This is the latest post in Kurt’s continuing series to identify the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player of All-Time. For an explanation of his methodology for choosing each franchise’s ultimate franchise player, and then how you and he will choose the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player from that list, click here.
To see all the category page for this series, of which there will be one for every franchise, click here.
Cincinnati Bengals History
In 1963, coach Paul Brown had a bitter divorce from the Cleveland Browns and left town with the Browns gear, including their trademark orange helmets. Brown eventually set out to acquire a new franchise, and eventually the Cincinnati Bengals were born as the AFL’s tenth and final franchise in 1968.
The Bengals do not have much of an AFL history, as Brown was much more interested in owning an NFL team. But by the time the franchise was awarded, the AFL was already engaged with the NFL, and the Bengals would only play two seasons in the AFL before joining the AFC Central Division, where they were joined by the rival Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The first 20+ years of Bengals history actually went quite well. The team made the AFC playoffs in just the team’s third year of operation, made even more impressive by the fact that two of the AFC berths in 1970 went to old-NFL crossovers Cleveland and Baltimore. The Bengals success culminated with Super Bowl appearances following the 1981 and 1988 seasons.
The most recent generation of Bengals football has not gone well, and not coincidentally things started going south immediately after Paul Brown’s passing in 1990. Over the past decade the franchise has been known much more for players’ constant off-the-field trouble than anything accomplished on the field.
In recent years the Bengals have seemed to operate like an independent record label. Despite that poor recent history however, surely over 40+ years of Cincinnati football there would be a Bon Iver-type that sticks out as a franchise icon, right?
Well yes, there is one legend who definitely has the credentials to be the representative as the Cincinnati Bengals Ultimate Franchise Player.
Bob Johnson (C 1968-79)
Johnson was the Bengals’ first ever pick, and the second overall pick of the 1968 AFL/NFL Draft. The selection also gave an insight on Paul Brown’s philosophies, as he believed that the center is the first player an offense should build around.
Johnson made the AFL’s All-Star team as a rookie, but he never earned All-Pro recognition after that. Still, Johnson did have a solid 12-year career in the league.
Pat McInally (P/WR 1976-85)
Another one of Paul Brown’s penchants was to draft players with higher than normal intelligence, and McInally certainly fit that bill. He was famously known as the only player ever to score a perfect 50 on the pre-draft Wonderic exam.
At 6’7” 210 lbs, McInally also saw action at wide receiver early in his career as well as being the team’s full-time punter.
Bob Trumpy (TE 1968-77)
The Bengals also had a great lineage of players who would go on to become outspoken television commentators. At 6’6”, 230 lbs, Trumpy averaged an unbelievable 22.6 yards per catch in 1969 and would go on to average 15 yards per catch in his career, amazing numbers for a tight end.
Isaac Curtis (WR 1973-84)
During the mid-1970’s, no one spelled deep threat quite like Isaac Curtis, who earned Pro Bowl bids in each of his first four seasons in the league while averaging around 20 yards a catch. Never a volume receiver, but was a threat to take it to the house at any given moment.
It’s only fitting that someone going under the handle of Bacon would have a fetish going after the quarterbacks that were holding the pigskin. He spent only two of his 14 NFL seasons in the ‘Nati, but one of those was a 22 sack campaign in 1976. Sacks were not an official statistic in those days, but it is still believed to be one of the most prolific pass-rushing seasons in league history.
Mike Reid (DT 1970-74)
The seventh overall pick of the 1970 Draft, the Penn State product was Bon Iver for an earlier generation, which ultimately proved to be a problem for the Bengals.
You see, Reid’s true love was that of being a pianist and a musician. After five seasons with the team, in which he was named All-Pro twice, Reid (not surprisingly) retired, deciding his true calling was in the music industry. Reid would eventually embark on an equally successful career as a country music singer and song-writer.
Lemar Parrish (CB 1970-77)
Lemar always had a penchant for the football, and he earned six of his eight career Pro Bowl berths as a member of the Bengals. Parrish recorded 13 scores via return during his Cincinnati careers, four via punt returns, one kickoff return, four pick-sixes, three fumble returns, and finally a TD off a blocked field goal.
Reggie Williams (OLB 1976-89)
Like Pat McInally, Williams was another Ivy Leaguer who eventually earned a special place in Bengals lore, and he was elected to the Cincinnati City Counsel by the time his career ended. He recorded 62.5 sacks, along with 16 interceptions and three TD’s during his career.
Cris Collinsworth (WR 1981-88)
Collinsworth was able to participate in both of Cincinnati’s Super Bowl squads, although his career was on its dying legs by the time Super Bowl 23 rolled around. Collinsworth’s career started with a bang with three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Standing 6’5” with exceptional speed turned out to be too much for opposition defenses early in his career.
David Fulcher (SS 1986-92)
One of the most feared hitters of his era, Fulcher earned three Pro Bowl bids as a member of the Bengals. Fulcher had a huge game in Super Bowl 23 and went on to intercept eight passes the following season.
James Brooks (RB 1984-91)
Brooks actually began his career playing against the Bengals as a member of the San Diego Chargers in the infamous 1981 AFC Championship Game, better known as the ‘Freezer Bowl’ (-9, -59 wind chill). A memorable image of that game was a fan on the roof of the baseball dugout with his shirt off, and I heard one person years later referring to that man as being ‘fully kreusened’. Brooks earned four Pro Bowl berths in his time in Cincinnati while rushing for a then-team record 6,447 yards in the process.
Ickey Woods (RB 1988-91)
A shooting star in NFL annals, the ‘Ickey Shuffle’ quickly became iconic while leading the team to the 1988 AFC Championship, scoring 15 touchdowns in his rookie season. Knee injuries would spell doom to Ickey’s career soon after, but not to the legend.
Corey Dillon (RB 1997-2003)
His tenure in Cincinnati was often stormy, but Dillon’s talent was also without question. Corey rushed for over 8,000 yards in seven seasons, including a then record-breaking single game performance of 274 yards. Unfortunately he is best remembered for making some parting shots at the organization on his way out the door.
Tim Krumrie (DT 1983-1994)
A tenth round draft pick out of the University of Wisconsin in 1983, Krumrie had an exceptional 12-year career in the NFL. Unfortunately, he gets best remembered for the horrific leg injury suffered early in Super Bowl 23. With a steel rod inserted inside the leg, Krumrie would go on to play six more seasons with the Bengals.
Willie Anderson (OT 1996-2007)
One of the headlining offensive line prospects heading into the 1996 NFL Draft, Willie did not disappoint as the #10 overall pick that year. Willie made the Pro Bowl in each of his final five seasons in Cincinnati and at one point could bench press upwards to 700 lbs.
Carson Palmer (QB 2003-10)
Palmer is another recent player who might be better remembered for his ugly departure from the team than his actual career. The #1 overall pick of the 2003 Draft, Palmer earned two Pro Bowl bids early in his career and completed nearly 68% of his passes in leading Cincy to the 2005 AFC North title. Who knows how good Carson would had become if Kimo Von Oelhoffen hadn’t gotten a hold of his ACL in that playoff game.
THE FINAL FIVE
Ken Riley (CB 1969-83)
People scoff at the senior selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but ol’ #13 is a very good case for them. Riley intercepted 65 passes over a 13-year career, but what has probably held him back from making the trip up to road to Canton is that he never earned All-Pro recognition until his final season, in which he picked off eight passes.
Chad Johnson/Chad Ochocinco (WR 2001-10)
To use a pro wrestling term, Ochocinco used his gimmick to his advantage to gain run through his decade-plus career.
But take away the theater, and you are still left with a fairly historic wide receiver. At the height of his career (2003-07) Chad averaged 92 catches/1375 yards/8.5 TD’s per season.
Chad’s career was on fumes this past season in New England, and if this is the end, he will be a borderline case for Canton.
Ken Anderson (QB 1971-84)
Bill Walsh served as an assistant on the Bengals staff before becoming a legendary coach with the 49ers, and it was during that time in which Anderson was one of his prized pupils and what is now known as the West Coast Offense was truly born.
Anderson completed a far better percentage of his passes (59%+) than others of his era, and he led the league in QB rating on four occasions in 12 years as a starter. Anderson is ranked #80 on Pro Football References EloRater.
Boomer Esiason (QB 1984-92, 1997)
As Ken Anderson led what would become the Super Bowl 16 team, it was Boomer who carried the team through the Sam Wyche era of the late 1980s. He threw 24+ passes for touchdowns on five separate occasions and was a four-time Pro Bowler, one of those occasions being after he left Cincinnati. Boomer is now a fixture on New York morning radio and as a broadcast commentator.
Anthony Munoz (OT 1980-92)
Quite simply one of the greatest physical specimens to ever play the game, and in the eyes of many the best ever at his position.
Munoz was part of a legendary offensive line tradition to come out of the USC Trojans program. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, only missing in his rookie season and what turned out to be his final campaign. He also had four TDs on his resume thanks to being used on goal-line plays as an eligible receiver.
What you may not know is Munoz was also at one-time a pitcher in USC’s baseball program; that had to be an intimidating force on the mound.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Going back to my music business analogy, playing offensive line is kind of like working under an independent label. One has to do an awful lot to gain recognition, unfairly so in comparison to other positions.
Well, Anthony Munoz was ranked #12 on the NFL Network’s Greatest 100 players list, the highest ranking of any offensive lineman, so he has certainly gotten his well-earned recognition.
So not only do the Cincinnati Bengals have a worthy representative for UFP, but one that should be seeded high as well. But the question will be, like a juggernaut from a small conference on Selection Sunday, is an offensive lineman like Munoz actually worthy of a #3 seed, or will he fall to a #4 or a #5 and end up facing a #1 in the Round of 16???
We’ll have plenty of time to find out the answers. For now, this is a no-brainer. The Cincinnati Bengals representative for MSF’s Ultimate Franchise Player is…