It is getting difficult to rationale that Andy Dalton will find himself in a starting quarterback position with the Bengals come next season. Although, the Cincinnati Bengals are seeded in the playoffs (thanks to a tie), if feels like there's no way Dalton can lead this team deep into the playoffs, if he can even take them there at all.
Dalton played not only one of the worst games his career, but one of the worst games in NFL history two weeks ago.
When the Bengals met the Cleveland Browns, Dalton iced an already pathetic cake and sealed his fate in a way that made Geno Smith feel pretty good about himself. Dalton completed just 10-of-33 passes for 86 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating? 2.0. He did bounce back nicely against the Saints, but his limitations are really beginning to show.
When the Bengals signed Dalton, they certainly knew he wasn't a franchise qb amongst the likes of Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady or even Jay Cutler. But, the Bengals took him for what they thought he was: a great passer who is reliable, efficient, and fits nicely into their offensive strategy.
Dalton doesn't have the offensive productivity to continue to start for the Bengals. They critically need a new starting qb. With a strong defense and elite skill players in Green, Sanu, and Bernard, the time is now for Cincinnati.
The Bengals signed quarterback Andy Dalton with a six-year, $115 million deal in August. However, only $25 million of that is guaranteed. We can't assume that the Bengals will rid of Dalton, but we can assume that they will certainly debate the idea. The way things are going for the Bengals, they either have to mortgage their future to secure a draft pick that will allow them the opportunity to select an elite college qb or pick from the sparse free agent pool.
A lot of backup quarterbacks come available in 2015. Although, none of them are ideal, there are some players who can perform well for the correct team and the right coach.
Here are ten of the top potential replacements for Andy Dalton.
10 Michael Vick
The New York Jets pretty much have to take a quarterback in the 2015 draft unless they keep Michael Vick. And, since nobody wants the Jets to ruin yet another promising career, hopefully they stick with Vick. Vick's proven he can still provide decent numbers, after suiting up in place of Geno Smith during his unfortunate on-field melt down.
The Jets are already considering keeping Vick beyond the 2014 season, according to sources. If they do ink Vick to another contract, Smith will hopefully get the chance to develop in practice without so much pressure. Furthermore, the Jets will be able to use their draft choice to supplement another position and revisit the quarterback situation the next year.
If Vick is available, he would be a safe but very short-sighted choice for the Bengals. He is 34-years-old and probably only has a season or two left. Vick is a short-term fix for a team in a desperate situation. Hopefully, the Bengals won't be that desperate.
9 Tyrod Taylor
The Baltimore Ravens' Tyrod Taylor has only played in one game so far this season. Yet, he played notably well during the Ravens preseason. Taylor deserves to play. Yet, Joe Flacco is still performing well so the Ravens aren't the place for Colin Kaepernick's workout buddy to settle long-term. Taylor will be a free agent at the end of the season and he has to leave Baltimore for the sake of his career.
Taylor has completed 19 of 35 career passes for 199 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 47.2 quarterback rating. But, he's barely played. His opportunity to shine has been limited with the Ravens. Yet, Taylor's spent a couple of years in the league learning, practicing, and proving he belongs in the NFL, so he's a safer than a draft choice qb.
Even in preseason, Taylor proved himself to have the mind set of a starter. He told reporters, "you have to treat the job as if you're coming in to be the starter. I've always had the mindset as far as my work ethic."
In his preseason performances, Taylor completed 64 percent of his throws for three touchdowns and two interception with an 84.3 quarterback rating in four games. He also rushed for 124 yards on a fifteen carries.
Taylor is not the "start him and immediately change the franchise quarterback," as any team that takes him will have some work to do. But, he's a solid option with plenty of potential long-term.
8 Bryce Petty
Baylor's fifth-year senior quarterback is quickly morphing into a promising draft selection for teams on the quarterback hunt. Petty's a rich selection who will probably still be available later in the draft. Some analysts have even placed Petty as a second day pick.
He occasionally shows signs of inconsistency, which is slightly worrisome since quarterbacks often struggle to transition from college to the NFL. Regardless, Petty is a Heisman Trophy candidate and led Baylor to its first conference title since 1980.
Petty has great NFL size at 6'3", 230 lbs with speed and the arm strength to throw deep, even though, his foot work isn't great. Baylor's system has worked very well for Petty. Transitioning out of that will be difficult. Petty has already been called a system quarterback, which scares a lot of teams away.
Bengals' coach, Marvin Lewis isn't necessarily scared of system quarterbacks so Petty's potential with the Bengals could be bright. If they want to wait a couple more years with Dalton, they could groom Petty to inevitably succeed him.
7 Blaine Gabbert
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert has taken a lot of criticism throughout his career for things that aren't necessarily his fault. Gabbert was in no way ready to start the 14 games that he did during his rookie season. That's not his fault. He was 22-years-old. He found himself as the number one qb in Jacksonville, lacking decent receivers in a system that didn't suit his playing style. Again, not his fault.
In 2012, Gabbert finally looked like he belonged in the game and had several high-points. However, he was torn apart, completely left at the mercy of each and every team's defense. Guess what? Not his fault. Injuries have been major setbacks for Gabbert but they would be for anyone who played through what he did. Not his fault.
He's still very young and has a lot left to offer.
Gabbert's time in Jacksonville has plagued his career. The Jaguars knew that he wasn't ready and that he would be exposed, but they didn't have a better option because their starter was injured. So, they sacrificed Gabbert.
Jacksonville, like the New York Jets, has destroyed players who went on to excel in other systems.
Gabbert is very mobile and a decent but inconsistent passer because he takes risks. Even though many people still think that he isn't even fit to back up Colin Kaepernick, Marvin Lewis could definitely do something with Gabbert.
6 Christian Ponder
Even Christian Ponder knows that his return to the Minnesota Vikings isn't a likely possibility, telling reporters that he had "no idea" whether or not he will return to Minnesota next season.
There have been rumours that the Vikings have wanted to trade Ponder since training camp but then elected to keep him as injury insurance.
The Vikings moved Ponder to third string quarterback, electing to start rookie Teddy Bridgewater instead of him when Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending knee injury last month.
Ponder's 2013 season was pretty bad, but under things have gotten far worse under the Vikings new offensive coaching staff.
Yet, Ponder's horrible performance in his last two seasons means that he is available for next to nothing. Under the right Offensive Coordinator, Ponder could be a small gamble with a large payout.
5 Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston is definitely the number one college quarterback in the country. The only problem with Winston is that he's a super big risk. Neither the Bengals, nor any other team in the league, can safely select Winston due to his personal conduct. And, it's not the Johnny Manziel, "hopefully-he-doesn't-come-to-practice-covered-in-glitter-and-smelling-of-patron-and-daddy-issues-and-Drake-type, risk." It's shameful and idiotic.
Florida State's top prospect has had an extra-curricular schedule of problems and suspensions, which we don't need to dive into here.
Last season, the redshirt freshman won the Heisman, threw for 4,057 yards, 40 TDs and had just 10 picks while completing 66.9 percent of his passes. He proved himself as clutch, going 5 of 6 and driving FSU 80 yards to win with 13 ticks left in the BCS title game.
This season, he’s thrown for 2,844 yards, 18 touchdowns, and he has a 65.8 percent completion rate. Florida State is number three in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Yet, NFL agents are reportedly already sour on Winston.
Winston is arguably the number one prospect in college sports, performance wise, but he's already put himself in a position where no one wants to touch him. However, the Bengals have a history of attempting to re-mold troubled players... If he slides, the Bengals could make a play for him.
4 Mark Sanchez
The former Jets quarterback will be a free agent come season's end. However, under coach Chip Kelly, Sanchez looks like he has found his niche. The Philadelphia Eagles have given Sanchez a second life that's been mutually beneficial for both parties. Now that so many quarterbacks have fallen apart in New York, it's harder to place blame on them as individuals. It's more like that's just what happens when you play for the Jets.
Kelly has exposed the pieces that Sanchez needs to be successful. Sanchez requires a solid cast and an intelligent system that doesn't require to think too much. He needs to be able to react. Sanchez has proven that he's still capable under the right system. The Bengals' A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert could supplement Sanchez very, very nicely. Having Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill in the backfield won't hurt either.
Furthermore, during his time with the Jets, Sanchez destroyed his pull in salary negotiations, so he will likely be a very economical option come free agency. If the Eagles decided to stick with Nick Foles and Sanchez goes looking for a starting gig, this could be an easy pairing.
3 Marcus Mariota
While Marcus Mariota might not be as good as Jameis Winston, he's definitely the more secure option. Mariota is unlikely to still be on the table by the time it comes to the Bengals' pick. Although, with Dalton playing the way he is, the Bengals might move down from their current place in the standing to a more appealing number by the end of the regular season.
Outside of a miracle, the Jets will need a quarterback, as will the Tennessee Titans, the Houston Texans, and the St. Louis Rams. While the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are not in desperate need at this time. So, the Bengals will likely need to trade up for this pairing to happen.
Mariota is turning into one of the elite college prospects and is currently positioned to win the Heisman this year. He might be the type of player worth wagering the franchise's future on. If the Bengals decided to move up to pick him, they'd be wagering the next decade on his shoulders.
The 6-foot-4, 219 pound quarterback has 2,780 yards, 29 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season.
Mariota is mature, and well suited to the leadership position. Although, starting a rookie is never an ideal situation, the Bengals aren't in a position to be picky about logistics.
2 Brian Hoyer
If the Cleveland Browns' 2014 draft pick Johnny Manziel gets a real chance to play this season, and he works out well enough, the Browns will, in all likelihood, allow Brain Hoyer to enter free agency next season. The Browns selected Manziel with the intention of building their franchise around him.
Although, Hoyer has produced for the Browns, Manziel's personality and playing style, suggest he is either a bust or a franchise. Nothing about him suggests he will be the second string for long. Manziel has a chip on his shoulder, but he has shown signs of mental weakness when he plays poorly. However, the Browns will be sure to exercise all of Manziel's potential. He sells jerseys and tickets.
Even as a rookie, there were rumours that the Browns would start Manziel. Hoyer may still hold the spot for now, but he's not the Browns' franchise guy.
Hoyer has spent his season with the Browns proving he can throw the ball and cut through the wind. He has 2,542 yards this season with 11 TDs. He passed for 198 yards last week against the Bengals.
Hoyer isn't amazing but overall, he's the solid, reliable, consistent quarterback that the Bengals thought that they were getting with Dalton.
1 AJ McCarron
On August 30th, the Bengals placed the former Alabama All-American quarterback AJ McCarron on the reserve/non-football injury list.
NFL rules allow the Bengals only five weeks after the initial six-week no-practice period to evaluate McCarron's potential performance, team chemistry, etc, and decide whether to move him to the reserve/injured list, release him or allow him to begin practicing with the team. That decision must be made by November 18th.
Of course, given Dalton's performance, the chance of McCarron not being handed a practice jersey by Tuesday is slim to non-existent.
If McCarron shows even the smallest amount of promise, potential or even a pulse, he could be the guy that the Bengals decide to go with next season in place of designing a way to get a quarterback come draft time, which would result in them sacrificing in other areas.