Fay: Don't believe headlines -- Dalton's still the Bengals' guy

Posted at 6:46 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-18 18:54:19-04

CINCINNATI -- If the Bengals are about to make a quarterback change and bench Andy Dalton, they've kept it from the heir apparent.

"Andy's our quarterback," backup AJ McCarron said Monday.

The Bengals were back to work after offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired on Friday. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Sunday night that Dalton was on a short leash.

That's despite Marvin Lewis saying Thursday that Dalton was still his guy after the 13-9 loss to Houston and reiterating that statement Friday. Florio even tossed Colin Kaeperneck's name out there, saying some players would like to see that.

Maybe those players could drop that into Mike Brown's suggestion box. Brown bringing in Kaepernick is about as likely as Brown renaming Paul Brown Stadium to Art Modell Stadium.

Dalton hadn't heard the report and seemed a little miffed -- in a Dalton sort of way -- to have to deal with it.

"Anyone can create a headline," Dalton said. "I can only worry about the guys on this team."

Some of the prominent guys in the locker room say they have Dalton's back.

"We're staying behind Andy," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said.

McCarren is probably the least comfortable with the talk of a quarterback controversy.

"Andy knows our relationship," McCarren said. "I don't think Andy ever has to worry about it. We don't let those things get between me and him. It's part of sports in general. That's what make sports so popular. There's always someone wanting this guy to play.

"He's our quarterback. It sucks for me to see because of my relationship with him. People booing him. Do think he wants to have tipped balls for interceptions? Has he worked his whole life for that?

"Be a fan of who's playing. We're a team. We're not divided."

If you follow simple logic, it's hard to imagine Dalton is any danger of losing this job any time soon. Brown rarely makes coaching changes during the season. The fact that he fired Zampese -- or at the very least approved the firing -- tells you that he saw play-calling and the offensive scheme as part of the problem.

If Brown and Lewis thought Dalton was the problem, they could have benched him in favor of McCarron.

Dalton was still dealing with the news that Zampese had been let go.

"It's a tough situation," he said. "It's part of this business I've never had to experience. Zamp has meant a lot to me. He's been here my whole time -- first as my quarterback coach, then as coordinator. We've had a lot of experience together. He was my foundation of my career because he had me from the start. I can't thank him enough for all he's done for me."

But Dalton and the Bengals are moving forward behind new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They're one practice into the new regime. They're gauging how different thing will be under Lazor, who was the quarterback coach before his Friday promotion.

Dalton isn't the type of quarterback to demand certain plays be called.

"It comes down to relationship with me and Marvin, with me and Bill, try to find a way to change what we've been doing to get the production," he said. "That's the biggest thing. There may be changes. There may not be changes at all. It's production business."

The Bengals have not scored a touchdown in the first two games, so the solution is simple in one way.

"We have to score," he said. "We have to score touchdowns. That's the easy answer. I don't think anyone cares how it's done. We want to put our best effort forward."

Lazor says one of the things he emphasizes is getting his quarterback in rhythm. Dalton seconded that.

"Absolutely," Dalton said. "Any time you can get in a rhythm, you feel like you can play better and you see things easier. If that's his goal, that's my goal, too.

Dalton has had little time to operate. The offensive line has really struggled. The top-rated starter, by Pro Football Focus, is left guard Clint Boling. He's rated as the 52nd best guard in the NFL.

So adjusting the game plan to allow him time might be the answer.

Kapernick definitely isn't.