At 8-4, life is good for the Cincinnati Bengals.
A big matchup with the Indianapolis Colts looms, but a loss will do little to dent the Bengals’ playoff hopes.
But after being bounced from the playoffs two years in a row by the Houston Texans, what’s next for the Bengals?
Well that’s largely up to Andy Dalton.
Winning a playoff game will go a long way towards solidifying his position. So far, the red-haired quarterback has had a wildly erratic 2013 season, and his performances have led many to question whether he is holding the team back.
However, a cursory glance at Twitter on a Sunday afternoon will tell you that Dalton still has many supporters and, hey, they may well be right. Dalton is yet to miss the playoffs. But is that cause enough for the Bengals to commit to him any longer?
Are we only giving him a pass because of the barren decades that preceded him? The Bengals shouldn’t just be content with Dalton on the basis that "Hey, well, remember how bad we were though?"
There was speculation last year that the Bengals might draft a contingency quarterback, and they did meet with Chiefs back-up Tyler Bray. They didn’t pull the trigger, but they clearly considered it. Whether or not he ever would have supplanted Dalton is impossible to say.
So if the Bengals do the triple and tumble out of the playoffs in the Wild Card Round once again, will they change their mind?
The potential 2014 quarterback class certainly looks tempting: Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron, Tajh Boyd, Zach Mettenberger, the list goes on. Cincinnati won’t be in position to take most of those names, barring an uncharacteristic trade-up. But with needs at safety and defensive end, I wouldn’t count on that happening.
However, Marvin Lewis will be aware that the Bengals' window of opportunity won’t stay open forever.
He’s never had a more complete team in all of his years in stripes. That goes for coaching, too. He has a great coordinator in Mike Zimmer and a promising one in Jay Gruden. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is also worthy of praise.
These coaches won’t be around forever, and Lewis won’t get another chance to hit reset. If he wants to add a quarterback and saddle up for one last go-around with Zim on his side, he needs to do it soon.
Perhaps, like me, Lewis can’t even comprehend a life after Zimmer.
Perhaps, Andy Dalton will win a playoff game, and this whole article will have been for nothing.