Analysis: The former starting QB had his moments, but his time has expired
By Will Pembroke | Staff Writer
Prior to Week 9 of the NFL season, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton got benched in favor of rookie Ryan Finley.
Dalton has been at the helm of the Cincinnati offense for eight years.
Coming in as a mid-round pick out of TCU, there wasn’t a ton of hype surrounding his prospects as a long-term option.
He ended up forming a great connection right away with the coaching staff and star receiver A.J. Green, and immediately made his mark in Cincinnati.
Despite the good he has done as a member of the Bengals organization, life in the NFL caught up to him this year. As one of the few veterans in a new offensive regime under head coach Zac Taylor, the odds Dalton was going to lead the team to any sort of a winning season were stacked against him from the get-go.
When Green, arguably the team’s best player, was carted off the field with an ankle injury just a few weeks into training camp, things began looking even worse.
The Bengals offensive line also took a hit when rookie first round pick and starting left tackle Jonah Williams went down with a season ending shoulder injury.
Although training camp setbacks made things look grim, Cincinnati nearly pulled off a road upset in Seattle versus the Seahawks during Week 1 of the regular season, backed by a career day from Dalton.
Though a missed field goal from kicker Randy Bullock ultimately sunk the team’s hopes to win, nobody expected the game to be as competitive as it was.
However, things quickly fell down to earth in a home blowout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, exposing the team’s abhorrent defensive tendencies and lack of consistency on offense.
Since then, the Bengals have continued to lose games, finding themselves sitting at 0-8 with the worst record in the NFL entering their week nine bye week.
Following an excruciating home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8, when Dalton threw three interceptions, a chorus of boos erupted from the crowd on hand at Paul Brown Stadium.
Taylor decided change was needed and as a result, Dalton was promptly benched.
His replacement, Finley, is a first-year signal caller who was drafted this year after spending three seasons as the starter at NC State.
Like Dalton, Finley was a late round selection. After having a solid preseason and eight games to become acclimated to the style of play in the NFL from the sidelines, it was time to give him a shot under center.
The results were a mixed bag in his starting debut against AFC North counterpart the Baltimore Ravens.
Finley made things happen both through the air and with his legs in the first half. However, an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown took the wind out of his sails. Ball security was an issue, as it is for most rookie quarterbacks.
Finley showed promise with his legs and with his arm. He took chances down the field on long throws and wasn’t afraid to take off and run when given a lane.
For his first game, Finley’s performance definitely could have been worse. Luckily, he will get to face a porous defense next week against the Oakland Raiders, who have given up big plays all year.
Finley’s installation as a starting quarterback for the foreseeable future will likely end the Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati.
While the Bengals’ faithful may be eager to move on from the much maligned QB, there is no doubt that he had an impact both on and off the field, through his time with the team and his service to the Cincinnati community.