The Bengals made that Deadline Deal Tuesday.
Except it was Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s decision to bench quarterback Andy Dalton in exchange for rookie Ryan Finley as the team heads into the bye week. Dalton, the winningest quarterback in Bengals history, saw his nine-season run end on his 32nd birthday after the Bengals failed to score 20 points for the sixth time this season in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Rams at Wembley Stadium. Finley's first start comes against the Ravens Nov. 10 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Dalton has been saddled with an injury-riddled group at offensive line and wide receiver and has been forced to throw a NFL-high 338 passes. But he’s got a career-low 79.2 passer rating and his 60.4 completion percentage is the third lowest of his career. He’s also on pace to take a career-high 58 sacks and after Sunday’s game he talked about finding that thin line between trust and holding on to the ball.
Dalton hasn’t been sharp this season, but he also hasn’t had a lot of help. The Bengals have the NFL’s lowest ranked run game and he’s never had his top target this season. A.J. Green’s loss was compounded by the loss of their fastest receiver when John Ross went down in the fourth game.
Not much has gone right for Dalton since Dec. 13, 2015, when he was leading the Bengals to their fifth straight post-appearance in his first five seasons. At that point he was 50-25-1. But he broke his thumb against the Steelers that day and is 18-32-1 since under three different offensive coordinators in four seasons he didn’t have Green for what amounted to 22 games. He also didn’t have Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert for 29 of them.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor indicated at his Tuesday's news conference that he realized Dalton was taking a hit he didn't deserve.
“The hard thing now is when you’re 0-8 and you made that switch because the quarterback is the problem and that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Taylor said. “He’s done a lot things to keep us going here and he’s spent a lot of time and effort and energy into getting us a win and it hasn’t happened and it’s unfortunate because he’s represented the franchise the right way over the last nine years and he’s done everything you would ask in that regard. Not an easy day. Not an easy conversation."
It's also not common in Bengaldom. The last time the Bengals switched starting quarterbacks during the season for non-injury reasons was 17 years ago, when head coach Dick LeBeau turned to Jon Kitna for the last 12 games of the 2002 season. Finley, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State, becomes the first Bengals rookie quarterback whose first NFL start comes at home since David Klingler 27 years ago against the Steelers at Riverfront Stadium. Taylor said he won't talk about next year, but he did indicate Finley won't have a short leash as they try to find out what they have in him.
"Our objective is to win the next game," Taylor said. "We need to see a rookie. It takes more than one game to figure out what we have there. We’ll give him a chance to do that.”
Dalton tied Ken Anderson for the Bengals career touchdown lead when he threw his 197th against the Rams. The record, a nine-yarder to wide receiver Auden Tate, was overturned with 14 seconds left.