Finding out he was being benched on his 32nd birthday certainly wasn't how Dalton expected to spend his special day. He leads the NFL in completions (204) and attempts (338) this season and was coming off a bounce-back performance – albeit in another loss – in which he threw for 329 yards and a touchdown without any turnovers Sunday against the L.A. Rams in London, after a three-interception outing the week prior. Dalton has passed for 2,252 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions this season and he is tied for the franchise lead all-time with 197 touchdowns.
Dalton said Taylor told him he needs to think about the 2020 draft and see what he’s got in Finley. Taylor said in his press conference Tuesday that he was only trying to win games this season and the quarterback spot was the only one in which there was still a backup sitting on the bench.
“He said he has to think about the future with the draft and see what they have in Ryan, so that’s what it came down to,” Dalton said. “It’s been voiced to me I wasn’t the reason for the way the season has gone but I played well. I had done some things to keep the team together in this stretch and he just feels like they’ve got to see what they have in Ryan.”
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Dalton spoke candidly and appeared on the verge of tears at various points in the seven-minute interview at Paul Brown Stadium following the team’s final practice before getting a break during the bye. Dalton did not practice, but it also was raining and others also watched with him on the sidelines.
The decision was especially hurtful, he said, because of how much time he’s spent in Taylor’s office trying to work through what he could do to help the team turn things around.
“I’ve been in that office way more than I’ve ever been in there, just trying to figure out what we can do, what I can do,” Dalton said. “Obviously, he wants to head in a different direction.”
There was no talking him out of the decision, Dalton said, but even though he doesn’t agree with it, the veteran quarterback has no ill-will toward Finley.
Dalton’s contract expires following the 2020 season, but he isn’t sure if Tuesday’s news signifies the end of his time playing for the Bengals or not.
When asked if he would ask to be traded during the offseason, Dalton said, “Right now I’m just focused on this year. Obviously there is a lot to come in the next eight weeks and beyond. I wanted to have an opportunity to play and have an opportunity to be somewhere I’m wanted. If that’s here, great. If not, we’ll see. Right now that’s not my focus. My focus is just playing my role on this team.”