There seems to be a groundswell of support building for Andy Dalton to take the first snap of the 2011 season. I think it’s insane. Here’s why:
First off, Dalton is making a giant leap in terms of competition. Yes, TCU played some big-time teams like Wisconsin, but they also played several others like New Mexico and San Diego State. So it would be wise if the Bengals gave him time to adjust to the speed and size of the average NFL player. Especially, since quarterback starts are usually one-time deals, meaning once a quarterback starts, you don’t want to ever relegate him to the bench again.
Secondly, the success rate for quarterbacks seems to improve with the amount of time a quarterback is given to develop. Aaron Rodgers had to sit for multiple years behind Brett Favre. Then, he won a Super Bowl. Tom Brady followed a similar path. Sure, there are some exceptions like Ben Roethlisberger, but Roethlisberger had an exceptional supporting cast. And Cincinnati can’t quite provide that.
Thirdly, there’s the lockout issue. Unless Dalton somehow snuck a playbook out of the Bengals’ offices, he has no idea what scheme new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will be running. Adjusting to the NFL is hard enough, but it’s going to be even worse this year with a shortened offseason and perhaps fewer practices to work with. It not a healthy environment for developing a rookie quarterback, who needs to develop timing and comfort with his new receivers.
And finally, the schedule starts with two away games – and they’re winnable ones. Cincinnati opens at Cleveland and then at Denver. You don’t want to place a rookie quarterback in a hostile environment if you don’t have to. In addition, the Browns and Broncos might be bad enough to lose a game to Jordan Palmer or Dan LeFevour. Why not give the team a chance to win an early game and see what happens with the rest of the season?
To me, Dalton’s selection gives the Bengals a compromise they can use with Carson Palmer. Have Palmer come back for one more year while Dalton learns and develops. Then next year, Palmer can walk away if he wants. But if Palmer doesn’t return, the Bengals should keep Dalton on the sidelines for as long as they can. There’s no need to rush him onto the field unprepared for what he’ll face, prone to becoming the next David Klinger or Akili Smith.
Give him time.