A couple of weeks ago, both Andy Dalton and Joe Burrow were on the clock, in different ways.
For Dalton, the ticking meant his time was about to expire in Cincinnati. His nine-year stint was about to come to an end.
And for Burrow, it meant the start of his professional journey as a Bengal.
For a quarterback who never guided his team to a playoff win, Dalton will be missed in Cincinnati.
The Texas Christian University product left his mark in the Queen City and was released last week by the Bengals after the team chose Burrow as the first pick in the NFL Draft.
Dalton finished his career in Cincinnati with 31,594 yards passing with 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions. He completed 62 percent of his passes and had an overall rating of 87.5, and he holds many of the franchise records as the signal caller.
Although he led the Bengals to four straight playoff appearances from 2011-2014, he could not muster up a post-season win.
However, this should not be his legacy. He should be remembered as an accurate thrower with grit and a squeaky-clean image who did his best to win. He was never in the news for misconduct. Instead, he was beloved in the community for his charity work.
When the Bengals started out the 2018 season, they were 4-1, and when I sat in the media box during each home game, there was legitimate discussion about Dalton being an MVP candidate. But injuries to key players combined with back-to-back losses quickly quieted those conversations.
This past season, Andy was frustrated at each press conferences because he had to answer questions about why the team was not winning. Any quarterback, no matter how good he is, cannot throw a touchdown pass laying on his back.
At his final presser after a win against Cleveland, he addressed the possibility that he might not return and stated he did not know the future. All he said was that he loved Cincinnati, and he wanted to be on a team where he could start.
He knew it then. He had been benched midway through the season for a few games, and all the talk was about Burrow.
It’s easy for fans who have never played the game to criticize. Every player and coach will testify that winning a single game during the season is difficult.
Dalton was always professional and friendly with me. I had the privilege to interview him one-on-one a few times over the years.
I wrote cover stories about him for Sports Spectrum and Clubhouse Magazine, a division of Focus on the Family.
He is a class act who gives back to his community. I was inspired by him to start wearing Qalo rings, instead of traditional wedding bands.
We were not best friends, but he knew who I was, and he accommodated my requests for pictures with me and copies of the books I wrote that highlighted him. His parents even penned an endorsement for one of them.
I have many great memories of Andy Dalton on and off the field. But one of my fondest was when he exited a press conference, walked by me, and noticed my Qalo ring.
He stopped in front of me, pointed at my ring, held up his fist for me to bump it, and said, “I love it,” and walked into the clubhouse.
Dalton has decided to move back home to Texas, where he will play for the Dallas Cowboys. Dak Prescot is not a lock at starting quarterback, and Dalton could find himself on football’s biggest stage again playing for America’s Team.
If things don’t change in Cincinnati, Burrow will have the same experience Dalton did. The Heisman Trophy winner from Athens, Ohio will have to run for his life and try to throw on the run to escape the defensive linemen who will be on top of him before he knows it. How will the fans react then? Many criticized Dalton because he was under pressure a lot. If the same thing happens to Burrow, will they be as vocal?
I’m happy Andy will have a chance to compete and win back in the Lone Star State. And I’m looking forward to covering Burrow and watching his career in the NFL begin.
The clock is ticking.
Well done, Andy. You left a good legacy.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and covers the Bengals for the Portsmouth Daily Times.