Best Bengals Era Of All-Time: One Could Argue The Mid-70s Squads

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The rich history of this franchise is often disregarded by the masses as a whole. It's not anyone's fault. Veteran fans have already lived it and younger fans aren't given the motivation to examine the origins of this team. Analysis and examinations of today takes precedence; forcing reminiscing of old glory -- like Super Bowls, annual playoff contenders, multiple all-stars on both sides of the ball -- to be burdened by what has become the Mike Brown era Bengals. Save for a handful of players, most of the Bengals record books were already written before Mike Brown took over as the team's president.

Even recently the Bengals showed a hint of promise, called the Marvin Lewis era that was led with names like quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The promise of the Carson Palmer-Chad Ochocinco era eventually turned into the disappointment of becoming nothing more than potential. Completely unrealized. Now all but faded. Sure, their era will go on as one of the more memorable periods in franchise history, but hardly successful. If Carson Palmer never takes another snap in a Bengals uniform, he'll have sported a 46-51 starting record, two playoff losses, highlighted by two Pro Bowl seasons in 2005 and 2006. After nearly leaving Cincinnati due to a collection of demands, Marvin Lewis returns on a two-year contract that has some of us believing is more probation after a four-win season with high preseason expectations than a reward. In his eight seasons with Cincinnati, Lewis has a .472 winning percentage and, like Palmer, two playoff losses.

The Carson Palmer/Marvin Lewis era (however you want to name it), obviously takes a back to the early 80s with Ken Anderson and the late 80s with Boomer Esiason; both of whom led the Bengals to their only two Super Bowl games. You might as well include the mid-70s Bengals teams, sporting a franchise-best .690 regular season winning percentage from 1975-1977, winning 29 of 42 regular season games. Even more impressive is that the Bengals won 21 of 28 games from 1975-1976; a time that the NFL only played 14 games per season. No Bengals squad has won more games in two seasons; the closest being the 1988-1989 squads that won 20 of 32 games, highlighted by the team's 12-win season that ended with a last second loss during Super Bowl XXIII. From 1976-1977, the Bengals defense allowed the least amount of points (445) during a two-season stretch in franchise history, highlighted by the 1976 squad that only allowed a franchise-low 15.0 points per game.

With all of that, one would think that it would promote a team with a history of playoff success, right? Typically it would have, if the 70s didn't feature a dynasty in the Bengals own division with Pittsburgh four Super Bowl rings. The Bengals went 11-3 in 1975, making the playoffs and losing to the Oakland Raiders by three points in the AFC Divisional game. Yet, they had to do that as a Wild Card because the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC Central, going on to win the Super Bowl that season. The Bengals went 10-4 the following season, missing the playoffs completely after losing a tie-breaker to the division champion Steelers. All four losses were to the conferences best teams; Steelers (twice), the 11-3 Baltimore Colts and the 13-1 Oakland Raiders.

AFC Playoff Teams In 1976 W L Winning Pct.
Oakland Raiders (Division) 13 1 .929
New England Patriots (Division) 11 3 .786
Baltimore Colts (Wild Card) 11 3 .786
Pittsburgh Steelers (Division) 10 4 .714
Cincinnati Bengals 10 4 .714

We hate admitting truth even when it bites you like a dog sniffing the mailman. But the 70s were dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Oakland Raiders often harassing them for dominance in the conference. It just so happened that one of the best eras in Bengals history was overshadowed by both teams. Not that we needed to give you another reason to hate the Steelers.

Cincinnati sported some of the best players in franchise history during the mid-70s. Defensive back Lemar Parrish, one of the team's all-time punt returners and defensive backs. Ken Riley, franchise interception king and Hall of Fame snub. Safety Tommy Casanova only played six seasons in the NFL, all with the Bengals (1972-1977), before quitting to pursue a medical degree full time and becoming a state senator from 1996 to 2000 in Louisiana. And during his six NFL seasons, Casanova became a three-time Pro Bowler, posting 17 interceptions and four touchdowns (two interceptions, one fumble recovery and one punt return). All three defensive backs were joined by Bernard Jackson and Marvin Cobbs, combining for 22 interceptions between them during their Bengals careers.

Joined by defensive end Coy Bacon, who holds the franchise single season record with 22 quarterback sacks in 1976, the Bengals featured Eddie Edwards who holds the all-time quarterback sack mark with 83.5. Linebacker Jim LeClair, after replacing Pro Bowler Bill Bergey at middle linebacker, earned a spot in the 1976 Pro Bowl; the year after he wrestled a 457-pound black bear at the Cincinnati Convention center. The fight was declared a draw. Reggie Williams, who holds the second-most quarterback sacks (62.5) in franchise history, came into the league in 1976. And then you have the more recognizable names like quarterback Ken Anderson, wide receiver Isaac Curtis, tight end Bob Trumpy and future Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner. Bob Johnson, Dave Lapham, Glenn Bujnoch and Vern Holland.

It's easy to fall in love with the Bengals that were presented to you during Carson Palmer's prime, before the elbow injury. Or Chad Ochocinco, who was the fun-loving wide receiver that made people laugh, enjoying the game as it should be enjoyed. Or Marvin Lewis, who was quickly making a name for himself as one of the franchise's best head coaches of all-time.

Yet that era of Bengals football has come to a close. There's no doubt that the early 80s and late 80s featured two separate eras that will go down as two of the best in franchise history. Yet, the Bengals squads of the mid-70s may have been the best; if it wasn't for the meddling Steeler, Raiders, or Colts.

On the bright side, as we say good bye to the Carson Palmer era, we welcome another era. Hopefully this time promise turns into success and the Cincinnati Bengals can build another era that will be remembered more favorably.

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