The Cincinnati Bengals mustered up a 2-14 record in his first season as head coach, so it’s understandable that for second-year leader Zac Taylor, he has one overarching criterion that he is seeking for his quarterback. As he told the Cincinnati Enquirer recently, he first and foremost simply wants somebody who is a winner.
Andy Dalton is the closest thing that the franchise has had to a winner in some time. He has gone 72-61-2 over the course of his nine seasons. In his first five seasons, however, he led the Bengals to a 50-26-1 record, averaging 10 wins per season. Over the past four years, in the games he has started, they are 20-35-1.
The former second-round pick has one year remaining on his contract, but he also has no dead money charge if the organization decides to part with him in one way or another, whether through trade or a straight release. He was benched briefly last season in favor of rookie Ryan Finley before being reinstalled.
Now that they have the first-overall pick, however, it’s widely anticipated that the Bengals will be drafting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who just completed an undefeated season while throwing more touchdown passes than anybody else in college football history.
While down at the Senior Bowl, Taylor was asked what traits he looks for in a quarterback. “A guy that elevates his teammates, accurate, has the best understanding of the playbook of anyone on the roster and a winner”, he said. “I want a winner, that’s it”.
Presumably, being a winner would entail winning in the playoffs as well. The last time the Bengals have won a playoff game was on January 6, 1991, so if they should not only reach the postseason but also win a game, it would mark roughly 30 years, perhaps even to the day, since their last postseason victory.
While the quarterback position is necessarily the most critical on any roster, it’s not a cure-all for every problem. Even the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers have missed the postseason with Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, after all. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their share of disappointments even when Ben Roethlisberger is fully healthy, as he was in 2018.
Bringing a ‘winner’ into a locker room can help to facilitate a widespread culture change, however, something that is desperately needed in Cincinnati. Even as they continue to play coy with their ultimate plans, it would still be nothing short of stunning if they somehow do not draft Burrow in a few months’ time.