With Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Matt Schaub all named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster, the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Andy Dalton has missed out on a playoff spot. However, with each of Manning, Brady and Schaub also in the playoffs, the likelihood of Dalton moving onto the roster and taking his place amongst the NFL‘s elite is arguably higher than his chances of not being in the game. Dalton was named as the AFC’s third alternate at the quarterback position, therefore if multiple quarterbacks ahead of him drop out of the game, then he will get the call.
Obviously Dalton would prefer to be preparing for the Super Bowl, but making the trip to Hawaii is a special opportunity for a second-year player. The Bengals had only two players make the original rosters of the AFC, AJ Green and Geno Atkins, but multiple others were selected as alternates including Dalton.
Pro Bowl voting is notoriously flawed, the fans are often misinformed and the coaches don’t particularly care. The very fact that Jeff Saturday can make the roster during a season when the Green Bay Packers benched him proves that. Now while the Bengals probably do only deserve to have two Pro Bowl starters in Green and Atkins, and there is little argument that many of their other options deserve to be alternates, Dalton definitely doesn’t deserve to be headed to Hawaii.
A combination of the Bengals’ record and Dalton’s individual stats have earned him a reputation deserving of the Pro Bowl, but the real question is whether he really deserves that reputation. Dalton hasn’t had a good season, despite what the statistics say and where his team sits. The Bengals are 9-6 entering the final week of the season with a playoff spot already wrapped up. Dalton has thrown 26 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, 3,591 yards and has a quarterback rating of 87.0.
Yet, Dalton has for the most part been carried by his teammates this season and has continually missed opportunities to score even more points and make bigger plays to improve their actual record. The Bengals have one of, if not the very best offensive line in the NFL with a superstar receiver, a very productive running game that sets the tone for the offense and a devouring defense. With all of those benefits, Dalton’s inability to perform at a high level on a consistent basis has been masked. He has never truly carried the offense during the good times, three winning streaks, nor has he been the one to drag the franchise out of their struggles.
Only twice all season have the Bengals won a game when Dalton has thrown over 33 passes and one of those games was the team’s most recent victory over the Steelers, when Leon Hall‘s interception returned for a touchdown was the deciding play in a 13-10 game. In fact, Dalton threw two interceptions during that game. The other was a 20-13 victory over the San Diego Chargers, when the victory was sealed by two big turnovers late on from the defense.
Unlike Andrew Luck, who has single-handedly carried the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs with consistently outstanding play that has covered the cracks of his teammates on offense and defense, Dalton isn’t that important. Luck has handled so much this season that he has made interim head coach Bruce Arians look like the coach-of-the-year. Had Luck been in Dalton’s situation, he would never have thrown the 18 interceptions. He would likely have made it onto the original Pro Bowl roster much like Robert Griffin III did. If Dalton does make it to the Pro Bowl as the third alternate, he definitely won’t deserve to be there.