Was it a good season or not for the Cincinnati Bengals? A team whose reputation is not that of winning, at 11-5 the Bengals won the AFC North, toppling the defending Super Bowl champions to do so, and went to the playoffs for the third straight season.
Sunday they lost their playoff opener to San Diego, 27-10. A team with a lot of talent and Super Bowl aspirations went out in the first round, extending its playoff losing streak to five games and 23 years.
Now the Bengals will have to decide the fate of quarterback Andy Dalton, or if they don't because they think Dalton is just fine there will be lots of people wanting them to think it over. Dalton was 29 of 51 for 334 yards, which if you didn't see the game wasn't actually that good. He committed three turnovers and simply wasn't his best.
Dalton has one year left on a contract, a popular time for a team and a player to come to terms on the next deal. So, should Cincinnati do that?
I say yes.
Dalton threw for 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013 -- not easy numbers to improve upon. He's 26, and in his three seasons he's accomplished every team's goal of making the playoffs, not exactly a fireable offense.
Of course some will argue that Dalton has proven incapable of football's greatest goal, winning the Super Bowl. The problem there is that those people don't know if that's true or not.
If Dalton is proof of a player that can't win it all, so, once, were other quarterbacks that became champions. Eli Manning after Year 3 was 0-2 in the playoffs and in 41 regular-season games had thrown 44 interceptions. Four years later he had two rings. Joe Flacco in his first four seasons was good enough to take his team to the playoffs AND win at least one postseason game each year. But his numbers were not superior to Dalton's, raising the same questions about his value. In his fifth year, Flacco won a Super Bowl.
The best example for this point is Peyton Manning, who despite playing at the highest level any quarterback ever had was considered a postseason liability. This reputation still dogs Manning, and I'm not here to say it isn't true -- even with his Super Bowl win in 2007. What I am here to say is that Manning proved good enough to win it all.
Dalton is not Peyton Manning, but he could be Eli, or Flacco.
Dalton is in a class of quarterbacks that is good enough for good seasons, unless winning the Super Bowl is your only definition of a good season, and if it is, I say he makes you eligible. Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo do too. If I had those guys, I'd keep them unless an obviously better option comes along.
In Buffalo we've been saying for years how lacking the Bills have been at QB. When you're below average, it's easy for people to say that. When you're above average, like Cincinnati is, but not excellent, it's tougher.