The last time we saw the Cincinnati Bengals in a meaningful game, they were self-destructing themselves into their seventh consecutive Wild Card playoff loss dating back to the 2005 playoffs. They went from being totally outplayed for three quarters, to coming back to take the lead in the 4th quarter and had the game all but sealed with a late interception, to fumbling while trying to chew the clock, followed by their erratic behavior that set up the game losing field goal. The roller coaster ride of a loss to hated AFC North division rival the Pittsburgh Steelers should come as no surprise. That’s been the theme of this franchise for the past 30 season.
In the 1980s they competed in two Super Bowls (XVI, XXIII) after two 12-4 seasons, and won 4 playoff games in the decade. That was followed by the 1990s, where they suffered 8 losing seasons, one 8-8 season (1996) and only made the playoffs once (1990). Then came the 2000s, where in the last 16 seasons, they’ve had 6 losing seasons, 3 seasons of 8-8, 7 winning seasons that led to 4 AFC North division titles, and 5 consecutive losses in the AFC Wild Card. So you can see why so many fans in “The Jungle” left Paul Brown Stadium distraught and in tears this past January.
All In all, their history isn’t so bad. The following four guys, were the bright spots in their roller coaster time in the “Queen City.”
- No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
- Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
- Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.
Paul Brown (1968-1975) is one of the few who can say he’s majorly instrumental in the history of two franchises. He retired from the Bengals with 55 wins and ushered the team to the NFL from the AFL. He won two division titles and made the playoffs 3 seasons in his 8-years as the head guy in the “Queen City.” He can be credited as having the greatest impact on creating the craze football has on the state of Ohio, due to his success in building iconic programs at the high school (Massilion High), collegiate (Ohio State) and professional levels. Even with the success of current head coach Marvin Lewis who is the team’s all-time winningest coach with 112 victories, no one person is more responsible for this team than Mr. Brown.
Anthony Munoz (1980-1992) is widely regarded as one of the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history, if not “THE” greatest. He is so revered he was rated the #12 player of all-time by NFL.com in 2010, the highest of any offensive lineman. The third overall pick by the Bengals in 1980 went on to be an 11-time Pro Bowl and 11-time 1st-Team All-Pro selection. Three times he was awarded the Offensive Lineman of the Year (1981, 1987, 1988) honor. Munoz played in two Super Bowls (XVI, XXIII) and is a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade and NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time teams. In 1998 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first-year of eligibility.
Ken Anderson (1971-1986 player; 1993-2002 QB Coach) led the Bengals to their first AFC Championship in 1981. Anderson is Cincinnati’s all-time leader in career wins (91), games played (192), passing yards (32,838), pass touchdowns (197), completions (2,654) and attempts (4,475). The 4-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro, was the NFL MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year and NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1981. Anderson was ranked 6th all-time in passing yards for a career when he retired in 1986. His 93.5 postseason quarterback rating still ranks seventh in NFL History.
Chad Johnson (2001-2010) brought the flamboyance to the “Jungle” and helped make the team relevant again, despite the team only having two winning seasons with two playoff appearances, and detractors over his celebrating style. The 6-time Pro Bowl and 4-time All-Pro selection is the Bengals all-time leader in receptions (751), receiving yards (10,783), and receiving touchdowns (66). “Ochocinco” is a member of the Bengals 40th Anniversary Team.
There you have it Bengal fans. I want to hear from you now. Did I get it right? If not, what would your list look like? Maybe Boomer Esiason? Corey Dillion? Let me have it.