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The three-time Pro Bowler said the Bengals, who entered Monday’s game 5-6, have plenty of talented players and said they have drafted well in recent years, noting “whatever they decide to do coaching wise … there’s a real opportunity here to be a real competitive team.”
He went on to describe how strong of a quarterback Andy Dalton is but said he needs a “Sean McVay type” coach in his life, speaking of the Rams coach guiding Jared Goff to an impressive season.
“Sometimes you’re in a situation that just kind of gets stale,” Esiason said. “If that’s happening here, (Dalton) would know that. You’d love to see a new-found energy around this team because that’s what it’s going to end up taking. Maybe (Monday is) the start of that, who knows? If they win, they come back to work together, they come back to work tomorrow and it’s a whole different mindset. If they lose, unfortunately, and they struggle on offense, they’re going to be back in that hole that they’ve been in for predominantly a big part of this year.”
Esiason said the offense’s struggles have a lot to do with the changes on the offensive line, which lost Andrew Whitworth to the Rams and Kevin Zeitler to the Browns in free agency.
The Bengals were successful during Esiason’s time in large part because of the offensive line anchored by Anthony Munoz, which also helped his Esiason’s confidence. Esiason played for the Bengals from 1984-92 and in 1997, going 62-61 over 10 seasons, and he was named the league MVP in 1988, despite losing Super Bowl XXIII to the 49ers the year after the strike season.
“I also think there has to be an attitude about wanting to win and believing you can win,” Esiason said. “When you lose to good teams and you are struggling on offense, your confidence ends up going.”
Dalton deserves some of the blame for the offense’s struggles, too, Esiason said.
“We deserve our share of criticism when it comes, when it’s realistic,” he said. “I think sometimes fans tend to be unrealistic and aren’t understanding what the quarterbacks are dealing with in terms of his environment. He can also make his environment better. …
“I’ll just say, I think Andy gets down on himself, that’s just me watching from afar. I just want to shake him and say, ‘You’re better than this. You’re a good player. You should be the leader of this team. This should be your team, there should be no questions about that. You have to assume that mantle.’ Some guys are uncomfortable with that. I don’t think that Andy is, I sense when I watch him on the field and on the sideline, that he’s really into it and he wants to do well, but, you know, you’ve got to fight temptation sometimes. When you get beat up and you’re not running the ball effectively, sometimes it’s hard to live with that each and every week. I’m telling you, I could win with that guy. I know he’s always going to be there, he’s always going to set the right example and he’s a winning quarterback in this league.”