Once Upon a Time Bengals Could Roar

Wayne BakerContributor IMay 19, 2009

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 19: NBC commenator Cris Collinsworth  reports from the sidelines as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Seattle Seahawks at Raymond James Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

I always hate to preface something with the age old, "I hate to date myself," crap.  Sometimes you just have to say whatever is on your mind and let the chips fall where they may.  So here goes folks. I loved the 1981 Cincinnati Bengals like they were family.

Even though the San Francisco 49'ers beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl that year, Cincinnati fielded a team in every sense of the word.

Led by their grizzled coach Forrest Gregg, who once played for the immortal Hall of Fame Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, the Bengals never injected an "i" in team.

With a Buckeye connection in the backfield, Archie Griffin and bruising fullback Pete Johnson, the team could finesse you or pound the ball down your throat. 

Quarterback Ken Anderson was deadly behind center as he threw for nearly 4,000 yards, many of those to the man we now see commentating on games, Cris Collinsworth.

Collinsworth was fearless and fun to watch.  Ronnie Lott hit him so hard in the Super Bowl, that I think it imprinted a permanent silly grin on his face. Dan Ross, who recently died from a heart attack, was the total team player, blocking and catching passes as an undersized tight end.

Ross Browner from Notre Dame was a monster at defensive end. Ken Riley anchored the secondary along with Louis Breeden.  Reggie Williams and Jim LeClair were dominant at linebacker.  The biggest man I have ever seen, Anthony Munoz, was a one-man blocking machine at tackle.

En route to the Super Bowl, the Bengals beat San Diego 27-7 at home in a game where the temperature was recorded at 30 below zero with the wind chill.

But this team was even better off the field then on it.  Reggie Williams was very active in local politics and literacy programs.  Browner was equally involved in helping underprivileged children.  Griffin and Johnson never stopped giving back to the Ohio State University.  And Collinsworth reached out to help the needy long before he gained more fame behind the microphone.

In this day and age, when most pro players are so bling-blinged out of their minds, or busy collecting paternity suits, it is refreshing to think back to a time when there was a team so enjoyable to watch off the field, as well as on it.