I have been a Cincinnati Bengals fan my entire life. I was a little boy in 1981 when Forrest Gregg took them to their first Super Bowl. However, I remember when Sam Wyche took the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1988. The Bengals were a legitimate threat in those days, but since then they have been nothing short of pathetic.
The Cincinnati Bengals before 2005 had missed the playoffs 14 years in a row. Bengal fans like me, to say the least, have been very frustrated for years. But in 2001 they drafted T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the seventh round and Chad Johnson the same year in the second round. Both Houshmandzadeh and Johnson played for Dennis Erickson at Oregon State University. The Bengals then drafted Carson Palmer in 2003 out of USC.
Houshmandzadeh's rookie season was not that great, as he had only 21 receptions for 228 yards. He really made a name for himself returning kickoffs and punts. In a game against the Cleveland Browns, he had 126 punt return yards, breaking the franchise record.
He really got his shot in 2004 when Peter Warrick was injured and eventually released. T.J. recorded 73 receptions for 978 yards and four touchdowns.
Houshmandzadeh has had a few injuries over the past four seasons. He injured his hand in 2005 and his foot in 2006. The foot injury kept him out of the first two regular season games. Than on Sept. 24, 2006, he made his season debut, catching nine passes for 94 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns in the Bengals' 28-20 win over their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Houshmandzadeh finished the 2006 season with 90 receptions for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns, all career highs.
With high hopes to start the 2007 season, I really thought the Bengals had a shot to be a top contender in the AFC North, maybe even for the AFC title. However, just like the 14 years prior to 2005, the 2007 season ended with disappointment. The Bengals finished the year with a 7-9 record, missing the playoffs again.
T.J. had a terrific year though. He finished with a franchise record 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. He tied New England's Wes Welker for the most receptions in the NFL. Houshmandzadeh was elected to his first Pro bowl.
With all of Chad Johnson's flash and flair, I have always thought T.J. was the better receiver. Now my hopes for Cincinnati's future are very bleak once again, because rumor has it T.J. Houshmandzadeh is leaving town, heading either to the New York Giants or the Seattle Seahawks.
Where he goes it doesn't matter. T.J. is a great receiver, and he will be a Pro Bowl receiver again. I just hate to see him go.
Maybe the Cincinnati Bengals will draft Michael Crabtree and put all of my worries to rest.