Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been widely seen as the poster boy of mediocrity for quite some time. While his personal numbers have been solid (195 touchdowns and 108 interceptions in his career), those of his team have not been. Since 2016, the Bengals have been under .500 every season and currently sit at 0-5. On the other hand, Jared Goff is the face of competency, having just played in a Super Bowl. How is it possible that Goff could be the next “Andy Dalton?” If this is true, is there any reason why Rams fans should not be panicked?
Jared Goff Might Be The Next “Andy Dalton” And Why That’s Not So Bad
A Hot Start
While the Bengals have struggled mightily in recent years, Dalton’s career hasn’t always been this moribund. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, the Bengals had five consecutive years with playoff appearances, including two division titles. However, the Bengals were unable to win a single playoff game during that stretch. To this day, most of Dalton’s longest-lasting criticisms center around his lack of playoff success.
Dalton’s True Colors
Andy Dalton has been a part of both winning and losing teams for lengthy stretches of his career. However, he hasn’t been the main reason for the fluctuation. In other words, when it comes down to Dalton to lead the Bengals to a higher place in the face of adversity, he fails to do so quite often.
For example, the Bengals made the playoffs five years in a row but failed to win a single time. In the playoffs, the quarterback’s ability becomes magnified since both rosters are often closer in skill than during the regular season. Thus, when the Bengals failed to win a single playoff game, it fell on Dalton’s shoulders.
Additionally, when the Bengals fell from one of the better teams in the league to one of the worst, Dalton failed to elevate his team into a single winning season (19-28-1 from 2016-2018) and looks poised to do the same this year.
Put simply, Andy Dalton needs a lot of help around him to produce winning football and nearly a perfect roster to make a playoff push. When looking at Jared Goff’s career up to this point, many of the same themes arise.
Goff Vs. Dalton
Looking back at Goff’s career, similarities to Dalton become quite apparent. Essentially, much like Dalton, Goff has great seasons with great teams but bad performances with mediocre or bad teams. In order to further illustrate this, it would be best to look back at Goff’s career up to this point.
Jared Goff’s rookie season was one of the biggest failures in recent memory. Goff was coached by Jeff Fisher, who is often thought of as ruining both Nick Foles and Case Keenum before other teams could help repair them. When Goff finally started halfway through the season, his surrounding cast was lacking quite a bit of talent. Only running back Todd Gurley, tackle Rob Havenstein, defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, kicker Greg Zuerlein, and punter Johnny Hekker still remain with the team as starters.
Goff ended up finishing 0-7, with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. His only bright spot was a performance against the New Orleans Saints that saw him throw three touchdowns and one interception. However, the Saints defense was rather putrid that year, finishing sixth-worst overall. Put simply, the team was bad and Goff’s performances matched that.
After Goff’s rookie season from hell, the Rams moved on from Jeff Fisher, replacing him with Sean McVay. Needless to say, the upgrade was radical in nature. The existing offensive scheme was overhauled and replaced by one on the cutting edge.
Additionally, the starting lineup was largely upgraded. The Rams added players such as wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds, made tight end Tyler Higbee the starter at that position, and added offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard John Sullivan.
On defense, the Rams made some upgrades to the lineup as well, adding safety John Johnson, and moving Lamarcus Joyner from CB to Safety. Overall, the roster was immensely improved compared to the previous year. That being said, the team wasn’t exactly perfect.
Like many good-not-great teams, the Rams finished 11-5 and won their division. However, similarly to Dalton’s history in the playoffs, Goff’s team also ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs with a good roster.
In Goff’s third season, the Rams retained the same head coach, scheme, and defensive coordinator. In only their second year, the head coach and offensive scheme were still far ahead of opposing defenses. Also, the Rams upgraded their starting lineup once again with plenty of talent. For instance, on offense, they swapped out Sammy Watkins for Brandin Cooks and promoted guard Austin Blythe. On defense, the Rams used Samson Ebukam more, Cory Littleton had a great season, and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were solid upgrades from the previous year.
As a result, Goff’s nearly perfect team went 13-3 and made it to the Super Bowl, ultimately losing to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots by a score of (ironically) 13-3. In a similar fashion to Andy Dalton, when all Goff had to do to elevate his team to victory in the biggest game in sports was score 14 total points, he failed to do so.
Fourth Season Fall?
This year, Goff is in his fourth season. He has the same coach as he has had in the last two years as well as the same scheme and the same defensive coordinator. However, defenses have started to catch up to Sean McVay’s scheme and it is showing.
Also, this is the first time in Goff’s career that his surrounding teammates aren’t as good as they were the previous year. Looking at the roster, center Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom are downgrades at the moment compared to John Sullivan and Roger Saffold. Tackle Andrew Whitworth is a year older and Rob Havenstein isn’t playing as well this season. Guard Austin Blythe has been hurt and on defense, Ndamukong Suh is gone. At linebacker, the Rams have had to rely on Bryce Hager, who missed the Seahawks game and will also be missing Clay Matthews for 4-6 weeks due to a broken jaw. Additionally, Aqib Talib is a year older past 30. Finally, safety Eric Weddle could also be seen as a downgrade due to his age compared to Lamarcus Joyner, who the Rams also parted ways with during the offseason. With so many obstacles to overcome, it will ultimately fall on Jared Goff to elevate the team.
Thus far, in a similar fashion to how Andy Dalton has struggled to carry his teams to consistent wins when lacking talent, Goff is also having trouble. The Rams currently sit at 3-2 and third in the NFC West behind the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Not to mention that Seattle has already beaten the Rams this year.
Finally, Goff has seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. When football teams are struggling, it is up to the quarterback to lead the team towards victory. Much like Andy Dalton, Goff has repeatedly failed to do so as evidenced above.
Goff Vs. Dalton
In the end, both quarterbacks don’t hold back good or great rosters but they also do not elevate their teams in order to overcome difficult circumstances. In fact, if Andy Dalton had somehow found himself as the starting quarterback of the Rams in 2017 and 2018, he would be just as likely to put together the seasons like those produced by Goff. While Jared Goff might be the next Dalton, Rams fans shouldn’t see that as a reason for panic for one main reason.
Why Having An “Andy Dalton” Isn’t So Bad
As his young career has already shown, Jared Goff can be quite successful but he needs to have a good-to-perfect roster with a great coaching staff in order to do it. Luckily for Rams fans, Sean McVay and General Manager Les Snead have already shown that they can help Goff succeed much better than what Andy Dalton has had to deal with in Cincinnati.
Therefore, even if the quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams is actually the next incarnation of Andy Dalton, Goff can still have a very successful career, assuming he doesn’t have to pull winning season out of his hat like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning.
Rams fans should feel confident that the Rams have not hitched their horse to the wrong wagon, provided that the general manager adds a V8 engine to it.