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The Bengals made their second quarterback change of the season on Monday.
Cincinnati will go back to veteran Andy Dalton starting with the Week 13 game against the New York Jets, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Monday. Dalton will replace rookie quarterback Ryan Finley, who started the previous three games after Dalton was benched after Week 8.
“It was not an easy decision any time we’ve had to make it, which has been twice this year,” Taylor said. “But it’s in the best interest of the football team to do this and get Andy back out there.”
The switch comes as somewhat of a surprise after Taylor appeared to indicate that three games was too short of a window to evaluate a rookie quarterback. However, after more time had passed following the Bengals’ 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first-year coach said he felt a change was necessary.
In three starts, Finley completed 47.1% of his passes for 474 yards, two touchdowns and five total turnovers. Against Pittsburgh, the NC State standout was 12-of-26 passing for 192 yards, one touchdown and a lost fumble, his third in three games.
When Taylor made the switch to Finley after the Bengals’ Week 8 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in London, part of the reasoning was to evaluate Finley as long as possible as the franchise prepares for the 2020 draft. The Bengals (0-11) are the lone remaining winless team in the NFL and have a two-game advantage on the rest of the pack for the No. 1 pick.
“He said he has to think about the future with the draft and we have to see what we have in Ryan,” Dalton said regarding his conversation with Taylor when he was benched initially. “That’s what it came down to. It’s been voiced to me I wasn’t the reason for the way the season has gone.”
But after the offense failed to score more than 13 points during any of Finley’s starts and averaged a mere 4.4 yards per play, Taylor opted to make the switch. The coach said it was hard to pinpoint why Finley struggled during his three-game tenure as the starter.
“You could plug a lot of guys in there and it’s not going to be that much of a different outcome, really, the way that those games played out,” Taylor said.
Up until he was benched this year, Dalton had been Cincinnati’s starting quarterback since the Bengals drafted him with a second-round pick in 2011. In eight starts this year, Dalton completed 60.4% of his passes for 2,252 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Dalton is second in franchise history in passing yards (30,352) and is tied with Ken Anderson for the most passing touchdowns (197).
Taylor said the conversations between Dalton and him have been very positive in recent weeks. The veteran will be the Bengals’ primary quarterback option as they try to find their first victory.
“Now we are relying on him to help us win games,” Taylor said. “He’s going to take that and run with it.”