- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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During the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Fan Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday, Munoz, who played for the Bengals from 1980-92, said he believed in Dalton and thinks more consistent play from the embattled starter can help him gain respect among his peers and fans.
"[There are] people who are saying that 'I don't think he's the guy,'" Munoz said. "I think he can be the guy."
Knocked for his lack of postseason success -- three trips in his first three seasons, and three straight wild-card round losses -- and for his knack for throwing untimely interceptions in big games, Dalton has earned one of the more unflattering reputations of quarterbacks in the league. However, Dalton still has showcased the ability to be a really good quarterback. He set new franchise marks in passing yards and touchdowns last season, passing single-season records previously held by Carson Palmer.
Dalton also is one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history to have thrown for 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, joining Peyton Manning and Cam Newton on that exclusive list. Dalton also has won 30 games in his first three seasons, a feat some around Paul Brown Stadium boast regularly, but one others outside the building are quick to attribute to a Bengals defense that has been so good in recent seasons that it ranked third last fall.
"I've seen him play extremely well," said Munoz, who attends every home game and was a television analyst during preseason games for a local station last year. "And I believe he has enough around him that he doesn't need to be the guy every week. If he can just play consistent. There's not many better than A.J. Green in the league, and you've got two tight ends that should be unbelievable if they utilize them in [Tyler] Eifert and [Jermaine] Gresham."
Even with Green and the other playmakers around him though, Dalton struggled in the Bengals' playoff game in January, throwing two interceptions and fumbling in the 27-10 loss to San Diego. All of the turnovers came in the second half.
"If he can play consistently and play the way he does a lot of times, most of the time, then he will get people off his back," Munoz said. "It's just consistency in crucial situations."
Munoz's comments come after new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and head coach Marvin Lewis have been adamant about their support in the starting quarterback whose contract expires next March.
"I'm tired of answering questions about Andy that don't make sense," Lewis said at the owners' meetings earlier this offseason. "He's done what most people have never done. We lost a football game [January's playoff game]. We didn't cover people on third down. We didn't protect Andy.
"We put a chip on him three years ago ... he's our guy."
While Jackson and Lewis have defended Dalton publicly, privately they also have given him no indication he's being replaced in this week's draft. The Bengals are expecting to take a quarterback in the middle of the draft, but one who can serve as a backup for now, and get groomed into being a starter in the event the team can't reach a financial agreement with Dalton's representatives on a new contract.
Dalton acknowledged last month that contract talks are ongoing between both sides.