OK, so football turned out a little better in The Heart of It All this weekend, but not by much.
Especially if you’re a quarterback.
Andy Dalton kicked things off by getting outplayed on his home field by a rookie making his first start Thursday night.
J.T. Barrett went next, playing a key role in Ohio State’s 38-7 win over Army on Saturday. The Buckeyes won comfortably — and Barrett was a big reason why — but that wasn't enough for everybody. Others were more enthralled by Dwayne Haskins’ four-pass debut than Barrett’s 302-total-yard, three-touchdown day.
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Sunday it was DeShone Kizer’s turn. The Browns rookie quarterback completed less than 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times in a 24-10 loss to the Ravens in Cleveland.
Of the three, Kizer would still seem to have the brightest future… but then again that might be mostly because we’ve seen the least of him.
I wish that were a joke, but there’s undeniably some truth in it.
Nobody knows if Kizer will ever accomplish what Dalton has (his college career was nothing compared to Barrett’s), but hope is a powerful thing.
Barrett and Dalton enjoyed their time as the cool new guy, and they have suffered slings and arrows that go with fame since. (As Braxton Miller and Carson Palmer did before them.)
Now both are in the odd situation of having strong resumes but uncertain futures.
If Dalton and Barrett were stocks, the public would sell on both, but that’s not really how this works, at least for the people in those locker rooms who have to juggle competing interests.
Pro Football Talk reported “the leash isn’t quote so long” for Dalton and some Bengals players are interested in seeing the team sign Colin Kaepernick.
The Kaepernick note should be taken with a grain of salt because PFT has been among the most egregious of his water carriers in the national media over the past year and there’s no indication how big a percentage “some” players might be.
The suggestion Dalton is losing the locker room is noteworthy as benching him and replacing him with his younger, cheaper, perhaps more confident version wouldn’t be nearly as complicated as bringing in a guy who would necessitate changing the offense, turn off some fans and still might not be any better than what they’ve got.
I’m inclined to think both Dalton and Barrett have carried their teams about as far as they can go.
I’m less certain with Barrett, though neither of them have played their best recently.
I think the ceiling is higher for the Ohio State offense with Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow at the controls, but the floor is lower, too.
Which one is more preferable?
On one hand, winning the national championship has become the only acceptable goal for a large swath of fandom ever since the BCS came into existence.
On the other…. well maybe there’s not another.
Meyer is in a tough spot because he no doubt wants to show loyalty to Barrett, the ultimate team guy who has had some big moments at important times, but he also owes the rest of the locker room the best chance to succeed.
That might still be Barrett, of course.
Either way, I guess that’s why the head coach gets the big bucks.
The Ohio State offense still needs to do a better job adjusting to the style of quarterback they have in the game, but they’ve been stuck in between doing things to complement each, so they need to commit one way or another regardless of who is calling the signals.
Were the Bengals to swap McCarron for Dalton, it would be more about restoring what has worked over the past six years and the possibility a different personality could provide a spark.
As for Kizer? I love him as a prospect, and there’s not much worry about actually winning now in Cleveland, so it would stand to reason they will be plenty patient with him.
There’s no sure thing in the NFL, but he’s got the ability to play the position and some swagger, too.