GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals (left) talks with head coach Marvin Lewis (right) during the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

State of the Bengals: Not bad but not good enough

We’re still a couple of weeks from election day, but early returns for this version of the Cincinnati Bengals are not promising. 

Through six games, including four losses, the 2017 Bengals are an average team that doesn't win the turnover battle and can't block. 

Beyond that, the quarterback is not good enough to offset those things. 

In fact, Andy Dalton sometimes makes things worse, including turning the ball over himself. 

He makes far too many mistakes for a guy with his experience, and he seemed to declare “No Mas” late against the Steelers. 

Why throw the ball away on fourth down rather than try to fit the ball into coverage when an interception would have been no worse for the team? 

It's hard to blame him based on the lack of support, but isn't the quarterback supposed to be a leader? The guy who rises up be leads the team through adversity? 

That's never been Dalton. 

RELATED: Lots of (distressing) symbolism in Bengals’ loss in Pittsburgh

As after the Week 2 loss when he got outplayed by a rookie, I am left to wonder what is the point of continuing the Andy Dalton experience now. 

I don’t know if there is much physical difference between Dalton and A.J. McCarron, but I’m curious to see how the team might respond to someone else having the reins. 

The Bengals probably won't make the playoffs because of their 0-2 start, but that’s just as well. They wouldn't beat anyone in the postseason if they got there. 

The defense is good enough. The offense is not. 

But, hey, the season isn't a total loss. 

The defense got younger and better. 

Williams Jackson III has done some good things after a lost first season, and Carl Lawson has been a sensation while Nick Vigil has shown some signs. 

The offensive line is as bad as feared. That makes it hard to judge the rest of the offense. 

We've seen enough of Dalton to know what he is and what he isn't. 

Another way to get something positive out of this season would be to use it to justify putting someone else in charge. 

That goes for Dalton’s boss, too. 

I've been in Marvin Lewis’ corner all along, but at some point enough is enough. 

The Bengals appear to have no belief in themselves. 

It's hard to blame them, though. Why should they? 

I realize things can be different behind closed doors, but Dalton and Lewis do nothing publicly to exhibit anything that could be considered inspiring. 

If that’s never going to change, why would anything else? 

I’m not sure how many of the Bengals’ problems are Lewis’ fault, but there’s not much indication he has the answers for them. 

The way the Bengals lost in Pittsburgh, it’s easy to conclude there’s not much point to the rest of the season, but that’s not really true. 

There’s technically still time to turn things around even if there isn’t much reason to think that happens. 

Regardless, justifying having a job in the NFL is always part of the equation, even for teams playing out the string. 

That goes for everyone on the roster and the coaching staff. 

Maybe other good things happen as a consequence of putting jobs on the line. Maybe not. 

Doesn’t really matter. 

There’s a lot to like about this roster, but it has some fatal flaws. 

I admire the devotion to continuity — it’s served the Bengals well over the last 15 years — but now two years in a row it has let them down. 

Bottom line: This is not a championship team. It’s not a championship franchise. 

And that won’t change until some hard decisions are made that have been put off for too long. 

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