Ickey Woods believes Andy Dalton is in a pivotal year as Bengals QB

Running back Ickey Woods was a member of the Bengals' 1988 Super Bowl team. Focus On Sport/Getty Images

CINCINNATI -- Famed former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods classifies this upcoming season as a make-or-break year for the team's starting quarterback, Andy Dalton.

Following an event at Cincinnati's Christ Hospital on Saturday, Woods told ESPN he believed the Bengals would be best served looking for a new quarterback if they have a repeat of the past four seasons' first-round playoff exits.

"This is the year we must win a playoff game or it's time to start looking in a different direction at the quarterback spot," Woods said. "His thing of not being able to win the big game, he's got to shake that and get it done this year."

Despite winning 40 games and leading the Bengals to the postseason in each of his first four seasons, Dalton still has yet to lead Cincinnati to a playoff win.

A member of the Bengals' 1988 Super Bowl team, Woods spent four seasons in Cincinnati, including 1990. That 1990 team still has the franchise’s most recent playoff victory, a win against the Houston Oilers. After that win, the Bengals had a 15-year gap until making the postseason again. Since then, they have been to the playoffs six times, including this string of four straight seasons with Dalton guiding the offense.

"We've had four winning years, not a lot of teams can say that," Woods said. "I'm happy with the progress that we're making, man. We've just got to win the big one. It's coming. I'm thinking this year is the year we at least win that first playoff game and have a shot at getting to another playoff game. We've got the nucleus to do it, but the guys got to stay focused -- barring injuries."

A barrage of injuries handcuffed the Bengals' offense in their lone playoff game at Indianapolis this past January. A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones were among the key players Dalton didn't have that day. Conditions were so challenging that running back Rex Burkhead was asked to be an emergency slot receiver.

What has most troubled Woods about Dalton has been the quarterback's play in big-stage games. In addition to the playoff losses, the Bengals are 3-7 the past four seasons in nationally televised, prime-time regular-season games.

"But you can't put that all on Andy," Woods said. "It is a team sport, so everybody's got to come and get their job done. In the last big games that we've had, guys haven’t stepped up and gotten it done."

Still, Dalton hasn't played his best football under the lights. Since 2011, he has 11 interceptions and 11 touchdown passes in those games with a 56.5 completion percentage. In all other regular-season games, he has 86 touchdowns to 55 interceptions and a 62.7 completion percentage. The Bengals' record in the non prime-time games Dalton has appeared in since 2011 is 36-16-1.

Last season, the Bengals beat the Broncos on "Monday Night Football," but lost to the Browns, Patriots and Steelers on Thursday and Sunday nights.

"They've got a couple of games this year that are must-win for them," Woods said. "We'll see what happens and we’ll see if [Dalton] can break that and get the right thing going."

Woods' celebrity has had a unique resurgence recently. About a year ago, he became a pop culture icon again after performing his signature "Ickey Shuffle" touchdown dance in auto insurance commercials. The dance first turned heads nationally when Woods performed it while playing in Cincinnati. His appearance at the hospital Saturday was because of the dance.

While helping Christ Hospital unveil a new joint and spine center, Woods was there to help set a world record for the number of people performing the shuffle at one time.