When I have watched the Cincinnati Bengals, I am terrified by people who think Brian Hoyer or as recently as last week, thought Jason Campbell was worth starting perhaps next year as the answer at quarterback. Andy Dalton in his first 8 games this season, threw for 16 touchdowns against 7 interceptions including a three game stretch where he threw for 11 touchdowns. If Hoyer had that type of stretch, fans of the Cleveland Browns would be hailing him as the answer and want to sign him to an insane contract with some in the media suggesting he is an elite quarterback. The problem is that Dalton is not the answer for the Bengals and while Hoyer has only had two games, that looks like a similar arc to where his career would go. In addition to the fact that would not be good enough to win the Super Bowl, it also would put the Browns in an incredibly awkward situation like it has with the Bengals.
Andy Dalton is not a bad quarterback. The problem is that he is not a great quarterback either and the Bengals have an incredibly stacked offense. When he is good, the Bengals are a dominant football team that can play with and beat anyone. When he is not, like he was today, the Bengals can still win but he is clearly holding them back. The Bengals are good enough where Dalton threw 8 interceptions in the last three weeks and the Bengals were 1-2 with both losses coming in overtime.
The Bengals are likely going to win the AFC North which is going to make it extremely difficult to make the difficult, but necessary move to try to find the eventual replacement for Dalton. That does not mean they need to cut him next year, but they do need to find someone to develop and groom behind him. If they do not, they wake up in a couple years with a number of these incredibly talented players gone to other teams and no Super Bowl to show for it; much like the Houston Texans appear to be doing. Andre Johnson has been so dominant throughout his career but now he appears to getting close to the end and he has never had a great quarterback. He has put up numbers, but his career has been somewhat squandered by the Texans. The Bengals could be in a similar situation with A.J. Green.
Dalton gets too much credit for the success of the Bengals like A.J. McCarron does for Alabama. He is a fine passer and has some tools that make him a great fit for the Tide, but there are a ton of more talented quarterbacks in college football that could be doing more than McCarron does with that offense. They are both operating in turnkey offenses that are really talented and they just have to make them operate. They do not have to elevate them. They just need to facilitate and avoid getting in the way.
It is difficult to get rid of an average but productive quarterback because the team is winning. It could be painfully clear that quarterback is not built to win a Super Bowl like Dalton and Matt Schaub short of a Joe Flacco type run in the playoffs or the improbable Trent Dilfer scenario.
The other problem is that when a team has a quarterback that can win enough to get to the playoffs but not win in the playoffs, their team’s draft position is extremely low making it more difficult to get a quarterback. That does not mean it cannot be done, but it just makes the job more difficult.
So while it may be tempting to say the Browns should just run with Hoyer, who is coming off an ACL tear which is risky in itself, along with Campbell, there is a huge amount of risk in it. Hoyer may end up better than Dalton. In the first game between the Browns and Bengals when both played, I thought Hoyer was the better quarterback, but it is imperative that the Browns draft a quarterback in the first two rounds and preferably round one.
It is unclear where the Browns will end up picking and they have to make a good pick, but if a quality quarterback is available in the first or second round, they have to make that pick. They can potentially sit them behind and develop and Hoyer should certainly have his shot to compete, but it is not only risky but even irresponsible not to address the quarterback position with someone that can be a franchise quarterback.
The questions of who will be a discussion that comes up more in the process, though I have made it pretty clear I am a huge Derek Carr booster, there are other quarterbacks that could potentially be developed to do the job and not one of them is named Johnny Manziel. The bottom line is that Andy Dalton, Matt Schaub and (in my mind) Brian Hoyer scare me. Hoyer has a ton of questions still to be answered like the wind, weather, and cold. His arm strength is average. There is a lot to like but I am not putting all of my eggs in his basket. For me, I want a guy that people can point to and there is no debate. He is the guy and the right guy to lead the Browns to a Super Bowl (still not Manziel). Easier said than done, but that is where they have to go; better than bad is not good enough in my opinion. And until they have that guy, they do not and need to work to get them.