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Jay Gruden to Dalton critics: Aaron Rodgers not coming

Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown recently acknowledged that he preferred Colin Kaepernick to Andy Dalton in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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Kaepernick's 87.9 to 17.5 postseason Total QBR advantage over Dalton only magnifies the talent disparity between the two quarterbacks.

In a Tuesday interview with Lance McAlister of WLW-AM Cincinnati, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden defended the Bengals' decision to draft Dalton over Kaepernick with Carson Palmer's Cincinnati future in doubt.

"We didn't just need a quarterback to come in and compete or be a backup for a couple years and develop on the sidelines," Gruden explained. "We needed one to come in and start right away."

Although Brown was higher on Kaepernick's physical gifts, he ended up deferring to Gruden ostensibly because the Nevada quarterback was viewed as a developmental project.

"It was my feeling and a lot of other people's feeling in the building that Andy was the most mentally ready to come in and start Day 1," Gruden said. " ... Colin had the great physical makeup, but there were questions about his quarterback accuracy, as a passer is concerned. I also wasn't really into the read option stuff and it wasn't really that popular at the time."

The Bengals reaped the rewards of that logic when the "NFL-ready" Dalton exceeded expectations as a rookie. Three years later, the very same logic has the organization languishing in quarterback purgatory while the 49ers enjoy a uniquely talented player blossoming into the face of the franchise.

Cincinnati fans will have to live and die with Dalton, as coach Marvin Lewis made it clear Monday that there will be no major changes at quarterback in 2014.

"He's won big games for us and he'll continue to win big games. We ask a lot out of him, there's no doubt about it," Lewis said, via the Bengals' official website. "He just finished his third season of doing it. I believe in his abilities, I believe in his makeup, I believe in his maturity. ... He had another very good season. He's progressed well. We need to continue to do things to make his job just easier and easier to do."

After three seasons, Dalton is the prime meridian of NFL quarterbacks. Any quarterback above Dalton is a viable franchise player. Any quarterback below Dalton is a problem, not a solution.

We believe it's a fair assessment of Dalton's value. Gruden believes it's an unfair criticism of an improving player.

"Who do they want?" Gruden asked. "Aaron Rodgers isn't coming here in a trade. People need to appreciate what (Dalton) has done and will do."

The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped all the Wild Card Weekend action.

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