Expectations couldn’t get much lower for the Chicago Bears offense. Especially their new quarterback Andy Dalton. Most fans met his signing with one of two emotions. Pure outrage or total apathy. In their minds, he’s just more of the same. An average quarterback who ultimately won’t do much of anything for this team when it matters. All things considered, maybe that is a blessing in disguise.

Without the burden of high expectations, Dalton could be playing in 2021 with house money. Little to lose. The Bears handed him the starting spot in an offense that appears QB-friendly. He doesn’t have to worry about letting people down because they already expect him to fail. So all he has to do is go out and play. In such situations, productivity can often far exceed expectations.

Maybe that can happen this year.

Don’t forget nobody saw Erik Kramer’s tremendous season in 1995 coming. He’d been injured most of 1994 and many thought the starting job would stay with Steve Walsh. Kramer won back the job and ended up setting single-season records that still haven’t been broken. While Dalton may not get quite that far, former quarterback David Carr believes he is going to have a better year than fans believe.

“A reunion with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor should bode well for Dalton. The quarterback’s best statistical season in the last five years came in 2016, when Lazor was Cincinnati’s QBs coach and Dalton piled up 4,200 yards, 18 touchdowns, eight picks and a 91.8 passer rating. The veteran passer is set up to thrive under Lazor with a talented group of pass catchers and a run game that finally found its groove down the stretch last season.

2021 projection: 65 comp. percentage, 3,500 pass yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs”

That would work out to a 93.91 passer rating. Better than Kramer’s rating back in ’95 and second only to Mitch Trubisky’s 2018 campaign. Those 25 touchdown passes would rank would tie for the fourth-most in a single season for a Bears quarterback. Obviously compared to other franchise passing records, that doesn’t mean much, but it would easily be a better season than almost anything Chicago fans have seen for the past 70 years.

Andy Dalton has exceeded expectations his entire career

It started from the moment he was drafted. The Cincinnati Bengals took him in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. This after four quarterbacks were already taken in the 1st round. Not only that, but the Bengals were forced to start him due to a contract dispute with incumbent starter Carson Palmer. Nobody thought that team would go anywhere that season. Dalton went 9-7, threw for over 3,300 yards, hit 20 touchdown passes, and made the playoffs.

If that isn’t enough, fast forward to this past season. He gets released by the Bengals in May, well after the primary free agency periods. The Dallas Cowboys sign him to be their backup and he has almost no offseason to digest the offense because of the pandemic. Then Dak Prescott breaks his ankle. Dalton steps in and a couple of weeks later is slapped by a double whammy of a concussion and contracting COVID-19.

What happened then?

Dalton returned after two weeks, started the final seven games of the season, went 4-3, and posted a 95.1 passer rating. Yes, Andy Dalton is not Tom Brady. He’s not Aaron Rodgers. That has long been established. He also isn’t a bad quarterback. The guy can play. He may not be a star but you can call him the NFL’s version of the middle class. You wouldn’t mind living the higher life but you can be content with him for now.