In the middle of the season, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called out quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, putting the success or failure of the team squarely on their backs. As the 2012 season ended in the first round of the playoffs in Houston, it seems unlikely Maualuga will return in 2013 and there are now concerns about the limitations of Dalton, who played his worst game as a pro in the loss to the Texans.
Is Dalton the quarterback who can lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl? For now, at least, his coach is sticking by him, so that’s about all that matters.
Two days after the season-ending loss, at least two of Dalton teammates stood up for him, pledging their confidence in Dalton.
“He’s taken the Bengals to back-to-back playoffs, for the first time in what, how many years? Thirty years. He’s only in his second year and he’s doing an incredible job,” said receiver Andrew Hawkins. “Whenever you start playing, the standards get raised. Right now we’re bums for losing in the first round, where before we were bums for not making it to the playoffs. That’s how football works. We understand that. I think Andy’s an incredible quarterback. He’s going to continue to progress, continue to get better and he’s going to bring the Bengals a lot of wins and playoff wins at that, for many years to come.”
The youth tag gets thrown around a lot, but in this day and age of the NFL, that’s hardly a real excuse, not when we see what Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have done as rookies. Yes, Dalton’s helped lead his team to the playoffs, but if he doesn’t get a playoff victory next year, the team’s confidence may start to wane.
Dalton, though, says he’s confident he and the team will be back next season.
“I felt like we improved from last year,” Dalton said.
“We’ll take another step forward next year and expect to make the playoffs — not just get there but make a run at it.”
Thinking Out Loud
At this point, it appears the Bengals are more likely to lose the coordinator they can do without rather than the one they can’t. That’s a good thing for the Bengals, and a bad thing for Mike Zimmer.
If Zimmer’s last name were Gruden, we might not be having this discussion. But as it is, it is not and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is getting interviews for head coaching positions while Zimmer looks over tape to see how the team can improve next season. The one area where Gruden shines over Zimmer is the PR game. It’s one Gruden plays well and one Zimmer doesn’t play at all. If I were an owner, I’d hire Zimmer in a heartbeat, if only for the fun of watching his postgame press conferences. Zimmer is probably too straightforward and honest for most owners — he’s not going to sugarcoat anything and will usually tell you exactly how he feels, no matter the situation. He’s the type of old-school football coach that would have been hired a long time ago if not for today’s media-intensive world. And that’s a shame, not just for Zimmer, but for some football team out there that would be better with him at the helm.
Still, with the Bengals finishing 20th and 22nd in total offense in Gruden’s two years, it’s unlikely Gruden gets more than interviews. ...
I’m a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, but I am entering my ninth consecutive season as an active member and members with at least 10 years are granted the privilege and honor of voting for the Hall of Fame. I always say it’s tough to say exactly how I would have voted without a real ballot in front of me. I still vote on other things — this past year I had a National League MVP ballot — but I can tell you that the thought, preparation and responsibility I feel when I go to fill that out is much different than any hypothetical ballot I fill out in conversation or in my head. I also know that the majority of people I know who do vote (or at least are eligible) feel the same way.
There are some who just throw out names like Jack Morris because they saw him pitch one game, and even though they barely ever show up at a ballpark they’ve been able to keep their membership to voting levels. But I really believe most writers put an immense amount of time and thought into their ballots.
Is it the best way to chose the Hall of Fame? I’m not really sure, but I will say this, I’ll put the BBWAA choices for the Hall and their other votes over what we’ve seen from managers and coaches (Gold Gloves), former players (the veteran’s committee) and fans (All-Star Game voting). The BBWAA’s track record isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the other folks’ records.