As it turns out, there may be unintended consequences to benching your former franchise quarterback and replacing him with an entirely unproven rookie when you’re the new sheriff in town and want to get a long look at ‘your guy’. The rest of the guys are still not yours.
Halfway through a winless season, at 0-8, first-year Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor made the decision to send veteran Pro Bowl quarterback Andy Dalton to the bench. The reason? He wants to get an extended look at rookie Ryan Finley, whom Taylor drafted in the fourth round.
Dalton, who had been having a relatively good season numbers-wise, at least prior to an uptick in interceptions, has one year remaining on his contract, but that year does not include any guaranteed money, so the Bengals would not accrue any dead money should they release or trade him, which at this point seems inevitable.
While Finley is starting, however, the offense hasn’t been moving the ball very well, and particularly through the air. And the Bengals have invested heavily in the wide receiver position over the course of the past decade with two first-round picks and a second-round pick.
Both of those first-round picks are currently sidelined and have barely played this year, but that has simply left the second-rounder, Tyler Boyd, with greater responsibility. Or at least he would if he were being given opportunities.
Despite the fact that he is clearly the number one receiver with A.J. Green and John Ross not on the field, Finley only found him once on three targets in the Bengals’ last game, for zero yards. He did catch six of eight passes in his direction the game before that, but for 62 yards.
“I feel like I’m the go-to guy with A.J. down”, Boyd said after the Bengals’ last game. “I felt like [my] targets were not where they should have been. I feel that I’m a game-changer and I could have utilized my talents in any way to move the chains, and nothing was coming my way”.
Taylor was asked about these remarks during his pre-game press conference earlier this week. “I would understand that frustration”, he said. “Tyler and I talk the next day about all of that stuff. We’re all on the same page. We’re all in a good place. We’re all understanding that we’re trying to win. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get that done”.
While they may be trying to win, pragmatically, it won’t do them any good, because they have already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing they are risking is their draft positioning. At 0-10, they currently are poised to have the first-overall pick, but Washington is 1-9.