Why Dalton Deserves More Credit

dalton

After last week’s drubbing of the Tennessee Titans, the Bengals were the only team in the AFC with an undefeated record (prior to yesterday’s defeat to the Patriots). Since drafting the combination of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, the Bengals have reached 3 consecutive postseasons, only to lose in the Wild Card round each time. After each loss, critics blame Dalton for his poor postseason numbers while overlooking the fact that he helped his team reach the playoffs. Last season, I wrote an article analyzing whether or not Peyton Manning performed worse in the playoffs. For Dalton, the answer is as obvious as one touchdown, six picks and an adjusted yards per attempt of 3.80. These numbers are not even remotely close to his regular season numbers, regardless of the level of competition. 

Dalton against Non-Playoff Teams

W L Comp Att Cmp% Yards TDs INTs AY/A QBR
2011 9 0 18.67 30.22 61.76% 201.11 1.44 0.67 6.62 59.44
2012 8 4 21.00 33.92 61.92% 220.25 1.83 1.08 6.14 50.59
2013 8 5 23.00 38.15 60.28% 274.69 2.15 1.38 6.70 54.75
Totals 25 9 21.15 34.56 61.19% 236 1.85 1.09 6.48 54.53

Not much needs to be said about Andy Dalton’s regular season games against non-playoff teams. Dalton went undefeated against such teams as a rookie and has continued to find success against them. His passing improved immensely under the guidance of Jay Gruden (now in Washington), averaging over 70 more yards per game and throwing for more touchdowns each season. This part of Andy Dalton is the least worrisome for Bengals’ fans. 

Dalton against Playoff Teams in the Regular Season

Name W L Comp Att Cmp% Yards TDs INTs AY/A QBR
2011 Av 0 7 18.86 34.86 54.10% 226.86 1.00 1.00 5.79 37.40
2012 Av 1 2 22.33 35.33 63.21% 282.67 1.33 1 7.48 49.17
2013 Av 3 0 21.33 30 71.11% 240.67 1.67 0.67 8.13 60.33
Dalton 4 9 20.23 33.85 59.77% 242.92 1.23 0.92 6.68 45.41

Dalton’s rookie numbers against playoff teams are unbelievably low. He failed to beat a single team that qualified for the playoffs that year in seven tries (which includes divisional sweeps by the Ravens and Steelers). Ultimately, Dalton’s inexperience showed in that first round playoff matchup against the Texans. As a rookie, Dalton was not near the upper echelon of quarterbacks.

In the next two seasons, Dalton’s completion percentage would increase significantly, as shown in the table above. Dalton averaged five less pass attempts in 2013, due in large part to the help he received in his backfield from rookie Giovanni Bernard. His performance against regular season teams did not vary too much from season to season. The increase in total QBR also reflects Dalton’s improvement in higher pressure situations.

Dalton vs. Player B

Against Playoff Teams in the Regular Season

Name W L Comp Att Cmp% Yards TDs INTs AY/A
Dalton 4 9 20.23 33.85 59.77% 242.92 1.23 0.92 6.68
Player B 9 26 22.77 36.71 62.45% 255.71 1.66 1.63 5.87

 

In Playoff Games

Name W L Comp Att Cmp% Yards TDs INTs AY/A Rate
Dalton 0 3 23.33 41.00 56.91% 239.33 0.33 2.00 3.80 54.37
Player B 0 3 16.67 35.00 47.84% 186.00 0.33 0.67 4.65 35.44

 

Dalton and Player B have fairly similar numbers, but how the NFL views both players is completely different. Player B is Peyton Manning from 1998 through 2002, his first five seasons as a professional quarterback. Manning started with a worse team; however, in 1999, the Colts had three offensive pro bowlers and one defensive pro bowler, the same numbers as the 2011 Bengals. Manning also received much criticism from the media, but he has become one of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation. The odds that Dalton  will be as great as Manning are low, but dismissing him as an elite quarterback is unwise. Dalton still needs time to improve, just as Manning did. For Peyton, the big change occurred when the Colts hired Tony Dungy. While Marvin Lewis is a great defensive coach, it may be time for Cincinnati to consider a coaching change. Lewis has not won a playoff game during his twelve year tenure.

The Bengals now sit at 3-1 and have one of the best defenses in the league, making them a strong contender for another playoff appearace. The Bengals should feel confident with Dalton at the helm, despite his postseason woes of the past. With three playoff games under his belt, Dalton is more prepared than ever for playoff success.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
All statistics courtesy of ESPN

Nick Barton 
Georgetown University Class of 2017

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