Tom Brady might not be a New England Patriot next year, in case you haven't heard. While plenty of digital ink has been spilled over whether or not he'll stay and where he may go if he does leave (including on this very website), there's been some tertiary discussion on who might replace him if his departure goes from speculation to reality.
In outlining how difficult it will be for the Patriots to convince Brady to stick around, Peter King also mentioned that Bill Belichick would likely be interested in working with Andy Dalton, who is a free agent this offseason and, per King, is a "football player." While I think claiming Belichick likes working with football players is a step below bold, Dalton as a placeholder is an intruiging possibility. Skip Bayless discussed such a possibility today on Undisputed, and said there's no way Belichick could win a Super Bowl with Dalton under center:
"I like Andy Dalton. Andy Dalton is pretty good. But his career QBR in Cincinnati, albeit for the Bungles, whatever you wanna call them, is a little below average... He's pretty good, and he'll win some games for you", said Bayless. "I just want to drive home the fact that you would be replacing the greatest clutch player this league has ever seen on the biggest stage in the sport. If you look back at what Brady did, can Andy Dalton do all these things?"
Bayless then rattled off Brady's clutchtime stats in the 2001, 2004, and 2014 Super Bowls as an example of just who you're trying to replace. And he's not wrong there! Nobody envies the man who will come after Brady. He's the greatest quarterback the league has ever seen and, according to Pro Football Reference, has notched an astounding 45 game-winning drives in 20 years.
I did think it was an interesting discussion, though. Dalton is probably the only realistic option at quarterback with a proven track record that could replace Brady in the immediate future. The Bengals were indeed bad this year, but Dalton himself wasn't the problem; in the 13 games he started, he threw for 3,495 yards while completing 59.5 percent of his passes with 16 touchdown passes. He also had 14 interceptions and was sacked 37 times. In his worst year in quite some time, Brady threw for 4,057 yards and completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. If Dalton hadn't gotten benched, it's not unreasonable to think he would have finished close to Brady in most counting statistics other than interceptions.
Basically, the drop-off in production from 42-year-old Brady to 32-year-old Dalton doesn't seem steep enough to completely sink championship hopes, which is why Bayless founded his argument on clutch stats. But it's not like Dalton makes a fool of himself whenever the game is on the line. In his nine seasons as a starter, Dalton has had at least three game-winning drives in every season other than 2016 and 2019. He admittedly hasn't even won a playoff game, much less pulled off a game-winning drive in a Super Bowl. But unlike other potential 2020 options like Teddy Bridgewater or Jarrett Stidham, he has a track record of dependability when his team needs it most.
There is no football fan on the planet who would take Dalton over Brady when their team is down a score with less than two minutes left. But if Dalton is backed by the greatest coach ever in the biggest game of the year? I don't think you can count him out completely.