At long last, the up-and-coming Cincinnati Bengals have exorcised old playoff demons this winter, by ending the league's longest playoff win drought during the wild-card round and also clinching a spot in the AFC championship game for the first time since 1988.
These achievements were merely dreams for the organization a decade ago. Although former quarterback Andy Dalton led the Bengals to five consecutive playoff appearances from 2011-2015, their runs were short-lived, as they lost in the wild-card round each time. Dalton failed to lift the team to new heights, and former Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones believes those 2010s squads would've been better off with backup A.J. McCarron under center.
"Andy was a good quarterback, but he wasn't 'that guy,' if I can say it like that. There's a lot of decent quarterbacks around the league, but when it comes to playoff time, things get a little tighter," Jones told The DA Show on Thursday. "We made the playoffs five times, so you're telling me we were undisciplined five times and made the playoffs five times? So, that doesn't add up. If you go back, of all five of them when I'm in there, the point is, the quarterback.
"When Andy got hurt [in 2016] and we went with A.J. McCarron, we should've never turned it back to Andy. McCarron was hot at that time. He was young, we had a good defense, he didn't turn the football over. His career ended up getting a little wishy-washy after that... You can always say coulda, shoulda, woulda. But personally, when I look back in hindsight, we should've stuck with A.J. after the Red Rifle got hurt."
Dalton, who served as the Chicago Bears' backup quarterback this season, was taken 35th overall by the Bengals in the 2011 draft. The three-time Pro Bowler spent nine years as their starter, amassing 31,954 passing yards and 204 touchdowns across 133 games. But, in Dalton's four postseason starts, the offense averaged 10.7 points, and he committed eight total turnovers.
As for McCarron -- who was a 2014 fifth-round pick from Alabama -- his career never took off. Although he completed 23 of 41 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one pick in the Bengals' 2016 wild-card loss, he's started just one NFL game since -- a meaningless Week 17 game for the Houston Texans in 2019. The 31-year-old suffered a season-ending knee injury last August, and was placed on the Atlanta Falcons' injured reserve.
The entire Bengals conversation between Jones and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.