The Cincinnati Bengals Geeklist
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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When you talk about the history of professional football people think of the glamor teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, or the bad-boy Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, the dominant '49er teams from the 1980s and 1990s, and even that team that plays in western Pennsylvania. If you think of football from before the Super Bowl era, you think of the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers.

Mostly, you don't think about the Cincinnati Bengals. But I'm a Bengals fan, they are in the playoffs this weekend, and so here is a geeklist about the history of the Cincinnati Bengals. Fellow Bengals fans please chime in!
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1. Board Game: Bengal Purrsuit [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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The Bengals play in black and orange, but the main color for the franchise is Brown. Paul Brown.

Paul Brown was a football legend. He had led the Cleveland Browns (the name is not a coincidence) to seven championships and was a real innovator in pro football and was owner of the team too. But he sold a controlling interest to a local businessman, and in January 1963 Brown was canned by that businessman, Browns owner Art Modell (hiss).

Brown wanted back into pro football - and in 1967, he was awarded the franchise for a new American Football League team in Cincinnati (this was after the upcoming AFL/NFL merger was agreed). Brown named them the Bengals (there had been a couple of earlier pro football teams in Cincinnati with that name). Brown was the owner, general manager, and head coach. A lot, but few people were better qualified than Paul Brown.

The Bengals' first two seasons (1968/69) were unexceptional; they were 3-11 and 4-9-1. But after the merger was finished, the Bengals were moved to the AFC Central with the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steeles, and Houston Oilers. And in 1970, the Bengals won their division and made the playoffs for the first time. Not a bad start for a young franchise.
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2. Board Game: Pro Draft [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:11671]
Wendell
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Yellow Springs
Ohio
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The Bengals fell back to 4-10 in 1971, but from 1972 thru 1977 were a consistently good team, never finishing worse than 7-7. They made the playoffs twice in that period (in those days, only 3 division champs and 1 wild card team per conference, so fewer opportunities), though they lost in the first round both times. In 1975 they were 11-3, but that was only good for second place to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Some of the Bengals' stars during this period included Greg Cook, a promising QB whose career was shortened by injury, Kenny Anderson, an all-time great quarterback whose omission from the Hall of Fame is criminal, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, cornerback Kenny Riley, TE Bob Trumpy.
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3. Board Game: Pulijudam [Average Rating:5.12 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Paul Brown retired after the 1976 season (Bengals were 10-4 but didn't make playoffs). Brown chose his defensive assistant, Bill "Tiger" Johnson to succeed him.

And Brown passed up on the offensive coach who had worked with Kenny Anderson and Isaac Curtis, who led a successful Bengals offense.

Guy name of Bill Walsh. You may have heard of him.

Bengals fans lie awake on long winter nights, wondering what the history of the team could have been if Brown had tapped Walsh instead of Johnson.

As it was, Johnson was a flop. The Bengals in 1977-1980 were 8-6, 4-12, 4-12, and 6-10. Johnson was fired midway thru his third season, and the forgettable Homer Rice led the team after him. These were not happy times for Bengals fans.
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4. Board Game: Vince Lombardi's Game [Average Rating:7.15 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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The Bengals hired a former Green Bay Packer player, Forrest Gregg (who Vince Lombardi called the greatest player he had ever coached), to run the team in 1980. Gregg's first year wasn't great (6-10 in 1980) but was sure better than the two 4-12 seasons.

But Gregg was a good coach, and the team had talent - players like Kenny Anderson and Ken Riley, Louis Breeden and Dan Ross, Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, linebacker Reggie Williams, bruising fullback Pete Johnson, and charming southern boy wide receiver Cris Collinsworth.

Gregg's second season, 1981, was a dream year. The team LOOKED different - they replaced those boring old helmets with one with tiger stripes. But the Bengals had to overcome a bad start. Opening day, end of first half the Bengals were losing 21-0 to the Seattle Seahawks. Kenny Anderson was having an uncharacteristically terrible day. Gregg put in third-string QB Turk Schonert (backup QB Jack Thompson aka the Throwin' Samoan was injured), and Schonert led the team to an improbably 27-21 come from behind win.

Despite calls to play Thompson or Schonert, Gregg wisely stuck with Anderson for game two and Anderson went on to have a brilliant season, ending as the NFL MVP.

The Bengals defeated Buffalo in the first playoff game, and faced the high-flying San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship. Did you know the coldest game in NFL history was NOT played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field (Green Bay)? Nope it was right there in Cincinnati. Game time wind chill was -56F. Munoz and his fellow linesmen wore short sleeve shirts because they're tough, you know? Bengals beat the Chargers 27-7 to reach the Super Bowl for the first time.

Back to the 1981 season. The Bengals went to Detroit to meet the NFC champion San Francisco '49ers in Super Bowl XVI. The '49ers head coach? Bill Walsh. Oh the irony.

The first half was grim. Fumbles and interceptions and the Bengals were down 20-0. But they had the ball late in the first half with a chance to get on the scoreboard but in four plays from the 49ers' one yard line, they couldn't score. The Bengals tried to come back in the second half, and Anderson and TE Dan Ross had record-setting games, but turnovers were key and the 49ers and Joe Montana won their first Super Bowl 26-21.
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5. Board Game: Pizza Box Football [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:2706]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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The Bengals were 7-2 in the strike-shortened 1982 season but lost in the first round to the New York Jets (hope that isn't an omen).

1982 featured that memorable Monday Night Football game, a rematch of the AFC Championship game. Anderson completed 40 passes in a wild game, but the Chargers won 50-34. The team slipped to 7-9 in 1983. After that season, Forrest Gregg left to coach his old team the Packers, and assistant Sam Wyche took over as head coach.

Sam Wyche gets a bad rap. He was innovative, emotional and I thought a good coach. The Bengals were an average team at first. But in 1988 things clicked. Again a talented team (still Munoz, Collinsworth, Williams), new players including Boomer Esiason at QB, James Brooks at RB, and fullback Ickey Woods (he of the shuffle), noseguard Tim Krumrie, WR Eddie Brown. The Bengals clicked and won the division with a 12-4 record. That year, Wyche and Esiason worked the no-huddle offense (aka the hurry-up offense), designed to keep the defense off-balance; the Bengals were the first to run this offense consistently (as opposed to late game, running out of time cases).

In the playoffs, the Bengals beat the Seahawks to meet the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship. I still remember the Bills' defense faking injuries to stop the hurry-up offensive. Marv Levy, the hypocrite, later went on to use the hurry-up offense with QB Jim Kelly. I believe the Bills' four Super Bowl losses were a karmic pay-back for Levy's strategy of ordering fake injuries in Cincinnati.

Anyway, on to Super Bowl XXIII. Once again, it's Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and the San Francisco '49ers.

This was one of the best Super Bowls ever. In fact, there was a whole string of blow-out games in the 1970s/1980s, with the two SF-Cincinnati games being the only competitive ones.

The Bengals scored with 3:20 left to take a 16-13 lead. I didn't celebrate. I was mortally certain this was too much time to give Joe Montana. Unfortunately, I was right. The Niners won, 20-16. Great game, but it hurt.

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6. Board Game: Futility [Average Rating:1.00 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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The Bengals had a couple more decent seasons under Wyche, making the playoffs in 1990. But Sam was fired after the 3-13 disaster in 1991.

Here we must look at the Bengals' management. Paul Brown died in August 1991. His son Mike Brown inherited the team, and took over as team president. Mike is no Paul Brown. After 1991, Mike Brown said Sam Wyche resigned; Wyche said he was fired, and said the Bengals were trying to avoid paying him. Cheapness by Mike Brown? It was a pattern.

Anyhow, the Bengals, who were perhaps predisposed to football family dynasties, promoted assistant coach David Shula (son of Don Shula). Shula was the youngest NFL coach - and he was cheaper than hiring somebody with more experience. And under him, the Bungles were awful. He was fired partway thru the 1996 season, with an overall 19-52 record. Bruce Coslett and Dick LeBeau succeeded Shula.

Here is the Bengals records for the seasons 1991-2002:

3-13
3-13
7-9
8-8
7-9
3-13
4-12
4-12
6-10
2-14

The Bengals were the laughing stock of the NFL. They had the worst record of any team in the NFL for the 1990s.

And boy, were they cheap. I don't say NFL teams should splash money around - and Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins prove season after season that high payrolls and celebrity coaches do not guarantee on-the-field success.

But the Bengals were Scrooge-cheap. I remember a long Sports Illustrated article about them around 1998 or so. Their training facility had threadbare carpet, no TV, lockers like high school players had. I'm fine with frugality, but if you want to compete for good players you need to act like you care and maybe you know, shampoo the locker room carpet once in a while?

Oh and this is the socialist NFL. The Bengals get the same TV money as the Cowboys and Steelers and teams fans actually wanted to watch. This isn't baseball where a team in Cincinnati will have a vastly inferior revenue stream compared to a team in New York or Los Angeles. Brown was cheap.

And Mike Brown made bad choices (David Klinger, anybody?) and unlucky choices (Ki-Jana Carter, anybody?). He undercut his coaches, failed to sign draft picks, failed to draft players he thought would demand too much. He pretty much failed.
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7. Board Game: GridIron Master [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:9974]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Brown fired Dick LeBeau after that 2-14 disaster in 2002.

Maybe the criticism got to him. This time, Brown didn't hire a loyal assistant. This time, Brown hired the person I thought was the most qualified one to coach a team that wasn't already a head coach - Marvin Lewis.

Lewis was highly successful as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins. The Bengals actually offered him a decent contract, and Brown said he would play less of a role on football operations.

Why was Lewis even available to be hired by the Bengals? Most Super Bowl winning defensive coordinators - especially coordinators for a team whose defense was the dominant feature of the team, as was true of the Ravens - get snatched up.

But Lewis is black, and black assistants have a markedly lower rate of being promoted to head coach. You could look it up.

Other teams' loss, Bengals' gain. Under Lewis the Bengals were 8-8 each of their first two seasons, then in 2005 had a great 11-5 season and won the AFC North. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round to the Steelers - and Carson Palmer had that career-threatening injury on his first play-off pass attempt.

The Bengals stumbled a bit after 2005, and hit 4-11-1 in 2008. But Brown didn't fire Lewis, which both surprised and pleased me because I think Lewis is a good coach.

This year the Bengals, with some good play and a bit of luck, swept their AFC North opponents and won the division with a 10-6 record.

The Bengals face the Jets this Saturday in the playoffs. A Super Bowl run seems improbable (would almost certainly involve a win in either Indianopolis or San Diego, possibly BOTH). But it's nice to see the playoffs again.
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8. Board Game: Shuffles [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Dan Goodier
United States
North Smithfield
Rhode Island
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Would the Ickey Shuffle be considered a high point or a low point in Bengals history.? For those unfamiliar with the shuffle, go to the 30 second mark of this clip to see it in all it's glory.



I'm a Patriots fan, so i'd love to host your team in the AFC Championship in a few weeks. Good luck this weekend!
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9. Board Game: The Coach's Game [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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One final item. The Associated Press named Bengals' heasd coach Marvin Lewis as its Coach of the Year for the 2009 season. A deserved choice - bouncing back from a 4-11-1 year to finish 10-6 and make the play-offs, especially given the drama with Chris Henry's death, other personal tragedies on the team, and the HBO thing.
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