Mike Brown was a good enough college quarterback at Dartmouth to be mentioned in the pages of Sports Illustrated in October of 1956, but he is reluctant to share his thoughts on where Andy Dalton needs to get better in his third season.
“I’m an old quarterback and I like to pretend that I never threw a ball that didn’t go exactly where it should have,” joked Brown. “But I know how lousy I really was, so maybe I should shut up on this one.”
While the Bengals president chooses to avoid providing a detailed critique of his current QB, it’s hard to find a preview of the 2013 team that doesn’t focus on Dalton’s room for improvement. For example, on Tuesday morning the headline on ESPN.com’s AFC North Blog read “Make or Break Year For Andy Dalton?”
“I think that Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback and I guess there has to be something to talk about,” Brown told me. “If you’re a quarterback in this league, people are going to question everything you do in every game that you play.
“I know this; we were good enough to get to the playoffs for two years in a row with Andy Dalton as our quarterback and that is saying a lot. Do I expect him to get better? I do. I expect him to get better and I think he expects to get better. He’ll have more experience, maybe he’ll be able to make certain throws a bit better – we’ll find out. He’s our quarterback. He’s a good leader, he’s a solid passer, and I’m glad that we have him.”
Brown has been studying quarterback play since he was 11 years old when his father became head coach of the Cleveland Browns. This week at the Bengals annual preseason media luncheon, I asked Mike to share some thoughts on the greatest quarterbacks he’s been associated with in Cleveland and Cincinnati.
“He was the greatest quarterback ever in my book,” said Brown. “Otto had an intuitive sense about him. He made plays when they needed to be made. He took that team to the league championship game in ten straight years. They rode his back all the way. He was very athletic – he played in the NBA as a guard. His throwing motion was not pretty. The ball didn’t come off his hand in a dead spiral consistently, yet he found the open guy and made plays. He anticipated and made things happen that weren’t drawn up. If I had a quarterback to pick in all of the time that I’ve watched pro football, he would be the one that I would put at the top of my list.”
“Kenny was very accurate,” said Brown. “His throwing statistics are better than most of the quarterbacks that are in the Hall of Fame. It’s an injustice that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. I think if you were listing who was the most important player in Bengals history, Kenny would be the one.”
“Boomer was a powerful passer,” said Brown. “He was up-and-down some. Sometimes when the ball left his hand, I’m not sure that even he knew where it might be going. What he had that set him apart was leadership. The players believed in him and he made them better.”
“Carson was a beautiful thrower,” said Brown. “He could throw the deep pass as well – or better – than anyone I ever saw. I used to enjoy just watching him in practice. Things happened here that weren’t all in his control and some things didn’t work out the way that we wished. That weighed him down and he decided to go where he thought the grass was greener. I liked him personally and I still like him personally. I wish he hadn’t done what he did, but we bounced back from it and I wish him well.”
After running through that list, I asked Brown if he sees any of those traits in Dalton.
“Andy is different in style from Boomer, but he has that same leadership quality about him,” Brown told me. “The players like him and they respond to him. As a passer, I don’t know that he would rank at the top, but he doesn’t rank at the bottom either. He ranks with the good ones that we’ve had. His future has to play out. We’ll see – he might surprise some of his critics.”
Does Mike Brown think that Andy Dalton will be the Bengals quarterback for the next 10 years?
“Right now, I’m planning that he will be,” said Brown.
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