Though the Cincinnati Bengals don't have as storied of a past as many of NFL teams, it doesn't mean that they haven't done enough to gain some enemies along the way. This is especially true during the Marvin Lewis era when the team has made a renaissance, of sorts, from the dark ages of the 1990s. The club's heyday in the 1980s also brought quite a bit of ire towards the Bengals with the brash Sam Wyche leading the club.
It's easy to point at the current AFC North teams as the prime suspects. But there are a couple of others that one could look at that don't necessarily spring to mind right away.
Perhaps the most obvious rival of the Bengals are the Cleveland Browns. What makes it easy to start there is that the two teams' histories are intertwined, specifically with one man--Paul Brown. Without giving you all a full-blown history lesson, Brown founded the Browns (go figure), and was later relieved of all duties from the team by Art Modell. Brown swore revenge and created a club not too far from his former one, adopting the orange color that he apparently loved, and for the first few years of the Bengals' existence, you could hardly discern the two teams' uniforms from each other.
The two teams had many heated battles, particularly through the 1980s, but the rivalry has diminished a little bit after the Browns were moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens. Since then, the Browns haven't been competitive and "Browns Week" just doesn't have the same ring to it as other weeks. Still, the roots run deep here and one could argue that this is the end all, be all of Bengals rivalries. Hell, the Brown family would tell you that (if they ever spoke to the public).
Speaking of the Ravens, that's a become quite the rivalry as well. While they're a relatively new team by NFL standards, they've already won a Super Bowl and are perennial contenders almost every year. What rubs Bengals fans the wrong way about the purple and black is their cockiness and "swagger". The Ravens are one of the mouthiest teams in the NFL, led by Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and even Joe Flacco. They back up their talk more often than not with their physicality and constantly play with a chip on their shoulders.
Let's not forget that current Bengals coach Marvin Lewis helped build this dynasty with his defensive prowess and was a major key to their Championship season in 2000, giving this rivalry that little extra something special. The Bengals have fared well against the Ravens under Lewis and these match ups are always a bruiser.
Then, there's the Steelers. Tell me how the phrase "Steeler Week" makes you feel. Nauseous? Angry? Scared? I wouldn't blame you if you said all of the above. Aside from the obnoxiousness that their fans bring to nearly every NFL stadium around the country, the team itself brings Bengals fans to shake their fists to the heavens. Not only have the Bengals been wildly unsuccessful against Pittsburgh, but the team and then-quarterback Carson Palmer had to suffer through
a cheap shot an unfortunate injury sustained in Cincinnati's first playoff game in 15 years.
Aside from the geographical proximity that automatically comes with forming a rivalry, there's Bengals fans envy of the Steelers success. In the 1970s and 2000s, the black and gold have forged two dynasties and have the most Super Bowl rings over any other NFL club. And anyone associated with the team likes to boast that to everyone else. The hatred of Bengals foes could peak here.
However, in the 1980s, there were two teams that were constantly the bane of the Bengals' existence. The first and most obvious was the San Francisco 49ers. Joe "Cool" Montana and Co. beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl twice in the decade, leaving emotional scars from thirty years ago. While they were two of the most hard fought games in Super Bowl history. Had the Bengals won either of those games, we could be talking about the Hall of Fame careers of Ken Anderson and/or Boomer Esiason. Instead, these games help cement the legacy of Montana being the greatest NFL quarterback ever.
Finally, let me give you a name for you to chew on: Jerry Glanville. This brash southerner was the head coach of the then-Houston Oilers in the 1980s and 1990s and was hated by every AFC Central coach in the division. His team played dirty and were showboats, but they were competitive and backed up a lot of their talk. Wyche and Glanville had no love for each other, culminating with a game that Wyche ran the score up on the Oilers in a 63-7 drubbing. This game included an onside kick by the Bengals, which they recovered, while up 56-7 at that point. Aside from that game, these were always fun battles between Esiason and Hall of Famer, Warren Moon.
So, Bengals fans, which one of these teams do you hate the most? Did I omit a team that you feel should be on this list? Vote and sound off!