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Anderson, Dalton by the number


The latter day No. 14.

For the first time since Andy Dalton asked the Bengals for No. 14, he'll share the Paul Brown Stadium stage with the man they asked if he could wear it.

When the Bengals open their season Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Ravens, Ken Anderson leads the first group of legends to be honored during each home game of the club's 50th season. He says now what he said then when the Bengals asked him that day back in 2011.

A visual look at the 2017 Bengals roster.

"What do you say?" Anderson asks. "I would have preferred that they didn't. They asked me and I said, 'Well, go back and tell him he can have the number. But he better play really dang good. He's been playing pretty dang good, by the way."

They have become fans of each other even though they started from scratch six years ago. After Dalton made the request to wear the number he has worn in every sport he played growing up in Katy, Texas, and as the Texas Christian quarterback, he began to hear he may not get it. It seems it had not been worn since a man named Ken Anderson retired the year Dalton was born and the Bengals wanted to make sure their all-time leading passer would be OK with it being pulled out of mothballs.

"That was the first thing I knew (about him). He let me wear 14," Dalton says. "I'm kind of surprised the organization and he let me wear it. I'm thankful because I've always worn 14."

He wore 14 because his father wore it when he was quarterbacking Houston's Memorial High School. "That's what they assigned me," says Greg Dalton, a Houston attorney. "I was actually a defensive guy until my senior year. Somebody got hurt and they said, 'Dalton, you're the backup now. Then the starter quit.''

Small world. Anderson was assigned No. 14 playing a little bit of everything at Augustana College before they made him a quarterback.  Back in high school at Batavia High School in Illinois, he had two numbers, 32 and 12, depending on what color jersey. When he arrived in Cincinnati in the third round in 1971, he would have taken 114.

"Are you kidding?" Anderson asks. "When you come from Augustana, you don't ask for anything."


The original No. 14 in Super Bowl XVI. (Note roommate No. 62 Dave Lapham.)

But other than that, there's not a lot of difference sitting between these historical bookends in the Bengals' archives, Anderson and Dalton. Unassuming, down-to-earth, cautious with words, accurate with passes, and coolly brilliant at the line of scrimmage.   Both deeply committed to the community in which they play and to the pursuit of The Big One.

It's tough to compare the numbers after 93 starts because it was such a different game. Remember, they were drafted 40 years apart. Dalton has thrown nearly 1,000 more passes. But how about this? Dalton averages 7.26 yards per pass and Anderson 7.23.

And, there's this. After 93 starts both of them are taking the heat and were taking heat for not winning a post-season game. Dalton is in his seventh season with two AFC North titles and five post-season berths to his credit with a 56-35-2 record in the regular season and a 0-4 record in the postseason.

By the time Anderson started his 93rd game, he was in his eighth season and had two NFL passing titles to go along with two AFC Central titles and a record as a regular-season starter an eerily similar 52-41. And 0-2 in the postseason.


*                     (Elias, through 93 starts)*

Dalton: 3,060 attempts-1,920 completions, 62.7%,  22,214 yards,  142 TDs, 81 interceptions. 89.1 passer rating

Anderson: 2,153 attempts-1,221 completions,  56%, 16,676 yards, 104 TDs, 87 interceptions, 78.4 passer rating

Criticism? Heat? Anderson got it all before Dalton.

"They drafted my replacement in the first round," says Anderson of the 1979 draft the Bengals took Jack Thompson with the third pick.

And then, of course, Anderson had two more NFL passing titles and two more postseasons in him, not to mention an NFL MVP trophy and an AFC championship. Anderson doesn't have so much advice for Dalton, but a history lesson.

"It's a team thing. It's not just the quarterback," Anderson says. "It's the defense. Its special teams. Its guys making a play. If you'd said you got a second-rounder from TCU and you're going to go to the playoffs five out of the first six years, you take that right now and all that other stuff comes later."

It did for Anderson at age 32. Dalton turns 30 the day they host Indianapolis on Oct. 29 and the more he hears about Anderson, the more he likes him. Greg Dalton actually remembers watching Anderson against the Oilers.

"I remember. He was very good. He would lead the league in completion percentage," Greg Dalton says.

Andy Dalton found out a few more things about Anderson this week. Like he won four of those league passing titles and was named a NFL Man of the Year for his work in the community. When he retired he held the record for completion percentage in a game, a season, and post-season career.

"I know he's on the fringe of the Hall of Fame," Dalton says.  "I've gotten to know him some when he's popped his head in here and said hello. He looks like a really fun guy to be around. I know he led the league multiple times, but not four. That's really impressive by anybody.

"I know when I see him, a lot of times he's here for a charity event and we talk about his foundation and what he's doing," Dalton says. "I know that's a big part of who he is. He's a Man of the Year, so he's respected across the league for doing that … We have casual conversations. What he's doing, family."


Ken Anderson (left) with his favorite target, Isaac Curtis.

Anderson knows Dalton, too, has been active in Cincinnati affairs, with the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation focusing on providing opportunities, support, resources, and life-changing experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families.

They even have a common thread, there. The Ken Anderson Alliance creates live, work, and play opportunities for adults living with developmental disabilities.  After the opener, Anderson is taking some of the legends with him to "The Boathouse Post Game Party,"  Sunday night at Montgomery Inn and for a $100 you can hear all the stories.

 "He and his wife have been instrumental in a lot of great things," Anderson says. "He's been great for the city and I'm very proud of him … He's a great, great man and he's doing great things in the community and I'm glad he's wearing the number."

When Anderson, 68, talks Bengals, he still says "We," and "Us." Why not? He spent 25 years here as a player and a coach. He spends most of his time these days in Hilton Head golfing and landscaping and on many Sundays he heads to the nearest Bengals bar. But the alliance, grand kids, and wife Cristy's family in northern Kentucky bring him back often enough that he and Dalton have an easy rapport.

A few weeks ago Anderson brought his four-year-old grandson Henry down to training camp and he noticed that Dalton made a point to come over and say hello. While he got acquainted with Henry, his backup Andy Dalton, a guy Anderson tutored when he was coming out of Alabama, also came over.

"The most exciting thing was when Mike Brown gave him a football," Anderson says of the Bengals president. "That was the highlight of the day."

 Henry doesn't know the significance yet of chatting up the two quarterbacks yet, but his grandfather did.

"I really like those two guys," Anderson says.  

Here's what Anderson's coaching eye sees:

"It's been fun to watch him progress year after year. They always say about the quarterback, can he operate the offense? He's at the point where he can carry an offense. He's got tremendous weapons around him now … He's playing really good football. He's making good decisions. He's getting the ball out quick. He's not taking sacks. There have been some changes on the offensive line, but the Bengals have anticipated that with some high draft choices. I think if the line holds up and we run the ball a little bit this year I think we can be an explosive offense.

"I felt bad for him a couple of years ago. He was having a great year when he hurt his hand. I think we would have had a deep run into the playoffs that year … You listen to the people broadcasting games and he was in the discussion for MVP of the league. He was having that kind of year. I think that was a key year for him. He got over the hump and he was the one who was the key point of the offense at that point."

Dalton hasn't seen tape of Anderson's 1981 MVP season, or any film of him for that matter.

"It's just not that easy to go get film from (40 years) ago," Dalton says. "I'm sure 20 years from now it will easier to watch stuff from now."

Maybe he hasn't seen film, but he found out quickly how big No. 14 looms. Even when he got drafted. Maybe he didn't know Anderson or that he wore it. But he knew it was a big number in the city. After all that, he still wanted it. Never mind the pressure.

"I always wore it in every sport, except when it wasn't available," Dalton says. "I know what No. 14 means to the Bengals and to the city with Pete Rose over there with the Reds. When you wear it, you want to wear it proudly and do it right and make the other people who wore it feel like it's well represented."

As far as Anderson's concerned, he's done all that.

"I tell people he's wearing No. 14, their uniforms are a little more fancy. We wore pretty basic uniforms," Anderson says. "I'm glad Andy is wearing it."

Dalton knows he may get a call, too, one day.

"He can have it," Dalton says. "If Kenny can let me wear it, I'll let the next guy wear it."

Go behind the scenes as the Bengals take their team photos.

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