads, his arm, and his players and it showed greatly.

#6: 2011

Photo: Don Wright, Associated Press

2011 stats: (15 full games)
3,398 yards 20 TDs 13 INTs 80.4 rating

Expectations were at a all time low for the Bengals in 2011. After a 4-12 season in 2010 and a seemingly depleted roster who lost Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, no one expected them to win many games, especially with two rookies leading the team. So what did they do? They exceeded expectations and shocked the world by making the playoffs and Andy Dalton was a big contributor.

It was a start of a new era in Cincinnati, the Dalton-Green era. Dalton became one of the few rookie quarterbacks to throw for 20 touchdowns and win 9 games. Dalton showed tremendous poise and confidence in the pocket for a rookie and showed off his arm talent early and often as he threaded needles all season long. It was just an average season among his eight, but it was definitely an impressive one.

#7: 2014

Michael Conroy, Associated Press

2014 stats:
3,398 19 TDs 17 INTs 83.5 rating

Coming of his best statistical season, Dalton was poised to become an MVP candidate and finally get the Bengals over that elusive playoff hump. Unfortunately for everyone involved, none of that happend. For the first time in his career, the less Dalton threw the ball, the better. His decision making stayed mediocre from his 2013 campaign and did not improve, and I put that in the best way I could. He could not be trusted to keep the ball out of the defenses hands, and was unable to lead the team without any help like any good quarterback should be able to do. It was a disappointing season that ended all to soon in yet another wildcard loss. Yet, Dalton’s underperforming 2014 season wasn’t all his fault.

He was missing Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones for all of 2014, and even A.J. Green had trouble staying healthy. The number 1 target in the offense for the wildcard game against Indianapolis seemed to be either Mohammed Sanu or Rex Burkhead. There was not much Dalton could do about that one.

#8: 2017

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2017 stats:
3,320 yards 25 TDs 12 INTs 86.6 rating

Dalton’s worst season was almost unbearable for Bengals fans. Not scoring a Touchdown until week 3, Dalton’s year started and finished unexpected. Andy’s decision making and ability to read coverages were possibly at his all time worst, and for a 7th year quarterback thats just ridiculous. At best, he was average, which is what his stats project but his intangibles were seriously lacking. However, he did pull it together late and was able to destroy the playoff hopes of the Lions and Ravens which made it alot easier for Mike Brown and the Bengals to keep Andy.

2019 outlook

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

2019 stat prediction: 3,972 yards 27 TDs 10 INTs 90.7 rating

Where should we expect to rank Dalton’s 2019 season among his others in a year from now? While its too early to exactly pinpoint it, I expect it to be between #3 and #2 (2016, 2012).

Zac Taylor’s offense should bring new life to Dalton and the offense and hopefully find new success. With plenty of weapons including pro bowler Green, 1,000 yard reciever Boyd, speedster Ross, Redzone monster Eifert, and the AFC leading rusher in Joe Mixon, it should be a fun year for Andy and the Bengals.


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