Andy Dalton Era Officially Begins for Cincinnati Bengals

Oliver VanDervoort@bovandyCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20:  Andy Dalton attends the NFL PLAYERS Premiere League Flag Football Game at UCLA on May 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Now that the official depth chart for the Cincinnati Bengals has rookie quarterback Andy Dalton listed as No.1, we can really start ratcheting up the spotlight. 

With the Bengals and Carson Palmer's relationship unrepairable and Bruce Gradkowski as a less than impressive backup, it looks as though Dalton will be the man when the regular season actually opens up. That in and of itself is quite noteworthy.

Many Bengals remember the names of a few much heralded high draft picks who were supposed to be the next Boomer Esiason or Ken Anderson and god knows from here on out any rookie quarterback who can't pull his own weight will forever be called the next David Klingler or Akili Smith. 

But what most Bengals fans may not realize is that if and when Dalton does step on that field and takes the first snap of the Bengals regular season he will be the first rookie since Greg Cook in 1969 to do so. That's not exactly something that bodes well for Dalton since Cook led that iteration of the Bengals to a 4-9-1 record and made just three pass attempts in his entire career after that season.

So will Andy Dalton be the next Greg Cook? 

Probably not.

By all accounts Dalton has both the mental makeup and the physical skills to be a pretty good quarterback in the NFL. One of the reasons that the Bengals are apparently pretty confident that Dalton can handle the snaps right from the get-go is because this kind of a scenario is really nothing new for him. 

Andy Dalton has never really known any other role but as the starting quarterback going all the way back to his freshman season at TCU. Dalton was handed the reigns to the Horned Frogs attack in 2007 and led them to an 8-5 record despite not putting up eye popping numbers. 

The freshman did complete 59.8 percent of his passes, but actually had more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (10) while running for another 232 yards and five more TDs. After his freshman season, Dalton never threw double digit interceptions again but it wasn't until his junior and senior years that he really started putting up eye popping numbers.

When his college career was over, Dalton finished with over 10,000 yards passing, completed 61.7 percent of his passes and had 71 touchdown passes compared to just 30 interceptions. 

Dalton also managed to run for 1,611 yards and 22 touchdowns. Do any of those numbers mean that Dalton can be the next Boomer, or Ken or even Palmer?  Certainly not definitively. 

You'll remember that even Carson, who was a much more heralded pick when he was selected from USC, was given a year to sit the bench and watch how the NFL works.

If Dalton wants to avoid being the next Klingler or Akili he needs to remember two things:

  1. The Bengals aren't going to be very good this year, so treat it as a learning experience
  2. He needs to play within himself.

If Dalton can simply attempt to improve on a week to week basis, not try to save a team that has some serious talent deficiencies in important areas and not attempt to be the next Peyton Manning right off the bat, he could be ready for a long and successful career.