Andy Dalton is having a very solid rookie campaign for the Cincinnati Bengals. It is hard to tell whether Dalton is helping break out his receivers like A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, or vice versa. I tend to think it is probably the latter, but it matters little. The Bengals are using young players and are developing a dangerous passing attack (even when they aren’t completely uncovered by a still-huddling defense.***) On the opposite side, it has been more up and down between last season’s run-heavy beginning to Colt McCoy’s career and the implementation of Pat Shurmur’s offense. In the last few weeks against weaker defenses it seems that the Browns might actually have an attack plan in some phase of being formulated.
Once upon a time the Browns and Bengals battled one October day in what they both thought was a glimpse of the future. The Bengals did battle with draft pick Akili Smith leading the way and the Browns answered with #1 pick Tim Couch. The Bengals came away victorious in that first meeting 18-17. Akili Smith won the day completing 25 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Tim Couch went 15 for 27 for 164 yards and an interception. The highlight from that game that stands the test of time for Browns fans is Phil Dawson running four yards for a touchdown. The Bengals won that game, but in the contest between Akili Smith and Tim Couch, the Browns won. Granted, it turned out to be not very much of a contest and it is hard to consider the winner a “winner” but the Browns won.
Akili Smith played 22 career games. He finished his career with a just over 2200 yards and five touchdown passes to go along with thirteen interceptions. For reference, Andy Dalton has 2,239 yards in his first ten games as a pro. Colt McCoy already has over 3,700 yards passing in his short career. Meanwhile, Tim Couch played 62 career games before the annual beatings caught up with him and he couldn’t play effectively anymore. He finished his career with 11,000 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. Obviously the Browns and Bengals both had higher hopes back in 1999.
This weekend as Colt McCoy and Andy Dalton face each other for a second time, both teams have higher hopes for their young quarterbacks. Both teams are probably in better shape than their counterparts in 1999 as well. We know for a fact that the Browns are better than their 1999 counterparts just based on the fact that Terry Kirby is no longer running the ball and the Browns have two Pro Bowlers on the offensive line.
Things are looking good for the Battle of Ohio. It is still a secondary matchup to the Steelers and Ravens in the division. It absolutely pains me to say that, but I’d be delusional if I didn’t admit it. If the Browns and Bengals got their quarterbacks right this time, it might just be able to turn the Battle into something other than the punchline it has mostly been since 1999.
*** Yes, I know Andy Dalton wasn’t the beneficiary of the Cleveland Browns’ huddled defense that resulted in one of the most embarrassing touchdowns given up in Cleveland Browns history.