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Dueling QBs do it their way

Posted Sep 13, 2013

Ken Anderson hasn't seen anything yet that has turned the page on "The Art of Quarterbacking."


Andy Dalton

Ken Anderson, who bequeathed his No. 14 to Andy Dalton and coached Ben Roethlisberger, may be flipping the coin to start Monday's Bengals-Steelers slugfest (8:40 p.m.-ESPN, Cincinnati's Channel 5) at Paul Brown Stadium. But he hasn't seen anything yet that has turned the page on "The Art of Quarterbacking."

That's the book Anderson authored in the mid-80s during the final seasons of his pinpoint career that helped put Cincinnati on the map and should eventually put him in Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now as his game veers from the turn-of-the-century on the jets of the read option and pistol formation, Anderson is steadfast.

"I think the principles and mechanics of the position are still the same," Anderson says. "You have to make quick decisions and throw the ball quickly and accurately and you have to have good footwork."

Staying power means a lot to Anderson, still staying powerfully at age 64. Still doing good deeds in Cincinnati after he was named NFL Man of the Year 38 years ago, he's preparing for Monday's mega-street festival free and open to the public to help raise funds for the Ken Anderson Community for Adults Living with Autism. After kicking off last season with a bash at Fountain Square, he's setting off the home schedule with a huge tailgate shutting down The Banks from 4 p.m.-kickoff, where guests can buy food and beverages while listening to a pair of bands, Cincinnati's Foxy Shazam and Nashville's  D. Vincent and the Death Valley Wreckers.

"We had 5,000 people at Fountain Square the first time, so it will be interesting to see how we do in our second year," Anderson says.

If the event is anything like the new Ken Anderson Academic All-American Club that was just christened last Saturday at his alma mater of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., Anderson won't have to worry.

"It's a brick building," Anderson says, "so I think it's going to stay for a while."

The Augustana ceremony rated enough in Bengaldom that for the first time in recent memory, club president Mike Brown didn't travel with the team to its game. He caught up with it Saturday night in Chicago after attending the ceremony for the man he routinely calls the most important player in Bengals history.

Not the best. That honor is for Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz. But the most important because of the position he played, steering the Baby Bengals to maturity in the playoff runs of '73 and '75 before leading them into the Super Bowl in their 14th season by, of course, No. 14.

When Dalton was drafted, he requested the No. 14 because he's always worn it, not knowing it had been off limits to Bengals quarterbacks since Anderson retired the year before Dalton was born. The always affable Anderson said it was fine by him, but also telling him he better be good. He was kidding, but not much.

Anderson, who coached NFL quarterbacks one season longer than he was one (17 years), has been watching. He couldn't watch Dalton last Sunday, but he liked what he heard from his old Bengals roommate Dave Lapham as he listened to the radio call on the drive back from Rock Island.

"The first interception was a bad play, but the next one, A.J. (Green) should have caught it," Anderson says. "The thing that was encouraging, the thing that everybody was concerned about is getting the ball down the field and he did that several times. I thought that was pretty impressive that when you have touchdown drives of 97, 91 and 80 (yards), you're doing a lot of things well."

How many times did Anderson hear he was washed up before he was named the NFL's MVP in 1981? So he shakes his head when he hears people saying this is Dalton's make-or-break year in his third season. Anderson think Dalton has held up the jersey pretty well.

"I think if you would have said he was going to come in as a second-round draft choice and in his first two years take the team to the playoffs, everybody would have said you can't do better than that and that's exactly what he's done," Anderson says. "But I think he'll be better this year."

The battle of The Red Baron vs. Big Ben sounds like something out of World War I, but the huge contrasts reflect Anderson's belief that quarterbacking isn't going to stray far from its roots. Dalton is the counterpunching welterweight bobbing and weaving on the ropes as he piles up points with quick, accurate completions. Roethlisberger is the heavyweight bruiser, warding off sacks with his strength while muscling bombs and big plays through and over the defense.

Anderson was more Baron and than Ben and it should be recalled that when he set the NFL record hitting 20 of 22 passes in a 1974 game, the 90.91 percent came against the Steelers. Dalton set his career best last Sunday at 78.8 and even if Green held on to the one ball it still would have been miles away at 81.8.

Anderson coached Roethlisberger for three seasons and in one of those years he won a Super Bowl ring and in another he racked up his career-best passer rating.

"He's a fantastic quarterback ... an elite," Anderson says. "He doesn't get the recognition of a lot of guys because he doesn't have the gaudy stats of Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Tom Brady. But this guy is a great player and a winner.

"No. 1, his size and mobility. He's as good as there is at extending plays and finding people in the passing game. We all know what a tough guy he is to bring down and he elevates everybody that plays with him. There's a lot of big quarterbacks playing nowadays, but it's the mobility to go along with his size. He's got great arm strength, he's shown he's very accurate in the pocket, but the plays he makes outside the pocket are special."

Roethlisberger may have gotten Anderson a ring with his unconventional play while the read-option crowd of Kaepernick and Wilson and Chip Kelly's hurry-up offense are clamoring to redefine NFL offenses. But Anderson, who retired as the most accurate passer in a game, season and postseason, says art is still art. He thinks teams can win with a traditional passer like Dalton.

"But he's still got mobility. I would classify him more traditional than the read-option guys, certainly," he says. "I don't think you have to look any further than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning to see you can have tremendous success without great mobility. I think more the trend nowadays is the quarterback has to have some mobility. You don't need to run the read-option, but you need to have some mobility."

No read-option here. Straight up, Bengals-Steelers, Anderson is always rooting for the Bengals. After all, he's got a grandbaby going to PBS wearing a tiny Anderson classic Bengals jersey.

He's also got Dalton's No. 14 back. How many times did Anderson hear it was his make-or-break year? Or that the Bengals would only go as far as he took them?

"I think what he has to show is the graph is continuing to go up, which I think it will," Anderson says. "They say that about a lot of quarterbacks. But you've got to have the pieces around you for a quarterback to be successful. I think (Tyler) Eifert, getting the running back this year (Giovani Bernard), they've got one of the great weapons in A.J. Green, they've got a very solid offensive line. So I think they've got the pieces around (Dalton) for his development to continue. He's a real smart quarterback that's accurate. That's what you've got to be."

If you want to have some staying power.

 

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