CINCINNATI – The Queen City might have said goodbye to Andy Dalton.
The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback ended the game Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium the way most signal callers prefer, by taking a knee and letting the clock run out with a victory.
In then end, Dalton led the Bengals to a 33-23 win over Cleveland (6-10) in the less-than-anticipated Battle of Ohio.
“I wasn’t thinking about my whole career,” Dalton said when asked about the last few plays of the game. “It wasn’t a flashing moment. But I get that those could be the last couple of snaps I play in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform. What a better way to do it – if it’s the case, but I have no idea what’s going to happen.”
Dalton, who has been under center since 2011 has one year left on his contract but was benched for three games during the regular season, as the Ryan Finley experiment failed.
That could have sent a message to Dalton that the team might be looking to draft a quarterback in the off-season.
“It’s not the end of my career, but I do want to play for a team where I can start,” Dalton added. “Obviously a lot of our lives have been here in Cincinnati. Again. I don’t know what going to happen.”
During his tenure as a Bengal, Dalton has thrown for 31,594 yards, 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions. He has an overall passer rating of 87.5 and has completed 62 percent of his passes. But the elephant in the room is he has not guided them to a single playoff win.
The Bengals finished the season 2-14 and did not win a game on the road.
Joe Mixon was another bright spot for the Bengals on Sunday as he rushed for 162 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns. Dalton passed for 190 yards on a 16 of 28 performance and dove into the end zone for a touchdown.
This is the fourth straight losing season Cincinnati fans have endured and they have not witnessed a playoff game victory since Jan. 8, 1989.
Fans do appreciate Dalton, and he left the field to chants of “Andy, Andy, Andy,” from the rain-soaked crowd at the Jungle.
“That means a lot,” Dalton added. “There has been a lot of support from the city, not only for what we’ve done on the field but off the field too. The city has meant a lot to us, my family. It feels good to get the appreciation.”
The Bengals have the first selection in the NFL draft. There is Ohio State’s defensive sensation Chase Young, and there is also the quarterback from Louisiana State and Ohio native Joe Burrow, the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner.
This past weekend, Burrow threw for 493 yards and had seven touchdowns as the Tigers thumped Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.
But Cincinnati Head Coach Zac Taylor side-stepped all questions about the future. He focused on how important Dalton is to the team.
“He’s a true leader,” Taylor said. “That’s the expectation we had from him. He kept us afloat and he put us over the top today. He made some great decisions and you can’t say enough great things about what Andy Dalton has done for this team.”
In the clubhouse, the feeling was that Dalton might come back to wear the Orange and Black next year.
“I believe he’s going to end his legacy here,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “He’s the all-time leading quarterback in each category. He was the reason I became what I am. He helped me elevate my game on and off the field. Building chemistry with him. I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
Although the season did not pan out the way the Cincinnati faithful anticipated, Dalton, if he does not return to the Bengals, left the field Sunday a winner.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.