‘I Am Going to be Here for a Long Time’
CINCINNATI — It’s getting cold in The Queen City, but the Bengals turned up the heat last weekend with a 27-24 victory over the Ravens to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North. After the team’s Thursday morning walk-through practice, The MMQB caught up with quarterback Andy Dalton, who last Sunday capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to top the division rival. The fourth-year pro, who was awarded with a $115 million contract extension this offseason, has been the face of the franchise’s highs and lows the past few seasons. As he donned a white Bengals baseball cap, he made clear that he’s keeping his focus looking forward.
VRENTAS: What’s the secret to a successful quarterback sneak? You seem to have it down.
DALTON: Do whatever you can to keep your legs moving. That’s just what it comes down to. It’s really more the guys up front than me. Whenever we call it, we have been successful. The way the Ravens lined up [on the game-winning touchdown], I thought it was going to be a good look. After getting the snap, I had the initial surge, and then everybody came in and gave me a good push at the end. Got in. But as soon as we lined up, I thought it was going to work.
VRENTAS: We’re now three years removed from the 2011 draft. You and Colin Kaepernick were taken with picks 35 and 36 and have been to the playoffs. Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were taken eight, 10, 12 that year. Ever wonder why they haven’t had the same success?
DALTON: It’s all about coming into a good situation. Colin and I both came to good places that kind of fit us well. You always kind of wonder, What would it have been like if things would have been different in that first round? If either Colin or I had gone there, what would have happened? But I wasn’t too worried about it. You always hear, “You want to get drafted as high as you can.” But it’s not how high you get drafted, it’s about going to the right place, and that’s definitely what happened for me.
VRENTAS: What did scouts miss about TCU quarterback Andy Dalton?
DALTON: When you get into the draft, height is one thing. And you see some of these bigger conference guys tend to go earlier. It’s just part of it. Obviously I felt like I could play with anybody, any of those guys.
VRENTAS: How was this offseason for you after losing to San Diego in the playoffs?
DALTON: You had an opportunity, and you didn’t take advantage of it, so it was tough. But you have to move past it. The best thing that we can do is get back to the playoffs and win a playoff game, so we can put all that other stuff behind us, those three losses before. That’s the goal of this team: get back to the playoffs and be playing our best once we are there. And it’s not just about one playoff win. That’s the one thing everybody talks about, “Yeah, they haven’t won in the playoffs.” But if you win one game and lose the next, you are sitting at home just like you are if you lose the first one. The goal is to really make a run at it.
VRENTAS: Do you think it’s fair that many people judge you more for the three playoff losses rather than all of the regular season wins?
DALTON: That’s the one thing I haven’t done yet, is to win in the playoffs, so they have the right to say it. But there are a lot of really good quarterbacks in this league that didn’t start off winning a bunch of playoff games. You even look at Peyton [Manning], he’s a guy who didn’t win his first three playoff games. You go back and look at guys, and you see what they did, and I feel like I am right there with everybody. I still feel like I have had a lot of success here.
VRENTAS: What’s the biggest difference between playing for Hue Jackson, your new offensive coordinator, versus Jay Gruden, your old one?
DALTON: Their styles. They way they are. Hue is more aggressive, in your face. He lets his point be known, whereas Jay is more laidback. That’s the biggest difference. With Hue and I, as soon as he got the job, we have had a good relationship. There’s a lot of give and take there, a lot of asking what I like. His big thing is about doing everything quick, whether it is the speed of your drop, the way you run routes, whatever it might be. The way his offense is, and the way you practice, it’s about the drop, getting back quickly, and seeing the field as quickly as you can. He has definitely pushed me to be a better player.
VRENTAS: Has Hue’s in-your-face approach rubbed off on you at all?
DALTON: There are times when I speak up a little bit more. I am still me, but in certain situations that go on in games, whether it be an important drive that we’ve got to have, or if things aren’t going the way we don’t want them to, I’ll say something. At that point late in the Ravens game, I was just telling everybody, I have confidence that we are going to go down there and score. And it worked.
VRENTAS: Has your confidence changed since the organization invested in you, literally, this offseason?
DALTON: Since I have been here, I feel like everyone has had confidence in me. Signing the contract was just letting everybody else know the organization has confidence in me. I’m still the starting quarterback. I’m still the guy that is leading this team. Now I just know I am going to be here for a long time.