While the Cincinnati Bengals are still in a holding pattern as it concerns their next head coach because their man is currently preparing to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the team still has to make decisions in the meantime. They are starting to build a staff around Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor before he can officially ‘arrive’.
The Bengals have very nearly cleaned house for him, giving the boot to the majority of their coaching staff and ridding themselves of much of the Marvin Lewis era. It wouldn’t be surprising if we see something of a roster purge of ‘Lewis players’ later in the offseason.
One of the most critical decisions Taylor will face as a head coach, or at least one he will likely have strong influence in, is whether or not Andy Dalton is ‘the guy’ at quarterback. The eight-year veteran has gone to the playoffs five times, but is 0-5 in those games and though he has had injuries since then, Cincinnati has had a losing season in three straight years.
Dalton, a 2011 second-round pick, was an immediate starter whose job was made much easier thanks to A.J. Green, who was drafted in the first round of that same class. He signed a long-term extension a few years ago, but the terms were team-friendly. He has two years left on his contract, but they could cut him with no dead money.
In other words, unlike most teams with ‘franchise quarterbacks’, they are not financially tied to him. He signed a six-year extension, for a seven-year period, and signing bonuses can only be spread over five years, so they are free of the dead money in these final two years.
Director of player personnel Duke Tobin said recently, “we’re very comfortable with Andy. We think he’s got a number of years left. We feel like we can win with him”. however, he added that they will not throw away their draft board at any one position “just because we’re satisfied with what we have”.
You do if you’re a team that has an Andrew Luck or a Jared Goff. You don’t if you’re the Bengals. Because he has always been a placeholder. He’s good enough to win games, but not the big games. The Bengals certainly could go after a quarterback in this draft class—or in the next.
A lot of that could depend on Zac Taylor once he gets into the building. He worked with Goff this past season, and he’ll have a lot of say about how the organization views Dalton. If he thinks he can work with him, that might be enough.
In 11 games during the 2018 season, Dalton threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, completing 226 of 365 passes for 2566 yards. His best season came in 2015 when he threw 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 13 games.