Cincinnati Bengals: The Best Offensive Players Not in the Hall of Fame
The Cincinnati Bengals first appeared in the second incarnation of the American Football League in 1937. They won two of the six games they played, but the AFL folded at seasons end. After remaining an independant team for a year, they joined the American Professional Football Association for a season before joining a third installment of the AFL in 1940. That version folded after two seasons.
Paul Brown had already forged a legendary career on the gridiron that saw him win seven professional football championship with the Cleveland Browns, a team named after him, and one NCAA title in over 30 years as a head coach. The future Hall of Famer ignored the unspoken rules of bigotry in the 1940's and signed African-Americans like Hall of Famers Bill Willis and Marion Motley to play football for him.
Art Modell, the man most now know as the man who moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, bought the team in 1961 and started butting heads with the legendary coach. He fired Brown in 1963, who then sold all his stock in the team three years later in order to get Cincinnati a professional football team.
In 1967, his hard work paid off and the Bengals were born in the fourth and most successful installment of the AFL with Brown having an agreement his team join the NFL in the 1970 merger between the leagues. He named the team to pay tribute to the previous teams, who had popularity throughout the Queen City despite winning just 10 of the 32 games they played.
Though this version has lost 83 more games than they have won so far, this is a team that has given their fans a wild rollercoaster ride where fun and success has turned up often. Known to draft intelligent players from schools most NFL teams paid little attention to, Brown built a team that won a division title in just their third year of existence.
The Bengals reached the Super Bowl twice in the 1980's with two different head coaches and quarterbacks, but lost both times to the San Francisco 49ers. The team has had just two winning seasons since Super Bowl XXIII in 1988, but they have contributed mightily to the NFL's success.
Bill Walsh, often given credit for innovating the West Coast Offense, created this schene as an assistant coach for Cincinnati in the 1970's. It was actually a spawn of an offense Brown and Hall of Famer Sid Gillman created while at Ohio State University. Another former Buckeye, Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, created the zone blitz defense while working with the Bengals. Two men who played for Brown in Cincinnati, Sam Wyche and Bruce Coslet, created the "no huddle" system that drove the league so batty in the 1980's, they once threatened to penalize the Bengals if they used it.
Anthony Munoz, considered by many to be the best offensive tackle in NFL history, is the only Bengal in the Hall of Fame who spent his entire career with the team. Wide receiver Charlie Joiner, who had his greatest successes with the San Diego Chargers, spents three and a half seasons in Cincinnati and is the only other player inducted into Canton so far.
Though players like Lemar Parrish, Ken Anderson, and Ken Riley are just a few Bengals who should also be in Canton right now, they have had two players win MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, and four win Rookie of the Year. Current head coach Marvin Lewis also won Coach of the Year in 2009.
Bengals fans are very loyal, and their ownership has emulated this by having two former players and a former coach from Cincinnati University have runs as head coach. Owner Mike Brown has eschewed from becoming a corporate sell-out by naming the teams ten-year old stadium after his late father Paul the entire time and not selling off the naming rights like most NFL owners do.
Here is a team of the greatest Bengals defensive players in franchise history not yet inducted into Canton.
Quarterback : Ken Anderson
Anderson was drafted in the third round of the 1971 draft by the Bengals and ended up starting four games that year. Though he lost each start, Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown liked what he saw and named Anderson his full-time starter. He then proceeded to have six consecutive seasons with a winning record as a starter.
While showing a great ability to not turn over the ball often, Anderson began to excel. He led the NFL in completions, passing yards, completion percentage, passer rating, yards per game, and yards gained per attempt in 1974. He made his first Pro Bowl the next year after leading the league in passer rating, yards passing, yards gained per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, and yards per game.
After making the Pro Bowl again in 1976, the team struggled between 1978 to 1980. They were the first losing seasons he had as a starter since his rookie year. This caused Anderson to rebound his team, which he did with a vengeance in 1981.
He became the first Bengals NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and only Bert Bell Man of the Year Award winner in team history after a Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro year that saw him toss a career best 29 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. He led the NFL in touchdown percentage, interception percentage, adjusted yards per attempt, and passer rating. The Bengals reached Super Bowl XVI, where he completed 73.5 percent of his passes, which was 25. Both were Super Bowl records at the time, and he also scored on a five-yard run as Cincinnati lost to San Francisco.
The 1982 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. In a game against the San Diego Chargers, the team the Bengals beat in the famous "Freezer Bowl" in the AFC Championship the year before, Anderson and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts became the first quarterbacks in NFL history to both throw for over 400 yards in the same game. Anderson led the NFL in completions, completion percentage, interception percentage, and passer rating. His 70.6 completion percentage is an NFL record though Drew Brees tied it in the quarterback friendly rules of 2009.
Though he led the NFL in completion percentage in 1983, his game began to falter over the next two years as he had losing records and threw more interceptions than touchdowns each season. The Bengals then inserted 1984 second round pick Boomer Esiason as the starter, relegating the 36-year old Anderson to backup duty before retiring after 1986. Esiason, coincidentally, would become the second NFL MVP in Bengals history during 1988 after leading the team to the Super Bowl before losing to San Francisco.
Ken Anderson has somehow yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he is certainly worthy. As well as holding the record for completion percentage in a season, as well as once holding the Super Bowl completion percentage record, he once completed 20 of 22 passes against the mighty Steel Curtain defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He also has the second best postseason quarterback rating in NFL history.
He still ranks in the top-30 in completions, attempts, and passing yards in NFL history despite the fact he was sacked the ninth most ever. He once led the NFL in 1979 by being sacked 46 times. He also holds a team record by tossing for 447 yards in 1975, along with several other team records. Not only is he the first Bengals quarterback to go to the Pro Bowl or be named First Team All-Pro, his four Pro Bowls are the most ever by any Bengals quarterback.
Not only is Ken Anderson the winningest quarterback in team history, but he is an NFL great. The Bengals never allowed anyone to wear his jersey number until he took a job with the rival Steelers and earned a Super Bowl ring mentoring Ben Roethlisberger. If the Bengals ever create a Ring of Honor, Anderson may be one of the very first inducted.
Boomer Esiason, Greg Cook, and Jeff Blake deserve mention.
Fullback : Pete Johnson
Drafted in the second round of the 1977 draft, Johnson was teamed up with Archie Griffin again. The pair were together in college, where Griffin became the only person to win multiple Heisman Trophies. By his second year, Johnson was the main ball carrier for Cincinnati and also was used often in the passing game.
In 1979, he scored 14 times on the ground and once in the air, which was the third most in the league. After a solid 1980 season, he had his best year in the NFL in 1981, which was the only time Johnson went to the Pro Bowl. He set career highs with 274 carries for 1,077 yards, 46 receptions for 320 yards, and 16 total scores. It helped the Bengals reach their first Super Bowl in franchise history, as Johnson scored once in each playoff victory.
The 1982 season was shortened to just nine games, but Johnson was still able to run for 626 yards, catch 31 balls, and score seven times. He then tied his career best mark of 14 rushing touchdowns the next year, his last with the Bengals. He was traded to the San Diego Chargers for James Brooks and scored three times in three games before being dealt to the Miami Dolphins. After scoring nine times in 13 games, he retired.
Not only is his 64 rushing touchdowns the most in team history, the 5,421 rushing yards Johnson had was a team record until Corey Dillon passed it in 2002. It still ranks third most in team history, and the most by any Bengals fullback. His 14 rushing touchdowns was a team record until Icky Woods passed it by one in 1988. The 420 points he score ranks fifth in team history, and is the most by any non-kicker.
Pete Johnson is not only the first Bengals fullback to go to the Pro Bowl, but he is their best ever. A bruising runner with soft hands, he was also a crushing blocker who was one of the more underrated players of his time. Playing in the shadow of division rival Franco Harris, a Hall of Fame fullback, he didn't always get the notoriety or accolades he deserved. Still, Bengals fans know how good he was for their team.
Ickey Woods, Boobie Clark, Lorenzo Neal, and Larry Kinnebrew deserve mention.
Halfback : Corey Dillon
Dillon was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft by the Bengals. He started just six games as a rookie because Ki-Jana Carter, the first overall pick of the 1995 draft, was ahead of him on the depth chart. It didn't stop Dillon from gaining 1,129 yards and scoring ten times on the ground. He also set a rookie record by running for 246 yards in one game. He also scored four times in that game, a team record that still stands today.
His first Pro Bowl year was in 1999, after gaining 1,200 yards. It was the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl games. He set a team record by running for 1,435 yards in 2000, a season that saw him set an then-NFL record by running for 278 yards in a game. He scored 13 times the next year, including a career long 96-yard jaunt that led the NFL and set a Bengals for longest offensive play ever.
The 2003 season was his seventh in the league, as well as the first time he failed to run for over 1,000 yards in a season. He was mostly injured that year, so the Bengals decided to lean on Rudi Johnson. Johnson, who had only played nine games in two years previously, would end up with the second most rushing yards in Bengals history when he was done.
The New England Patriots traded a second round draft pick for Dillon's services. The move paid off big, as he ran for a career best 1,635 yards on a career high 345 carries while tying his career best mark of 13 scores. He was named to his final Pro Bowl as he helped carry the Patriots to a Super Bowl XXXIX win. It was the first 1,600-yard rushing year in Patriots history, a record that still stands.
After two more solid seasons that saw him match his career best mark of 13 scores, despite missing four games and nine starts because of injuries, he retired at the end of the 2006 season. He is a member of the Patriots 2000's All-Decade Team.
Of the 18 records Dillon set with the Bengals, 16 still stand. He is the only Bengals back to have six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and three of them were the top ranked in Bengal history at the time. Johnson now holds the top spot, thus making them second, third, and fourth. He has the most rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in Cincinnati history. He also holds two of the top nine single game rushing performances in league history, and his 11,241 rushing yards is the 17th most in NFL history.
The three Pro Bowls he went to as a Bengals are one less than James Brooks as the most in team history. Cincinnati may have drafted him as insurance for Carter, still recovering from a devastating injury incurred as a rookie, but they ended up acquiring the best running back in team history. When the Bengals create their Ring of Honor, Corey Dillon should be amongst the first to go in.
James Brooks, Paul Robinson, Harold Green, Rudi Johnson, Essex Johnson, and Archie Griffin deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : Isaac Curtis
Curtis almost never had a career in pro football. He spent his first three years in college running track and playing as a little used halfback at the University of California before transferring to San Diego State for his senior year. The legendary Don Coryell was the head coach there, and he quickly switched Curtis to wide receiver. A star was quickly born and the Bengals used their first round pick, 15th overall, in 1973 to grab him.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. Not only did he grab 32 touchdown passes over that time, he averaged over twenty yards at catch on 200 receptions. Curtis led the NFL with a career best 21.2 yards per catch average in 1975 after accumulating a 21.1 average the season before.
His streak of Pro Bowls ended in 1977 after missing six games due to injuries, but he spent the rest of his career as a very productive member of the Bengals. The 1978 season saw him catch a career best 47 balls as the team went through personnel changes. They reached Super Bowl XVI in 1981 with Curtis and Cris Collinsworth teaming as an effective deep threat duo.
He retired after the 1984 season with 416 receptions, which was a team record at the time. It still ranks as the fifth best in team history. His 7,101 receiving yards was a team record until it was surpassed by Chad Ochocinco in 2007, and the 17.1 yards per catch Curtis averaged in his career is easily the best in franchise history by any Bengal with more than 94 catches with the team. His 53 touchdown catches still ranks third best in team history, and his four Pro Bowls are the second most by a Bengals wide receiver.
Cincinnati has had many great wide receivers in the history of their team, yet few have been the constant deep threat that Curtis was. He struck fear in opponents because it was common to see Curtis blow by defenders to catch a long pass. He was also excellent once grabbing the ball, showing off his skills that had him play running back in college.
Picking the greatest wide receiver in Bengals history is not easy because of Ochocinco, Collinsworth, Carl Pickens, Eddie Brown, and others, but Isaac Curtis is always in the discussion and amongst the first names mentioned always. He quite likely is the greatest receiver the team has ever had. It should be noted how he succeeded in the ten-yard chuck rule era while facing great cornerbacks who excelled in man-to-man defense like Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Zeke Moore, Clarence Scott, and Ron Bolton twice a year.
Wide Receiver : Cris Collinsworth
The Bengals drafted Collinsworth in the second round of the 1981 draft, and he became an immediate star. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, grabbing a career best 67 balls while gaining 1,009 yards and scoring eight times. Cincinnati reached Super Bowl XVI, where Collinsworth led all players with 107 yards off five receptions in their loss t the San Francisco 49ers.
He went back to the Pro Bowl in each of the next two seasons. He has 49 receptions for 700 yards in just nine games during the strike shortened 1982 season, then followed that up with a career best 1,130 yards off 66 receptions the next season. After a solid 1984 season, Collinsworth tried to jump to the United States Football League, but failed a physical with the Tampa Bay Bandits because of a bad ankle.
Returning to the Bengals he caught a career high 10 touchdown passes in 1986, year that saw him exceed 60 receptions for the fifth straight year and sixth time out of seven seasons. It would be the last time he accomplished this feat. After a 1987 season season shortened by a players strike, Collinsworth became a little used reserve in 1988. The Bengals reached Super Bowl , where his three catches for 40 yards were second on the team in the Bengals loss to the 49ers. He retired after the game, and has become an award-winning sports journalist on several television networks since.
At the time, his 417 receptions were the most in team history and are still the fourth most. His 6,698 yards rank fourth best, and his 36 scores, ranked second most at the time of his retirement, rank seventh best. The three Pro Bowls he had still rank the third most ever by a Bengals wide receiver.
Though his spot may be taken after Chad Ochocinco retires, it may not as well. At 6'5", Collinsworth was a tall player who used his height to out jump defenders for the ball. Yet he also had excellent speed to get down field as a deep threat, finishing with a 16.1 yards per catch average. Despite having two seasons basically stolen from him due to players strikes, Collinsworth was reliable, productive, spectacular, and consistent for Cincinnati. Many Bengals fans would tell you he is the best wide receiver the team ever had.
Eddie Brown, Carl Pickens, Chip Meyers, and Darnay Scott deserve mention.
Tight End : Bob Trumpy
Trumpy was drafted in the 12th round of the 1968 draft, the 301st player overall, by the expansion Bengals. Cincinnati was a new member of the American Football League at the time, and the AFL would fully merge with the NFL in two seasons. He impressed his Hall of Fame head coach Paul Brown with his work ethic, so Brown named him the starter as a rookie.
Cincinnati was rewarded with 37 receptions at a 17.3 yards per catch clip, which got him named to the Pro Bowl. Trumpy returned the next year by setting a still standing team record of a whopping 22.6 yards per catch average off another 37 receptions. He also scored a career high nine times and was named First Team All-Pro for his efforts.
In his first year in the post-merger NFL in 1970, Trumpy went back to the Pro Bowl. He went back for the final time in 1973 before seeing a decline in receiving opportunities. Though he caught seven touchdowns off of 21 catches in 1976, he retired at the end of the 1977 season. At the time of his retirement, almost ever Bengals receiving record was owned by him. His last touchdown came off a rare reverse flea flicker, where three other Bengals touched the ball before it reached him.
What makes Bob Trumpy's career special is not just the fact he helped an expansion team grow up fast with his help, as they had only three losing seasons in his ten years, but how he accumulated his excellent statistics. Cincinnati has eight different quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his career, yet he remained a viable threat regardless.
Besides still owning the team record for yards per catch in a season, the 35 touchdowns Trumpy scored are the most ever by any Bengal tight end in team history. He still ranks tenth is total receptions for a career, and his career average of 15.4 yards per catch show how good he was with the ball after getting it.
Not only is he the first Pro Bowl player in Bengals history, an honor he shares with halfback Paul Robinson and center Bob Johnson, he is the second Bengal ever to be named First Team All-Pro. He is also the only Bengals tight end to be named First Team All-Pro. Bob Trumpy is the greatest tight end the team has ever had.
Dan Ross, Rodney Holman, and Tony McGee deserve mention.
Offensive Tackle : Willie Anderson
Cincinnati used their first round draft selection, tenth overall, to tab Anderson. He was soon starting, and was a mainstay of their offensive line for 11 years. After missing two games in 1999, he would not miss a game nor start again until 2007.
Though he had long been considered an upper echelon left tackle for years, Anderson was finally recognized in 2003 with the first of four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He was named First Team All-Pro for the final three seasons he achieved this honor. After being hurt in 2007, forcing him to miss the first nine games of his career, Cincinnati released him after he refused to take a reduction in salary.
The Baltimore Ravens were having injury issues along their offensive line in 2008, so they signed Anderson. He started in 11 of the 14 games he played in, then retired for good having only missed 11 out of a possible 204 games over 13 seasons.
Cincinnati has only had two offensive tackles go to the Pro Bowl, Anderson and the legendary Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz. Munoz is considered the greatest left tackle in NFL history by many, but Willie Anderson was special in his own right and very underrated.
There were several years he probably should have gone to the Pro Bowl, but future Hall of Famers Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden were in his way of attaining the honor. So strong that he once reportedly lifted 675 lbs, Anderson was also very athletic and was solid in every aspect. After Munoz, he may be the best blocker in Bengals history.
Offensive Tackle : Joe Walter
Walter was drafted in the seventh round of the 1985 draft by Cincinnati. He began to earn a starters job in his second season, starting in eight games. He would then start in 156 of a possible 172 games over the next nine years. He missed 12 games because of injury.
After a 1997 season where he was only able to suit up for five games because of injuries, Walter retired. Though he never made the Pro Bowl, he was an excellent player. Three different halfbacks and a fullback ran for over 1,000 yards and two made the Pro Bowl over his career. He was also part of an explosive offense that reached a Super Bowl and had the quarterback named NFL MVP.
Many offensive linemen go through a career without being noticed much unless they make an error. Joe Walter was rock solid for over a decade for the Bengals, helping lead them to some of the biggest successes in franchise history. He may be the finest right tackle they ever had.
Ernie Wright, Kevin Sargent, and Levi Jones deserve mention.
Guard : Max Montoya
Montaya was a seventh round draft pick of the Bengals in 1979. Though he played just 11 games as a rookie, he quickly earned the starting job and started in nine games.He would remain a starter the rest of his time in Cincinnati.He missed ten starts and six games over the next 10 years because of injury, but there was perhaps no more underrated right guard in the NFL than him.
Though he was an elite guard in the NFL, it took until 1986 for him to be recognized with a Pro Bowl nod. He would repeat the honor in both 1987 and 1988 before leaving the Bengals for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990. The Raiders made it to the AFC Championship that year, after defeating the Bengals in the Division Playoff Game, only to be destroyed by the Buffalo Bills 51-3.
After missing 13 games the next two years because of injuries, Montoya made his last Pro Bowl in 1994. He retired the next year after being a reserve all season, having started in 203 games in his 16 seasons. He paved the way for running backs like Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson, James Brooks, Pete Johnson, Roger Craig, Napoleon Kaufman, Icky Woods, and several others. He also helped quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason win NFL MVP as the team reached the Super Bowl twice.
Max Montoya is the only Bengals guard to ever get named to the Pro Bowl. He is probably the greatest guard in the franchises history.
Guard : Bruce Reimers
Reimers was an eighth round draft pick of the Bengals in 1985. He began to break into the starting lineup by his third season. Besides starting at left guard, Reimers was a versatile player who often filled in at the tackle positions as well. He was an integral member of an offensive line that saw the Bengals become the highest scoring team in 1988, where they appeared in Super Bowl XXIII.
Cincinnati stumbled to a three win season in 1991, and Reimers was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1992. He lasted two years there, starting in 26 of the 27 games he played, before retiring at the end of the 1993 season. Though he never made the Pro Bowl, Reimers was a valuable player who was versatile and technically sound. He is one of the better blockers in team history.
Dave Lapham, Howard Fest, Pat Matson, Eric Steinbach, Bobbie Williams, and Glenn Bujnoch deserve mention.
Center : Bob Johnson
The first player ever drafted by the Bengals, the second overall selection in 1968, Johnson started right away and excelled. He became the first Bengals blocker to make a Pro Bowl in his rookie year, and still remains the only Bengals center to have ever achieved this honor.
After starting and playing in ever Bengals game his first six years, Johnson missed four games in 1974 because of injury. He did manage to have a reception for three yards that year as well. He remained the leader of the unit until 1977, never missing a game.
In 1978, Cincinnati used their first round pick on center Blair Bush and inserted him into the lineup. Johnson did appear in 13 games, but the main job of the 32-year old was to mentor Bush. After five games played in 1979, he became the last original Bengal to retire. The Bengals soon retired his number, and it still remains the only number the franchise has ever awarded this honor to.
Though the team has had several excellent centers in their history, none are better than the first one who ever played the position for them. Bob Johnson may be the first Bengal inducted into their Ring of Honor if the team ever creates one.
Blair Bush, Dave Rimington, Rich Braham, Dan Brilz, and Bruce Kozerski deserve mention.
Kicker : Jim Breech
Breech was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the eighth round of the 1978 draft. He did not make the team and sat out the season. He tried out for the Oakland Raiders in 1979, and made the squad. After a year where he scored 95 points, the Raiders cut Breech to sign Chris Bahr, a kicker just released by the Bengals.
As the 1980 season went on, he got two offers to sign with the Bengals and Cleveland Browns. He chose the Bengals because the Browns job was temporary while Browns great Don Cockroft recovered from injury and the Bengals were having issues. The man they drafted to replace Bahr, Sandro Vitiello, did not pan out and Ian Sunter had missed nine field goals so far, despite making two game winning kicks against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers so far. Breech took over for the final four games of the season.
He held the job for 13 seasons and Cincinnati, and was well know to be automatic from 40-yards and in. Out of 216 career attempts from 40-yards in, he missed just 28 attempts. He scored more than 87 points every season with the Bengals 10 times, with a high of 120 points. In the Bengals Super Bowl season of 1988, Breech led the NFL with a career high 56 extra point conversions out of 59 attempts.
When he retired after the 1992 season, Breech had scored 1,151 points with the Bengals. It is the most in franchise history, and his team record of 186 consecutive games of scoring a point is the second longest in NFL history. He also holds the NFL record by making all nine of the field goals he attempted in overtime. He even attempted the only pass of his career, which went for 12 yards.
The Bengals have had quite a few excellent kickers in their short history. Shayne Graham, now kicking for the Patriots, is the only Bengals kicker to go to the Pro Bowl. Still, there are no kickers in franchise history better than Jim Breech.
Shayne Graham, Horst Muhlmann, the first of just four kickers ever to make a 50-yard field goal in three consecutive games, and Doug Pelfrey deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Tremain Mack
Mack was drafted in the fourth round of the 1997 draft by Cincinnati. He played just four games as a rookie because of injury, but he started at cornerback. They are the only starts of his career at the position, and he intercepted his only pass that was returned for 29 yards.
When he came back the next season, the Bengals asked him to return kickoffs. He responded by averaging 25.9 on 45 attempts while scoring once. He then followed that up by having his best season in 1999, where he became the only Bengal ever to be named to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner.
Averaging a career high 27.1 yards on a career best 51 returns, he also scored off a 99-yard jaunt. After returning 50 kicks the next season for 1,036 yards, he retired with several team records. He is the only Bengal to score twice off kick returns, his 27.1 return average is a single-season record by anyone with 17 or more attempts, and he still has the most kickoff return attempts and yards in team history.
In his short time, "T-Mack" proved himself to be maybe the best kickoff return specialist in team history.
Stanford Jennings, Tab Perry, Glenn Holt, Brandon Bennett, Eric Ball, Bernard Jackson, David Dunn, Eric Bieniemy, Willie Shelby, and Lemar Parrish deserve mention.