How often do you hear it said? “Quarterbacks get too much of the credit for wins and too much of the blame for losses.” No matter how often guy like Cris Collinsworth remind us, we are still eager to heap the praise and the criticism on one guy.
There is no denying that Andy Dalton’s play was rough in the final quarter of the season, culminating in an offensive stink bomb in Houston that would make Orkin proud. But I have to concur with my compadre Eric’s assessment that Andy has taken more than his fair share of the blame for the offense’s late-season woes.
From my vantage point, here is where the blame ought to lie.
1) The Offensive Line. I say it all the time: the game is won in the trenches. And this year, the line struggled mightily in pass protection. Much of that had to do with Whitworth playing a bit gimpy and Cook being brought back from a significant foot injury when perhaps he shouldn’t have. In 2011, Football Outsiders ranked them 4th in pass protection. In 2012, that ranking tumbled all the way to 28th, giving up nearly double the amount of sacks from the year before. So, yeah, they had plenty to do it.
2) Jay Gruden. The guy leapfrogged from the UFL all the way to NFL offensive coordinator, and we are still seeing evidence of the learning curve. His decision to “get other guys involved” and basically ignore his best player TWICE was sophomoric. His plays often lacked misdirection, timeliness and creativity. When we have a good idea from our couches what is coming, you bet your booty the defense on the field does too. And that ain’t good.
3) Andy Dalton. His game still has room to grow on several levels. Not hitting receivers in stride is a big pet peeve for me. He settled the questions from last off-season about his arm strength, but the accuracy of his deep ball is lacking. With the consistent instability of the pocket, he did not show the decisiveness or patience I’d prefer to see. I think all of these will improve if/when the line returns to its previous pass-blocking form.
4) Lack of a second receiver. Waiting for Jermaine Gresham to be come that guy is starting to seem futile. I’ll have more to say on this in the days to come.
Again, I am not exonerating Dalton from blame for how the offense struggled in 2012. But I am not going to put nearly as much blame as talk radio and the Twitterverse is, either. However, I do want to see a big step forward from him in 2013. Third year guys are not going to get the slack that younger guys do.