http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/01/cincinn ... dy-dalton/
Cincinnati has reached the playoffs in three consecutive years. And in three consecutive years they’ve lost, and Dalton has been just abysmal. What else would you call seven turnovers and single touchdown in three games?
This team was too good to go out with such an underwhelming whimper. The Bengals were 11-5 this season, but 8-0 at home. Undefeated. But this loss, a 27-10 loss to a 9-7 Chargers team that probably didn’t even belong in the playoffs, will reduce the Bengals to — well the Bengals.
Cincinnati may well lament what could have been, but everywhere else this team won’t get another second’s consideration because — well, it’s Cincinnati. This season should have been more than another first round loss in the playoffs. The Bengals have experienced five of those losses under Marvin Lewis since 2003.
In fairness, Lewis came into Cincinnati and turned the Bengals around. This was a 2-14 team in 2002, the year before Lewis arrived. With him, the Bengals reached the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and then returned four more times. It was an impressive feat in 2005.
But its 2014 now, and progress has plateaued.
Dalton isn’t capable of getting the Bengals beyond the wild card game. He’s proven that not once, not twice, but three times. Lewis has failed to get over the hump five times.
“When things don’t go right, the quarterback is going to get the blame,” Dalton said. “I’m willing to take every shot at me. You’ve got to have thick skin.”
You also have to show signs of improvement. After watching Dalton throw two atrocious interceptions, it’s hard to see where that improvement will come from.
Cincinnati has to evaluate its quarterback and its coach in the offseason and ask a simple question:
Is this good enough?
If 11-5 seasons followed by one-and-done performance in the playoffs is the standard the Bengals want to set, then ride with Lewis and Dalton. But if the organization aspires to be something greater, something more, then there must be change and there must be improvement.