The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback history is an interesting one. It includes a pair of Heisman Trophy winners, an MVP, and a whole lot of drama. Among quarterbacks like Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, and Andy Dalton, where does current signal-caller Joe Burrow stand? After yet another elite performance against the cream of the crop in the AFC, Burrow has every right to consider himself the greatest Bengals quarterback already.
Through just 38 regular season games played, Burrow has exemplified every elite trait — save for being able to chuck the ball 80 yards like Jeff Blake — needed to be the guy.
Joe Burrow is Already the Greatest Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback
Joe Cool Under Pressure
Much has been said about how legitimately awful the Bengals offensive line was last year. Burrow was sacked 70 times between the regular season and in the run to Super Bowl LVI. With each and every hit, Bengals fans held their breath that that hit was going to be the one that derailed the season, harkening back to Week 11 in Washington in 2020.
Given, not every pressure is created equal. Burrow’s play and willingness to work out of structure and make something out of nothing have gotten him into trouble. This year, for example, he’s been sacked 34 times, 21 of which are credited to offensive linemen, according to PFF. The one sack Burrow took against Kansas City in Week 13 was with just two minutes to go and was due to Burrow trying to create something to put the game away.
On the very next play, a 3rd & 11, Burrow stood tall in the pocket and delivered a laser to Tee Higgins to convert despite Mike Danna coming around on a stunt. In a career of brilliant throws, that conversion has to be one of the most clutch and improbable that he’s had. Burrow has stepped up at every juncture and has never wavered from the pressure.
For reference, a common sentiment is that Burrow is the new Andrew Luck and he will retire early after getting beat up. In 2021 alone, Burrow’s sack total was 37.8% of Luck’s career mark. Despite starting off 2022 with 13 sacks and four interceptions in the first two games, Burrow has scraped back into the MVP conversation. You just can’t keep him down, something that could not be said about a few of his predecessors.
The Stats Are In His Favor
When looking at raw stats, Ken Anderson and Andy Dalton are the kings of the Bengals quarterback ranks. Anderson owns the yardage mark with 32,838 and Dalton broke the touchdown mark in 2019 with 204. Give Burrow a little more time and those marks are his.
On a per-game basis, it’s not particularly close.
Burrow leads the way with 282.8 yards per game. Dalton (237.5), Carson Palmer (234), Esiason (202.6), Jon Kitna (202), and Blake (201.8) are next on the list.
In terms of full-time quarterbacks, Burrow has the best touchdown percentage relative to passing attempts with 5.3%. Esiason is just behind him at 5.2% with Palmer (4.8%) and Dalton (4.6%) right behind. As is the case with passing yards per game, touchdowns per game are not particularly close. Burrow throws 1.89 touchdowns per game with Palmer (1.62), Dalton (1.52), Esiason (1.39), and Anderson (1.02) trailing him.
Joe Burrow isn’t going to be great, he already is. pic.twitter.com/hQLE20k0Bn
— Sam Ainger (@sam_ainger) December 5, 2022
If he continues his trend and plays for as many games as Anderson, Burrow is on pace for 54,297 yards and 363 touchdowns, absolutely demolishing both franchise records. He’s currently on pace to break the yards record in 79 more games and the touchdowns record in 70 games.
Plus, he has the lowest interception percentage relative to attempts with just 2.0%. Per game, Burrow throws 0.71 interceptions per game. In comparison, Anderson threw 0.83, Dalton threw 0.89, Esiason threw 0.97, and Palmer threw a whopping 1.03 per.
Now, that’s plenty of speculation and projection, but there has no indication of Burrow slowing down. Even against top competition and a difficult schedule, Burrow continues to put up numbers and dig the Bengals franchise out of the slums of decades past.
This Time It’s Different
The hope and belief in a Bengals quarterback have never been high if we’re honest. Anderson had one Super Bowl run, Esiason had one Super Bowl run, and then a whole lot of nothing. It seemed like it changed with the selection of Carson Palmer. The Bengals culture looked like it had changed and the Palmer-t0-Chad-Johnson connection was about to send the franchise to the promised land.
Then 2005 happened with Palmer’s injury and the team could not get back to that level. Even with Johnson lined up with Terrell Owens in 2008, the Bengals just could not get it going. After all the drama, the torch was passed to Dalton.
As exciting and fun as the Dalton era was, there was always the “Bengals can’t win big games” stink hanging over them. Dalton led Cincinnati to the playoffs five straight seasons, losing in disappointing fashion each and every year. As was the case in 2005, the 2015 season was special but ended in a franchise-deflating defeat.
With Burrow, it’s different.
There’s a long list of Bengals quarterbacks who have been able to light it up on the field and Burrow is the most recent. The difference is that while some quarterbacks strive for greatness, Burrow expects it. The way Burrow carries himself on the field is different. The situation and spotlight are never too big. And he expects to be great.
Zac Taylor believes in Joe Burrow being part of the MVP conversation 🗣️ (via @ProFootballTalk)#NFL #RuleTheJungle #JoeBurrow pic.twitter.com/3WhoN9yjzo
— Sportskeeda Pro Football (@SKProFootball) December 5, 2022
Joe Burrow has elevated the Cincinnati Bengals franchise into caring. He’s taken over a baseball city and turned it black and orange (although, it’s not without said baseball franchise being in a perpetual rebuild). The team sold the naming rights of the stadiums and is seemingly selling off naming rights for every inch of the facilities to assure they have the cash on hand to pay their franchise quarterback.
Burrow is to Cincinnati what Drew Brees was to New Orleans, Brady to New England, Rivers was to San Diego. They all came in and turned things around.
He’s not concerned about the negative stats revolving around losing a first Super Bowl. Joe Burrow is only concerned with winning a title and further cementing his claim as the greatest Bengals quarterback ever.