Back in 2011, an unnamed coach told Peter King that one of quarterback Andy Dalton’s red flags was his red hair.
“Has there ever been a red-headed quarterback in the NFL who’s really done well?” the coach wondered. “It sounds idiotic, but is there any way that could be a factor? We’ve wondered.”
In a league where teams are divided between those that have franchise quarterbacks and those that are looking for a franchise quarterback, the time for wondering about Dalton arguably has ended. Based on his performance in three straight playoff losses, he’s not a franchise quarterback.
Franchise quarterbacks don’t throw two interceptions and lose a fumble and get beat by 17 points at home on a cold day in January against a West Coast team.
And so it could be time for the Bengals to look for a new quarterback, one who could become the team’s next Kenny Anderson or Boomer Esiason. With options in free agency limited (and potentially expensive), the best alternative could be the draft.
This could be the year to do it. Dalton’s contract applies for one more season at a very reasonable rate. The Bengals could target another quarterback and let Dalton and the rookie battle it out in 2014.
Finances also could be a factor. Franchise quarterbacks eventually will be paid that way, and there’s a benefit to the Bengals in having a guy who is good but not great. Now that Dalton can be signed to a new contract, the Bengals could offer him a long-term deal premised on a trio of postseason failures, allowing them to keep their guy for a lot less than what the Ravens had to pay Joe Flacco only weeks after he won the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
That’s the factor that can’t be overlooked in Cincinnati, where it may be in the estimation of owner Mike Brown sufficient to simply be competitive. Despite no playoff wins since January 1991, the Bengals continue to thrive financially. For Brown and the Bengals, perhaps it’s good enough if the Bengals are simply good enough.