*CORRECTION: The quotes attributed to Marvin Lewis were directed at linebacker Rey Maualuga, not Andy Dalton. These quotes from CBS Sports had Lewis speaking about Dalton. But the transcripts I received from the owners meeting indicated Lewis was talking about Maualuga. I apologize for the error.
As I've written previously on the blog, this is a big season for the Bengals' Andy Dalton to prove he's a franchise quarterback. He's led Cincinnati to back-to-back trips to the playoffs, but he's flopped in both postseason games.
According to coach Marvin Lewis, Dalton doesn't need to silence his critics. Lewis' advice to Dalton is to stop listening to everyone outside the organization.
"He is his own worst enemy," Lewis said at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday, via CBS Sports. "He listens too much to what people say. For being such a big, tough guy he's too concerned about people liking him."
While some might construe this as Lewis wanting Dalton to be mentally tougher, I think Lewis is just trying to get Dalton to have more of an edge. Dalton is a nice guy. Probably too nice at times.
This is the same problem the Bengals have with their other leader, linebacker Rey Maualuga. Dalton and Maualuga worry too much about making their family, coaches and fans happy. The Bengals need leaders who have more of a swagger, and that's what Lewis is trying to get from them.
Lewis suggested that the first step for Dalton is to get off Twitter. Asked why Bengals fans are overly critical of Dalton, Lewis said, "Because they look at some dumbass website."
It's easy to pass the blame off on the media. But let's not forget that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has been critical of Dalton this offseason, saying he needs to improve in every phase. "He’s got a long way to go," Gruden told WLW Radio in Cincinnati earlier this month.
Lewis' focus shouldn't be on the media. It should be on why Dalton's play changes so drastically from the regular season to the postseason. Dalton has thrown 47 touchdown passes in 31 career games. The only quarterbacks who have passed for more in their first two seasons in the NFL are Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52). But Dalton has struggled mightily in the postseason, throwing zero touchdowns and four interceptions in two playoff games.
"Andy just needs to keep being Andy," Lewis said. "He just needs to keep playing and doing his thing. It's not his fault."