Andy Dalton's impact on Cincinnati will be felt for years to come

Andy Dalton left an everlasting impact on the City of Cincinnati
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Andy Dalton's inevitable departure became official on Thursday afternoon. 

He spent the first nine seasons of his career in Cincinnati. He leaves the city much better than he found it. 

Dalton exits as the Bengals’ all-time leader in completions (2757), touchdown passes (204), passer rating (87.5) and 300-yard passing games (28). 

It's one thing to break records on the field, but the countless hours he's spent doing charitable deserves its' own place in Cincinnati sports history. 

Dalton and his wife Jordan created the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation after he was drafted in 2011. Since then, they've impacted the lives of over 3.8 million people.

As great as Dalton was on the field, he's been even more successful off of it. 

"There’s been a lot of support from this city, for not only what we’ve done on the field, but what we’ve done off of it,” Dalton said after what would ultimately be his final game with the Bengals, a 33-23 win over Cleveland in December. “This city’s meant a lot to me and my family. I’ve spent my whole married life here, and my three kids have been raised here. The city has meant a lot to us.”

Expectations were low for Dalton when the Bengals drafted him 35th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. They were coming off of a 4-12 season. The organization was lost after Carson Palmer briefly retired in an attempt to force a trade. 

The Bengals were dysfunctional. They needed someone to come in and offer stability at quarterback. Not many rookies are capable of doing that, but Dalton, a four-year starter at TCU, was talented and mature enough to succeed.

He led the Bengals to a 9-7 record as a rookie and started all 16 games despite missing all of OTA's and minicamp due to a lockout. 

Cincinnati snuck into the playoffs in 2011 after some suggested they could go 0-16. They made the postseason again in 2012 and 2013. 

Suddenly, expectations changed. Dalton played so well and did such a great job that everyone expected more from him and more from the Bengals. 

The playoffs weren't enough. Bengals fans wanted to see something that hasn't happened since January 6, 1991 — a postseason win.

Dalton finished 0-4 in the playoffs, despite guiding the organization to five straight playoff appearances. 

That's part of his legacy and it's a flaw that some won't be able to get past. 

He broke his thumb in 2015 against the Steelers. That was his final chance at postseason glory, but an injury kept him from playing. 

The Bengals haven't made the playoffs since. They're hoping rookie quarterback Joe Burrow can quickly turn around the team much like Dalton did in 2011. 

The Andy and JJ Dalton Foundation

The Andy and JJ Dalton Foundation is Dalton's greatest professional accomplishment. Their foundation proves support, resources and experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families. 

The foundation has changed the lives of so many people in the Greater Cincinnati area. 

The Andy and JJ Foundation has held over 40 events over the past nine years, which doesn't include countless hospital visits or the financial relief they've provided for so many families in their community. 

They hold their annual 'King for a Day' trip to King's Island every summer. This program provides families of seriously ill and physically challenged children with an all-expense-paid day at the theme park. Each attendee gets free fast lane passes, snack vouchers, foundation t-shirts and lunch. 

Other events include the 'Pass it on Fund' and 'Andy and JJ's Hub.' 

The Hub provides patients with entertainment and educational resources during their hospital stays, including iPads, computers, gaming consoles and televisions. They have seven hubs total, including one at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and one at the Redwood School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. 

Dalton's legacy in Cincinnati is much bigger than football. He had some great moments on the field. He also had to make it through some bad times on the field, including last season when he was benched for three games. Those challenges never changed the impact that his family had in the community. 

Jordan addressed the news on Instagram live before she taught a previously scheduled yoga class on Thursday.

“This is a crazy day for our family," she said holding back tears. "Right now I’m so thankful for what God is doing in our life. So thankful for what he’s done in our past. Cincinnati is a place we called home and we always will. It’s a special part of our life family.”

The Daltons have had three children over the past nine years. They've worked hard to make Cincinnati a better place. It's their home. 

There are so many moments that stand out over the past nine years. Dalton leading the Bengals back from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Seahawks in 2015 has to be near the top of that list.

No singular game had a bigger impact than the win over Baltimore on January 4, 2018. Dalton's improbable touchdown pass on 4th-and-12 to Tyler Boyd eliminated the Ravens and propelled the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Buffalo fans were overjoyed and graciously donated over $450,000 to the Andy and JJ Foundation.  

The Daltons used the money to open a technology hub in the pediatric ward at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. They also made a donation to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation's Angel Fund, which provides grants to families to help alleviate financial burdens during their battle with cancer. 

Dalton gave Bengals fans plenty to cheer about over the past nine seasons, but the impact he and his wife had on the City of Cincinnati will be felt for years to come. 

To donate to the Andy and JJ Dalton Foundation, go here.