Many players have worn the orange and black stripes, but only a select few have left a particularly significant impact on the franchise. The Cincinnati Bengals have done a good job of commemorating these historical players in one way or another.
Bleacher Report, however, has yet to produce its own list until now. Players on this list are compiled from all of the aforementioned groups, and their stats come from ProFootballReference.com.
It's hard to understand the history of the NFL, even the history of football in Ohio, and not attribute a lot of that to Paul Brown. From the renowned tradition of Massilon High School to the two NFL franchises in Ohio, Paul Brown's presence is everywhere.
Brown founded both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, en route to changing the landscape of football in America. To elaborate on his many accomplishments would prove verbose, but to neglect him from this list would prove disrespectful.
Through Adriel Jeremiah Green is just entering his third professional season, he has already made a significant impact on the Bengals franchise.
His overall numbers don’t yet rank him among the Bengal greats, however, his two-season totals are on par with NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. To exclude him from this list and say that he isn't one of the 25 best talents to come through Cincinnati would be an insult. A lot remains to be seen, however, which will determine where Green finds himself at the end of his career.
With two Pro Bowl appearances, a 10-game streak with a touchdown catch and an ocean of potential, A.J. Green makes the list, but just barely—at least for now.
Andy Dalton has already led the Bengals to two playoff appearances in his first two seasons. His 7,067 total passing yards ranks him sixth on the Bengals all-time passing list. He has also led the Bengals to the playoffs in both of his first two seasons, but he has yet to win a playoff game.
Going into his third season, this coming year will determine whether or not Dalton falls off of the list or climbs a few spots.
He has already made an impact on the franchise and deserves a place on this list, but any higher than No. 24 on this list would just be too premature.
While Geno Atkins has a short resume, his performance in 2012 has certainly raised some eyebrows as to his greatness and potential. With 12.5 sacks from an interior line position, Atkins will have the chance to continue to build his legacy in 2013. Atkins will be a free agent in 2014 and will likely be one of head coach Marvin Lewis' top priorities.
Atkins has played in 48 games as a Bengal, starting 32 of them. He, like the other active Bengals mentioned (Dalton and Green), still has a lot to prove before he solidifies his place on this list forever. However, he has laid the ground work to certainly be remembered and discussed for years after he's done playing.
Shayne Graham was the kicker for the Bengals from 2003-2006. During that time, Graham converted 87 percent of his field goals, including seven from 50 yards or longer. Graham also converted on 99 percent of his extra points during that time.
Graham earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season. He had a lot of opportunities to perform that year, as quarterback Carson Palmer threw for a record 32 touchdowns. This particular list won't be void of kickers, but finding a place higher than this for him would be difficult.
After leaving Dartmouth College in 1976, following a career that ultimately landed him in the College Football Hall of Fame, Reggie Williams spent 14 years in Cincinnati as a linebacker. Williams' contributions to the franchise earned him a spot on the Bengals' 40th Anniversary Team.
While in Cincinnati, Williams accumulated 62.5 sacks ranking him second all-time in Bengals history.
Williams is also second in Bengals history in games played with 206 and third in consecutive games played with 137. He also holds the franchise record for fumble recoveries with 23.
Cornerback Louis Breeden played for the Bengals from 1978-1987. During that time, Breeden intercepted 33 passes, which is good for second in Bengals history. Breeden also held the record for longest interception return of 102 yards until Artrell Hawkins tied it in 2002.
Breeden remains second in Bengals history, not only in terms of interceptions but also in return yards. He is one of 25 players to wear the Bengals' stripes for 10 or more seasons.
Breeden played 134 games for the Bengals, and started in 89 of them.
The Bengals drafted running back Rudi Johnson as the No. 100 overall pick in 2001, and it took him a couple seasons to get used to the NFL. When it became his time, though, he seized the moment. Johnson had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 2004-2006, totaling 4,221 yards and 36 touchdowns.
His 5,742 yards rank him third in Bengals history, and his 1,458 rush yards in 2005 stand as the most rushing yards in a single-season in Bengals history. Rudi was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 2004 season.
Johnson played in 81 games for the Bengals, starting in 59 of them.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh joined the Bengals in 2001 out of Oregon State in a draft class where he was overshadowed by another former Beaver, Chad Johnson. Houshmandzadeh dominated the middle of the field from the slot receiver position, and in 2007, he led the NFL in receptions with 112, along with then-Patriot receiver Wes Welker.
Houshmandzadeh had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and earned a berth to the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season. He was the second receiver chosen to the Bengals 40th Anniversary Team. Houshmandzadeh played with the Bengals from 2001-2008 before stints with the Seahawks, Ravens and Raiders.
Running back James Brooks carried the ball for Cincinnati from 1984-1991. During that time he earned a spot in the Pro Bowl four times, and his 6,447 rushing yards rank him second all-time in Bengals history (Bengals.com).
Brooks played in 118 games while playing for the Bengals, and he started in 106 of them. He was the only running back selected to the Bengals 40th Anniversary Team. Brooks played a key role in the Bengals' success in the late 80s and into the 90s, earning him a spot as one of the greatest Bengals ever.
When the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer first overall in 2003, it was a surprise to everyone that he didn't take one snap that year. Instead, Jon Kitna played quarterback in Cincinnati, en route to winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
In 2004, Palmer took the reigns and didn't look back. In 2005, he threw a Bengals single-season record 32 touchdown passes. Palmer is currently third on the Bengals all-time passing list with 22,694 yards (Bengals.com).
Palmer started every game that he would play in Cincinnati after essentially "red-shirting" his rookie year. Palmer was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2011, and the Bengals received draft picks in return, which ultimately landed them DB Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012 and RB Giovani Bernard in 2013.
Former Bengals tight end Rodney Holman played in Cincinnati for 11 seasons between 1982 and 1992. He was selected to appear in three-straight Pro Bowls between 1988 and 1990. Holman played in 165 games as a Bengal and pulled down 4,329 receiving yards on 318 catches.
Holman's presence as a tight end played a large role in the Bengals' success in the late 80s and early 90s. Holman played in 165 games while in Cincinnati and started in 120 of them.
At 6'3", 236 pounds, David Fulcher was a force to be reckoned with in the secondary for the Bengals in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Fulcher wore the stripes from 1986-1992. Fulcher attended three-straight Pro Bowls between 1988-1990. Fulcher snagged 17 interceptions in those three seasons, making him one of the most feared safeties in the NFL.
Fulcher played in 103 games as a Bengal, starting in 98 of them. He had a total of 8.5 sacks and 31 interceptions over the course of his career, placing him third in Bengals history. Fulcher was chosen to the Bengals 40th Anniversary Team.
Former Bengals wide receiver Carl Pickens still ranks second in receptions in Bengals history with 530. Pickens' 6,887 receiving yards was second in history when he stopped playing, but he now ranks third.
Pickens played in 120 games in Cincinnati, and started in 110 of them. Pickens was awarded with back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 1995 and 1996. Pickens also held the Bengals record for receiving touchdowns in a career and a season. His 63 receiving touchdowns remained No. 1 until 2010. His 17 touchdowns in a season remains a Bengals record (Bengals.com).
Referring to someone as an outstanding offensive tackle in Cincinnati is a mouthful considering the legacy at the position, but former Bengal Willie Anderson fits the mold in every sense of the word. Suiting up in stripes for 12 years, Anderson was a staple on the offensive line from 1996-2007.
Anderson was selected to four-straight Pro Bowls from 2003-2006—the second most of any Bengals offensive lineman. Anderson played in 181 games for Cincinnati, starting in 173 of them. Anderson was chosen to the Bengals 40th Anniversary Team.
Former Bengals running back Corey Dillon left Cincinnati as their all-time leading rusher, and that still stands today. With 8,061 yards on 1,865 carries, Dillon ranks first in both categories among all Bengals.
Dillon played in 107 games as a Bengal, starting 95 of them. Dillon also added 192 catches for 1,482 receiving yards.
Dillon was selected to the Pro Bowl three times during his career—each year between 1999-2001.
Lemar Parrish played defensive back and kick returner for Cincinnati from 1970-1977. During that time, he started all 105 games that he played in and was selected to six Pro Bowls, tied for second in franchise history.
Parrish is currently fourth in career interceptions (25) and third in interception return yard (354). Parrish's Cincinnati career was highlighted on December 17, 1972, when Parrish returned not one, but two, interceptions for touchdowns against the Houston Oilers (Bengals.com).
Former Bengals defensive back Ken Riley is one of three members of the Bengals.com Hall of Fame Class of 2011. Rileys 65 career interceptions ranks first in franchise history. The next closest is Louis Breeden with just over half (33).
Not only was Riley effective on the field, but he was on the field for a while. Riley's 15 seasons spent in Cincinnati rank second all-time, but his 207 games played are more than anyone to ever wear the stripes (Bengals.com)
Tim Krumrie is the consensus best defensive tackle in Bengals history. Anchoring the Bengals defense for 12 years, Krumrie earned two trips to the Pro Bowl in 1987 and 1988 (Bengals.com). Krumrie played in 188 games in Cincinnati, fourth most in team history, and started 161 of them.
Krumrie was chosen to the Bengals.com Hall of Fame in 2011. He led the Bengals 1988 defense which won the AFC Championship as well as the 1990 AFC Central championship team. Krumrie was a hard-nosed, relentless player whose motor earned him over a decade in the NFL and a reservation as one of the best Bengals ever.
Cris Collinsworth is most known these days for his commentary and color analysis of football but before he wore a headset and microphone on Sundays, he wore a striped helmet. While playing in Cincinnati, Collinsworth pulled in 417 catches for 6,698 receiving yards.
Collinsworth was the Bengals first 1,000-yard receiver and finished his career with four such seasons. He was the all-time receiving leader when he finished his career and attended the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons (Bengals.com).
Former Bengals receiver Isaac Curtis was a member of the Bengals.com Hall of Fame inaugural class. Behind his 7,101 receiving yards on 416 catches, Curtis finished his career as the Bengals best-ever receiver. His record of most receiving yards stood for years and remains second all-time in Bengals history (Bengals.com).
Bruce played in 167 games over his 12 year career in Cincinnati. His 53 career touchdown receptions ranks third in Bengals history. Bruce was a rare blend of size and speed that began an evolution at the wide receiver position, and it has led us to the physical specimens we're used to seeing today.
Chad Ochocinco has never been one in need of press, but these days, he can use all the positive press he can get. Regardless of his off-the-field issues, Chad was a beast on the gridiron in Cincinnati for years.
Chad's 10,783 receiving yards is the most in Bengals history by over 3,000 yards. His six Pro Bowl appearances ties for second in franchise history, and his 66 touchdowns ranks first (Bengals.com).
Despite any negative feelings fans may have towards Chad-the-person, Chad-the-football-player was pretty fun to watch and deserves to be considered one of the greatest Bengals of all-time.
The most successful stretch of Bengals football history is a period led by quarterback Boomer Esiason. The Bengals followed Boomer's arm to Super Bowl XXIII following the 1988 season in which he won NFL MVP honors.
Boomer played in 134 games in Cincinnati, starting 123 of them. Esiason's 27,149 passing yards are second in Bengals history. Boomer's performance against the Rams in 1990, in which he threw for 490 yards, remains the best passing performance for the Queen City. Boomer was a member of the Bengals.com Hall of Fame inaugural class (Bengals.com).
No one wore a Bengals uniform longer than Ken Anderson. Quarterbacking Cincinnati for 16 years, Anderson started in 172 of his 192 games between 1971-1986. Not only is Anderson's longevity impressive, but his numbers were as well.
Anderson remains the franchise leader in passing yards with 32,838. His 197 touchdown passes also ranks first for the Bengals (Bengals.com). Anderson was a member of the Bengals.com Hall of Fame inaugural class and between his contributions on the field and his impact on Cincinnati as a whole, Ken Anderson whole-heartedly deserves to be the No. 2-ranked Bengal of all time.
If Ken Anderson finishes at No. 2, that only leaves one more person for No. 1.
As the Bengals' only Hall of Fame inductee, Anthony Munoz is the no-brainer for best player in Bengals history. Munoz's impact throughout the Cincinnati area continues even today through the Munoz Foundation (I was lucky enough to receive one of his scholarships out of high school). His on-field accomplishments are just as breathtaking.
Munoz started 183 of 185 games for Cincinnati between 1980 and 1992. His 185 games played ranks him fifth in Bengals history. He anchored an offensive line that made it to the Super Bowl in 1988 and performed well enough to make 11 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1981-91 (Bengals.com).