Boomer Esiason has got Andy Dalton beat on most every number in their first 34 starts. But not in wins (they're tied with 20) and playoff appearances (Dalton 2-0), so Esiason doesn't want to hear about this third season being Dalton's make-or-break.
"No, no. He's been in the playoffs the first two years," Esiason said just before Monday night's game. "To play this position in this city, you understand what that means."
Esiason huddled up with a few familiar Cincinnati media members before going on the air for the WestwoodOne Radio Network, among them Bengals Network Radio Network analyst Dave Lapham. He came off as an unabashed Dalton fan. Really, still an all-out Bengals fan.
The only upset of the night? Lapham called Esiason "The Blond Bombshell" just twice.
"(Dalton) eats, sleeps and drinks the position, the game of football," Esiason said. "That's something you can't teach. Either they have it or they have it. I'm not sure Carson (Palmer) had that.
"This kid seems like a fresh face. What I love most about that is he has taken on the responsibility of being the quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals and taken it on in my estimation better than most."
Dalton has certainly done it comparably to a guy like Esiason, a franchise quarterback before he became a franchise announcer. They both went 20-14 in their first 34 starts:
Esiason: 545-951 passing for 57.3 percent, 7,655 yards with 52 TDs and 31 INTs.
Dalton: 680-1,122 passing for 60.6 percent, 7,629 yards with 50 TDs, 31 INTs.
Esiason must have liked what he called. Dalton didn't have great numbers Monday night, but Esiason won plenty of big games without scintillating stats.
"To me for Andy Dalton it's a very important night," he said. "They haven't beaten the Steelers here in this building the last three times. They have the better team. He's got to have a really solid game, no turnovers."
Dalton didn't have a turnover, but Esiason was also looking down the road and thinks it's a bright one.
"This organization is more stable now than it ever has been before," Esiason said. "They've got really good young players, the coach ain't going anywhere, they have a quarterback they can build on.
"There's no reason for the Bengals as a young football team to be intimidated by anyone anymore, especially (the Steelers)."
You get the sense that Esiason wonders what might have been for the '86 Bengals or the '89 Bengals, two clubs that didn't make the playoffs despite gifted offenses, if they had this defense.
"This franchise has always been an offensive franchise," he said. "When you think about it you think of the no-huddle, Isaac Curtis, the great Kenny Anderson. Anthony Muñoz. ... Now when I think of the Bengals the last couple of years, I think defense. Geno Atkins is the man."
Esiason also must have had a premonition before rookie running back Giovani Bernard's first two NFL touchdowns, one on a James Brooksian 27-yard catch-and-dash. Esiason never respected a teammate more than James Robert Brooks, he of four Pro Bowls, 37 rushing touchdowns and 27 receiving touchdowns.
"Giovani Bernard reminds me of James Brooks," Esiason said. "They want him to be Ray Rice. Maybe he can become Ray Rice in today's world. I just want him to become James Brooks."
He's 27 yards closer as The Blond Bombshell keeps pulling for the Red Rifle.