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Where Andy Dalton fits vs. the rest of the NFL QBs

Is he good? Average? Worse?

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks
How does he stack up against the rest of the league’s QBs?
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Like it or not, Andy Dalton is now the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. The season will be greatly affected by just how well he can fill in for the injured Dak Prescott. If he can perform at a good enough level, the Cowboys have an excellent chance of at least getting into the playoffs. They play in the dysfunctional NFC East, after all. If he is not up to the task, then the rest of the year is just not going to be much fun to watch.

The quality of his play is a burning question that is going to be answered under fire. His debut in the final twenty minutes of the win over the New York Giants was a mixed bag, with a botched exchange with center Tyler Biadasz gifting the opponent with an easy touchdown, then him making two of the best throws of the day, anywhere in the league, to set up the game-winning field goal.

He is not going to be the only reason the team wins or loses, of course. But QB play is usually the biggest variable in the NFL. That leads to the question of just where he stacks up against the other 31 starters headed into Week 6. Some teams are set, while others are facing similar struggles to make a replacement work. And, as we found out to our dismay, things can change drastically on any play.

Here, with some input from the rest of our writing staff, is a ranking, by tier, of the other starting quarterbacks.

Week 6 QB tiers

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4 Tier 5 Undetermined
Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4 Tier 5 Undetermined
Definite starter Above average starter Decent starter Marginal starter You have to start someone (too little data)
Lamar Jackson Josh Allen Philip Rivers Ryan Fitzpatrick Brian Hoyer Joe Burrow
Ben Roethlisberger Jared Goff Carson Wentz Joe Flacco Brett Rypien Justin Herbert
Deshaun Watson Matt Ryan Nick Foles Garnder Minshew Kyle Allen
Patrick Mahomes Ryan Tannehill Teddy Bridgewater Daniel Jones
Aaron Rodgers Matthew Stafford Kyler Murray Kirk Cousins
Russell Wilson Derek Carr Jimmy Garoppolo
Drew Brees Baker Mayfield
Tom Brady

Some clarification. The players are not ranked within the tiers. Some are bordering on moving up or down. This is just to frame the discussion.

Most importantly, history tells us you don’t have to have a top level QB to succeed. Joe Flacco and Nick Foles have Super Bowl wins and were named MVP in the championship games. They did so with a lot of help from their teammates, and both look to clearly have been one-hit wonders. Tom Brady and Drew Brees also collected that individual honor, multiple times in Brady’s case, but they are pretty obviously not the players they were - or maybe don’t have the support they did.

So looking at this, where would Dalton rank? This was a subject for discussion on the staff, and opinions vary. Part of our problem is the limited sample size. With only eleven passes attempted so far, he has looked good, completing nine and showing some incipient chemistry with his receivers, particularly Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. We can look at his ten seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, which led my periodic debating partner David Howman to observe:

He was pretty good in CIN when he had good blocking and above average weapons. Now he has better weapons and slightly below average blocking.

With the Bengals, Dalton got to the playoffs his first five seasons, only to go home after the first game each time. If he plays well, that is not an unlikely outcome for Dallas this year, especially since the opponent they would face in the wild card round would probably have a better record than whatever it takes to win the NFCE.

That is a bad case of tabulating fetal domestic fowl, however. The question today is: where would Dalton fall in the chart? Barring a tremendous performance the rest of the season, he clearly does not belong in the top tier. But if he is worthy of being in the second tier, that would probably be enough to make the postseason. He has a tremendous group of offensive weapons around him. His experience with some shaky offensive lines in Cincinnati also could serve him very well in dealing with the patchwork, inexperienced line the Cowboys have been forced to cobble together. The thing most likely to torpedo the chances of playing into January is the defense, which is another whole ball of tangled worms.

Our fearless leader here, Dave Halprin, sees Dalton as slotting nicely into the third tier. That may be good enough if the rest of the team falls into place, and the division rivals continue to be inept. I see tier three as his floor, and two as a ceiling, one I think he will be closer to. That last half of the fourth quarter on Sunday indicated his skills are still quite intact, and there may be a lot of gas left in the tank. He just seems above the average for what the league is fielding now, at least to me.

But that is just a kind of collective opinion. How it works out is to be determined. What I am interested in is how you see it? Where do you believe the Red Rocket would land?