Can the Dallas Cowboys win with Andy Dalton at the helm?

Dallas Cowboy, Andy Dalton Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboy, Andy Dalton Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

With Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott now out for the season, Andy Dalton will now be the starting QB. How good can he be?

By now, we’ve all had a few days to digest the ankle injury to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. It was traumatic, I’m sure for him, but also for Cowboys fans everywhere. We all saw it. It was not pleasant.

If you didn’t see it, Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. He’s already had surgery and will be out for the rest of the season.

I also think that fans feel a stronger emotional bond to Dak Prescott than to most starting NFL quarterbacks. There have been many emotional moments with Prescott, starting with guiding the team to a 13-3 record his rookie season. Then, this offseason, he opened up about the tragedies in his family and depression, specifically his brother’s suicide and how that affected him.

Because of this, I think it’s harder, even than it would normally be, to imagine the Dallas Cowboys without Dak Prescott. But in less than a week, we won’t have to imagine it. We’ll see it. Next week, the Cowboys will play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night football. Andy Dalton will be starting at quarterback.

So, the question becomes, can the Cowboys win with Andy Dalton at the helm? Over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of commentators describe Dalton as the best backup quarterback in the league. That’s nice to hear, but let’s see what we’ve got with this guy.

Andy Dalton Stats and Info

  • Dalton started at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2011 to 2019.
  • In that time, he started 133 games. His yearly completion average varied from 58.% to 66.1%. Over the nine years, it averages out to 62%.
  • In those years, Dalton threw 204 touchdowns, while getting intercepted 118 times. He’s got a career interception rate of 2.6%.
  • He’s a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback: 2011, 2014, and 2016.
  • In his highest rushing year (2016), Dalton rushed for 184 yards. But he has run for 22 touchdowns in his career. So, while it’s not his forte, he can run a little bit, and can get touchdowns.
  • Dalton’s win/loss breakdown with the Bengals was 70-61.
  • Playoff record: The Bengals went to wild card games five times between 2011 and 2019 (2011-2015). They lost each time.
  • The best receivers Dalton had at Cincinnati were AJ Green and Tyler Boyd.
  • The best running backs he had were Cedric Benson, Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Jeremy Hill & Joe Mixon.
  • The last two years, the Bengals were 6-10 and 2-14.
  • The Bengals gave up an average of 30 points a game last year.

A picture emerges from all these numbers. Andy Dalton is pretty good, and early in his career was considered very good. Good enough to get himself into the Pro Bowl three times. But Cincinnati has been a weak team in general in recent years. While that wasn’t Dalton’s fault, he didn’t help much either.

His career numbers are solid but unspectacular. But he’s also never had anywhere near the offensive weapons Dallas has now. Of the skill players he had to work with, AJ Green was the only name I even recognized.

When the team was good, Dalton was pretty good. He wasn’t a liability. But he also didn’t put the team on his back and carry them to victory.

However, there’s one interesting statistic I left off the above list. Last Sunday, after Prescott was injured, Dalton went nine for twelve in passing. That’s a completion percentage of 75%. He also led the team to victory.

Dalton played most of the second half, and under his leadership, the team scored one touchdown and two field goals. And that’s without much practice time. The starting quarterback always gets the most reps in practice by far, and Dalton was the back-up until now.

That 75% completion rate is also better than Dalton’s completion average every year he started for Cincinnati. It makes one wonder. Was it beginner’s luck? Or could Dalton be a better quarterback in Dallas due to the superior weapons he has at his disposal?

I think that’s the real question here. It’s pretty obvious that Dalton is a competent quarterback. But can he blossom here in Dallas in this high-powered offense?

I don’t know. And neither does anyone else. I do think it’s a real possibility though. Like many, I was very impressed with those two passes to Michael Gallup in that last game-winning drive. Gallup made extraordinary catches, but Dalton put them right on the money too.

But Dalton has one other problem in Dallas that he had in Cincinnati too, at least in 2019: a terrible defense. The Cowboys defense did look a little better against the Giants than in prior weeks. But New York’s offense, one of the worst in the league, still scored 34 points.

Hopefully, Dallas’s defense will continue to improve. But as a great man once said, hope is not a strategy. So while I think it can get better, I don’t see it becoming, you know, actually good, anytime soon.

Related Story. There’s hope for a more balanced Cowboys offense under Andy Dalton. light

All of this can be factored in, but ultimately, we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens. And with the Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals fast approaching, we won’t have to wait very long. It will be Dalton’s first start with the Cowboys and a good test. Stay tuned.