Andy Dalton got a visit Friday from a name from the past and present.
Norman Julius Esiason visited Paul Brown Stadium Friday, whisked in and out within the hour like a head of state.
Just long enough to tape a segment with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton to air Sunday on The NFL Today on CBS. Just long enough to cement that franchise quarterback bond with Dalton a few weeks after he reached out to him following the 2.0 of Cleveland.
Only four men have quarterbacked the Bengals into the postseason and Boomer Esiason, the Blond Bomber, and Andy Dalton, the Red Rifle, make up 50 percent of that heady group.
"I had to remind him that he's done what no other Bengals quarterback has done,' Esiason said on the way out the door. "Three straight playoffs, man. I say that's a hell of an accomplishment for this franchise, given the division they're in. And the quarterbacks they're playing. Sometimes people forget just how good it is. This a hell of an era right now."
Think of it.
Esiason, a NFL MVP and four-time Pro Bowler, in Cincinnati, was barely .500 in his 123 Bengals starts at 62-61. Ken Anderson, who should be in the Hall of Fame with his four NFL passing titles, post-season accuracy records, and an MVP of his own, had a winning percentage of .529. Dalton, in first place again at the top of the stretch, is at .642, according to Elias, the fifth best winning percentage in the active NFL behind only the Super Bowl Mount Rushmore of Tom Brady (.773), Peyton Manning (.698), Aaron Rodgers (.677), and Ben Roethlisberger (.662).
"If they can win this Sunday and keep moving forward and finally get to that playoff win," Esiason said, 'but the problem is they're in a conference that has a lot of pretty damn good quarterbacks and the division, in particular."
Esiason watched the Cleveland game last month and hurt with Dalton. He felt the frustration of throws getting away, some lack of communication, how the torrent of failure didn't let up, and he made sure he got a hold of Dalton a few days later to tell him some things.
"I told him it's OK for you to get mad. It's OK to deliver a stern message to a coach or a player as long as you do it the right way professionally and in a way people are going to respect you," Esiason said. "But it's your team, your life, your name in the headlines. Good, bad, or indifferent. That's the responsibility we have as quarterbacks. I just wanted to let him know. It's OK. You're going to have a bad game, and then he comes back and responds with a great game, which is a very important trait and the great ones have it."
In his phone call, Esiason told Dalton to look at New England's Brady, and how he turned around that Monday Night debacle in Kanas City into Patriot lore.
"Not just how he responded to it in a press conference, but how he responded to it on the field," Esiason recalled. "The next game out there was against you guys and if you saw him on the sideline against you, you understand exactly the personality trait that you need to really exude to your teammates. I've always felt the quarterback is the engine that makes the whole thing run. The head coach sets the tone and the quarterback has to bring the energy."
Basically, Esiason told him, it's OK. "It's OK for a young kid like Andy Dalton to show some emotion and get angry,' he said. "That's all. And to let him know we've all been there. We've all failed. We've all had our moments. The most important thing is, which he obviously has, is the attribute to forget."
Esiason thinks Dalton has what it takes to win and last a long time. He loved how he came back from the flu last Sunday in Tampa and was able to joke with him about his bad first half. Talk about being able to forget.
"Man," Esiason told him Friday, "you were making all the Bengals fans throw up right along with you."
Esiason shakes his head. It's so hard nowadays. Twitter. The blogs. The deafening drone of talking heads like himself. He laughed thinking about the 1985-86 Boomer Esiason on Twitter.
"It's hard enough for me now and I'm 53 years old. I can't imagine me on Twitter at 24 and 25," he said. "I feel bad for these young quarterbacks. It's easy for these guys to get down on themselves. I see it every week. Not just Andy. It could be Cam Newton. It could be RG III."
He recalled when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco took heat for not getting them over the hump. Esiason remembered safety Ed Reed making an "innocuous,' Joe Flacco comment and Flacco finally said something like, when we win, it's about the defense or something else, when we lose it's about me. That's B.S.
"Then what happened?" Esiason asked of what was then a Super Bowl title. "Maybe it will take a little bit of that for him."
He thinks Dalton is going to be OK. He likes the Bengals this week against the Steelers in a track meet. He thinks Dalton can outduel Big Ben against a Steelers defense that has been giving up yards.
"He's a good kid. I think he cares and you know what?"
Esiason asked. "In this day and age, in this league, in this world, half the battle is having one of these kids that really gives a crap."