First off, like any self-respecting journalism school graduate, I abhor clickbait.
But sometimes when you just know a topic is gonna get click-baited somewhere, you might as well do the click-baitin yourself, right?
That's how we got to this admittedly questionable moment in my sports journalism career when I just have to ask:
Would you rather have Andy Dalton or Blake Bortles as a quarterback for you NFL team?
I find it inevitable someone out there with a website is going to pose this question after Bortles’ team did something over the weekend Dalton’s has not (win a playoff game), so let’s just get it out of the way.
As a service to you, fair readers, I won’t belabor the point: It’s still Dalton at this point... but the gap has closed, which should probably be distressing for fans of the Cincinnati Bengals but maybe football in general.
Dalton, who got a head start of three seasons, still has better career numbers, and it's not really close.
The Bengals signal-caller has his Jacksonville counterpart by eight points in quarterback rating and more than three points in completion percentage. He also has a higher average yards per attempt and touchdown percentage whlie posting a lower interception percentage, too.
Dalton is 19 games over .500 for his career, but I am one of those who thinks quarterback record is an overrated stat.
He's unquestionably played on better teams -- at least until this year.
Compare this season's numbers and Dalton is still ahead -- but not in every category. His rating is less than two full points better while his completion percentage is actually worse, but Dalton maintains an advantage in both touchdown percentage and interception percentage.
Advanced stats favor Bortles, though, at least this year.
He ranks 15th in the league in Football Outsiders’ Defensive-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (which is basically their equivalent to WAR in baseball) while Dalton checks in at No. 25.
Pro Football Focus graded Bortles higher than Dalton, too.
So, what does it all mean?
Well, there is an argument to be made for Bortles, but it's not a very good one.
Bortles' performance in that aforementioned playoff win over the Bills was far from a work of art, but he is younger, bigger, faster and stronger than Dalton.
Bortles also got to play behind a better offensive line this season, but Dalton has far more impressive weapons at his disposal when he’s standing upright.
Dalton’s best season, 2015, was far better than anything Bortles has done in the league, but the Red Rifle hasn’t really come close to replicating that, either, as the cast and his offensive coordinators have changed.
The future is admittedly murky for both, which compared to a year or two ago is an improvement for Bortles but not so much for Dalton.
So if, “Bortles or Dalton?” is a dumb question now (it is), it might be naive to say for certain that will continue to be the case.