Andy Dalton: Can Red Rifle Be Cincinnati Bengals' Franchise QB?

Matt GrayContributor IMay 23, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Bengals won 24-17.(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Given NFL Films producer Greg Cosell's assertion that the Bengals are concerned about Andy Dalton's arm strength, it's worth considering whether the "Red-Rifle" is really the long-term answer under center.

Roto World reported Cosell as having told the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"I think there’s a sense right now, for a lot of people, that Dalton’s on his way toward being a great quarterback. I can tell you that those in the Bengals’ organization have a few doubts as to what his true upside is. Because at the end of the day, while I think Dalton is a good player, I think — not I think, I know — that he’s got some arm strength limitations...And there’s some things that they’re not comfortable doing with him."

That being said, you have to wonder to what extent this testimony is colored by Cosell's dislike for Dalton. Back to before the draft, Cosell called Dalton a "fourth-round talent" and that "he doesn't throw it very well."

Since this news came out, both Jay Gruden and Dalton himself have refuted Cosell's claims, with the OC telling the Cincinnati Enquirer, "I have no reservations about [Andy's] arm strength. I think he can do it all."

The talent level of the NFL's 32 starting QBs is a never-ending source of debate among pundits and fans alike, and clearly as seen above, Dalton is no exception.

However, it would be true to say that Dalton did not enter the league with the same fanfare as the likes of Sam Bradford, Cam Newton or Andrew Luck, and that expectations for him reflect that.

Dalton may not be a franchise quarterback in the sense that those aforementioned players are, but does he need to be? I mean, Trent Dilfer has a Super Bowl ring!

Only last year, T.J. Yates and Tim Tebow won playoff games. Alex Smith and the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship and Joe Flacco and the Ravens made it to the AFC title game.

Dalton has a wealth of weapons in Cincinnati following the draft and a solid free agency period. Not only that, but he has a full offseason in which to get to know them, and also to grow as a leader and as a player.

While he tries to improve his long ball this offseason, it won't dramatically effect the Bengals game plan either way. The long ball will come into play once or twice a game, and it will continue to be directed at A.J. Green.

Dalton is a good decision-maker, a great game manager and a proven winner. His NFL career is very much in its infancy and it's still too early for pundits like Cosell to start writing him off.

Pundits will continue to write off non-superstar QBs as they do not fit the mould of the franchise QB. However, whether it's bad for the game or not, the honest truth is that the quarterback isn't as essential as he used to be, and experts have a hard time admitting that about the game that they love.

Dalton may not have all the tools to play QB in the NFL, but he has the essential ones. With a solid team around him improving with every day, there is no reason to believe that he can't do enough to contend for a championship in the coming years.