Usually, we think of the relationship between quarterbacks and their receivers as a mutually beneficial arrangement. In its most perfect and idealistic form, both the quarterback and the receivers should both receive advantages from working together with each contributing to make the other one better. However, that is not always the case as there are quarterback-receiver relationships that possess a lack of balance and inequality; instead of both benefiting, only one truly benefits while the other one is left to do all the work.
Such is the parasitic relationship Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has with wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham as neither Green nor Gresham are all that much better off with Dalton as their quarterback. Meanwhile, Dalton would be completely lost and even more unproductive than he already is without Green and Gresham to throw to.
In order to demonstrate just how non-existent of an advantage it is for Green and Gresham to have Dalton as their quarterback, it is important to realize that Dalton is at best an average quarterback, but most advanced statistics agree that he is a below-average one. At the same time, Green and Gresham, despite the burden of only getting a chance to catch passes thrown to them by a below-average quarterback, still produce above-average value for their respective positions.
It is immensely difficult to imagine a way in which Green and Gresham would be worse off if the Bengals had to replace Dalton as quarterback, and perhaps nothing illuminates the parasitic relationship Dalton has with his wide receiver and tight end than Advanced NFL Stats’s win probability added and expected points added.
For the regular season, Dalton posted a meager 0.24 win probability added in addition to producing 21.5 expected points, which translates to a win probability added of 0.02 per game and 0.03 expected points added per play. On the other hand, Green posted a win probability added of 1.17, added 36.4 expected points, 0.07 win probability added per game, and 0.21 expected points added per play while Gresham produced a win probability added of 0.70, added 28.3 expected points, 0.04 win probability added per game, 0.29 expected points added per play.
Comparing the value of Dalton’s receiving targets to what he has done overall demonstrates that everything he is and every positive play that he can attempt to claim some responsibility for is because he has Green and Gresham on his team; Green and Gresham certainly cannot make an identical claim, and might even have standing to argue that having Dalton as their quarterback is holding back their productivity.
Dalton is not the only NFL quarterback who currently takes more from his receivers than he could ever hope to give them, but he is the only quarterback of this nature still remaining in the playoffs. Every other playoff quarterback can claim to be less reliant on his receivers than Dalton is on Green and Gresham.
If Dalton does have any success in the postseason, it will be because of Green and Gresham, not because of any skill he has in playing the quarterback position, and until he is able to contribute more to the Bengals’ chances of winning than his receivers can, he will continue to be looked at as the weak link in the Bengals’ passing offense chain, holding back the very offense he is supposed to be leading.