CINCINNATI -- When I got my first glimpse last week of the then still-to-be-published ESPN World Fame 100, I have to admit that I rubbed my eyes and then did a quick double-take.
Not only was Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton listed ahead of famed nemesis Ben Roethlisberger, but he also was ahead of his immediate predecessor, Carson Palmer. True, all three quarterbacks hovered near the very bottom of the list of the 100 most famous athletes in the world, but Dalton was still at the top of this specific triumvirate.
What do you think? Is Dalton A) the most famous Bengals player? And B) more popular than Roethlisberger and Palmer?
So, you're probably wondering how ESPN settled upon these rankings. You can read the detailed answer here, but just know that ESPN's director of sports analytics, Ben Alamar, was tasked with devising the list incorporating a bevy of factors. Among them, Forbes' list of the top 100 highest-paid athletes, input from other athletes, input from ESPN personalities, and a formula that combined an athletes' salary/winnings and endorsements with their social media following (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and Google search popularity.
When all of those numbers were crunched together, Alamar got a list that had Dalton ranked 95th, Roethlisberger ranked 98th, and Palmer ranked 99th.
This is quite the honor for Dalton, who was one of 16 NFL players who made the list. Of them, all but four were fellow quarterbacks in 2015. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 40), defensive end J.J. Watt (56), running back Marshawn Lynch (61) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (72) were the only non-quarterbacks listed in the ESPN World Fame 100. Since quarterbacks typically get the largest contracts, and since salary is part of the methodology, that probably explains the general lack of non-QBs on this list.
The reason Dalton's standing here could be considered surprising with respect to Roethlisberger and Palmer is because both have been household names for so much longer. Drafted first overall in 2003, Palmer was the Bengals' big-armed quarterback until Dalton arrived in 2011. Injuries and his move to a struggling Raiders team a few seasons ago probably caused Palmer to slip a bit in the grand scale of recent NFL popularity. The 36 year old likely earned back some of the fame points last season when he appeared in all 16 of the Arizona Cardinals' regular-season games, and earned his first career playoff win.
As you well know, Dalton has yet to win in the postseason. A thumb injury suffered against Roethlisberger's Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14 last season kept him out during Cincinnati's wild-card round game which was also against Pittsburgh. Officially, Dalton is 0-4 in the playoffs, and his franchise hasn't won a postseason game since the 1990 season. He was enjoying a potential MVP-caliber season before his thumb injury, though, leading the Bengals to an 8-0 record to open the year.
Roethlisberger seems like he would be more popular than Dalton because of the success his Steelers have had. He's a two-time Super Bowl winner who has been in the league since 2004. He's also a well-paid player with a healthy social media following.
Still, this one time at least, Dalton has trumped his rival and his predecessor.