Before he became the long-time radio voice of Monday Night Football, Boomer Esiason was the franchise quarterback of the Bengals and never hesitated to weigh on the state of club. So this week before he arrived at Paul Brown Stadium to call his old team's Monday night game against the Steelers, he did it again.
And despite the 5-6 record and the uncertainty, he thinks the Bengals' future is fine.
"There's a lot of questions surrounding this team, the future of this team and where this team is headed," Esiason said earlier this week, noting that it is the last year of head coach Marvin Lewis' deal. "But I think most people will tell you that it's a pretty good roster. That there is a lot to work with there.
"And the future should be bright. Especially if they get those young wide receivers on the same page. And of course (running backs) Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, although I don't know what his long-term prospects are there. But there's a lot to like there."
And he thinks Andy Dalton is "a really good quarterback," but he says it may be time for the Bengals to adopt a Patriotic approach and look at how New England supports quarterback Tom Brady with a bevy of role players like former Bengals running back Rex Burkhead.
The one thing he doesn't like is the number of catches A.J. Green gets. His 53 catches for 809 yards simply aren't enough.
"A.J. Green should have 100 catches every year. Mail it in," said Esiason of a guy that's never had 100 catches. "Antonio Brown gets the ball. Julio Jones gets the ball. Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) gets the ball. Every week he has to get the ball in his hands. He's one of the premier players in the league and he's extremely underused."
Esiason's point is that Brown has 126 targets and 80 catches and Jones has 66 catches on 107 targets while Green has his 53 catches on 91 targets. Gronkowski, a tight end, has fewer targets (85), but more catches (55) and yards (849).
Esiason stopped by the Bengals news conference room a couple of hours before kickoff and offered a prime-time endorsement of Dalton to the local media before he was even asked.
"I'm bullish on Andy Dalton, by the way," Esiason said. "Sometimes I think Andy gets down on himself and I want to shake him. 'You're better than this. You're a good player. This should be your team. No questions asked.'"
Esiason doesn't think Dalton shies away from the leadership role. Indeed, he watches Dalton on the field and the sidelines and can see how much he is into it and wants to do well. But he's also been there.
"Sometimes you have to fight temptation," Esiason said. "When you get beat up and you're not running the ball effectively and you're asked to do more at times, it's hard to always deliver."
But No. 7 will take No. 14.
"I tell you what," Esiason said. "I could win with that guy. I know he's always going to be there. I know he's always going to see the right tone. He's a winning quarterback in this league."