Andrew Geisler, Columnist

Conventional wisdom on the Cincinnati Bengals this season will be that they were a year or two away from being a great team. And as it often is, conventional wisdom is correct.

What puts the Bengals in such a prime position? For starters, the Bengals were a good team this year, which is saying something.

They had a lot riding on a couple of important rookies, and most rookies don’t pan out. More specifically, most rookie quarterbacks are a complete disaster, but Cincinnati’s irrefutably was not.

Actually, as far as rookie quarterbacks go, Andy Dalton was about as good as it gets. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he had fellow rookie AJ Green to throw it up to.

Green is quite a talent at wide out, and the Bengals are lucky to have him. In fact, it’s what the Cleveland Browns have been constantly lacking ever since they rose up from the dead in 1999. Their lack of a dynamic receiver-quarterback combo has put them in a football coma, and it won’t end until they rectify this basic personnel flaw.

Easier said than done, but that’s why the Bengals are in such a great spot. Pair the advantage of having Dalton and Green with the fact that their defense can actually play, in addition to the league taking a sharp turn toward the aerial attack in recent years, you’ll see clearly that the future is bright in Cincinnati.

The key to the whole equation for future Bengal success is the aforementioned early connection between Dalton and Green. Green is a special player, he’s the dynamic guy that every team needs, and Andy Dalton has the number one characteristic you look for in a quarterback: confidence.

Don’t get me wrong; Dalton was unbelievably bad in every measurable way in the Bengals season ending loss to the Houston Texans. He threw three interceptions (one of which was not his fault), but he displayed confidence throughout the game, and throughout the season for that matter.

The moment never seemed too big for the redhead from Texas who had never run any offense but the spread in a meaningful football game in his life.

Sure, the Bengals didn’t beat a winning team all season and only ended up 9-8. I’ll also readily admit that taking a look at Dalton’s stat sheet wouldn’t exactly make the football version of Bill James bat an eye, but there is a reason that such a man has not arisen in the football world.

Much of the analysis we do of football players comes less from the specific stats and more from the bottom line. And what’s Andy Dalton’s bottom line? The man wins games wherever he goes. No matter how good or bad those around him are.

We’re talking about the guy that lead Texas Christian University to a Rose Bowl win. Yes, their defense could play, but there’s a reason quarterbacks receive the scrutiny they do; they are the leader. And what does a leader need above all else? Confidence, something Andy Dalton exudes.

He looked nothing like a rookie quarterback who had just seen his team’s golden opportunity to advance in the playoffs go to the wayside on the team’s final drive.

Instead, he tried to lead them back.

Instead, he was pushing the tempo and working hard to score. Granted, he made some mistakes along the way, but he played with guts.

A quarterback with guts and confidence and a receiver that seems to have the ability to take over a game offensively, that’s a formula for success in the NFL. And now that the Bengals have the pieces, it’s time to sit back and watch the game unfold.