Since the Cincinnati Bengals are one of a group of very few teams who have made the decision to not install an official team Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor, we are all forced to create our own lists. Bengals.com editor, Geoff Hobson, began creating his own list and letting the fans vote on the nominees for enshrinement. Last year, five Bengals made his Hall of Fame: Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz, Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis and Boomer Esiason.
This year, other familiar names are up for Hobson's Hall of Fame--some of which where voted on last year. Former Pro Bowl players from the 1980s like David Fulcher and James Brooks are eligible, as are more recent Bengals like Corey Dillon and Brian Simmons. The linebacker was pretty much a Bengals-lifer and recently Hobson made a case for him in the team's Hall of Fame.
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Reflecting on the oft-overshadowed Simmons' career, Hobson said:
How good was Simmons?
Good enough to be taken in the first round in 1998 with the 17th pick, which arrived via the Dan Wilkinson trade. He never went to a Pro Bowl, but he started at four different positions for three head coaches and four different coordinators. It was hard to get recognition on a team that didn't win more than four games from '98 until Lewis arrived in 2003.He was around long enough to start at left inside linebacker for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense on Opening Day in 1999. When LeBeau switched to a 4-3, Simmons went to the middle for the 2000 opener and for Lewis's first game in 2003 he lined up on the outside at WILL and played there for the next three years until he was summoned back to the middle again when Odell Thurman was suspended. In his 115 starts in Cincinnati, 47 were at WILL, 46 in the middle, 21 at left inside and one at SAM.
Simmons' shining moment in his Bengals career was the 2001 season. Even though the team finished 6-10 that year, they played pretty competitive football thanks to Jon Kitna leading the offense and Simmons heading the defensive unit's No.9 overall ranking that season. Simmons (very quietly) had 139 total tackles and 6.5 sacks that season, which for any other team would have equalled a Pro Bowl berth. But, as it has become commonplace in the NFL world, the Bengals were overlooked and Simmons' season was overlooked--which is really a microcosm of the linebacker's career.
Ever the "team player", Simmons reflected on his time in Cincinnati with Hobson:
"I wish we could have won more games," Simmons said the other day from his Florida home. "No question about that. I wish we could have won the Super Bowl, but to come back and win the division with guys like Rich Braham and Willie Anderson, guys that had been through it all, that meant a lot."
"My whole thing is I wanted to be one of the answers for the problem, not the problem," he said. "I wanted to be a reason we won, not a reason we lost, and whatever that took."
While Simmons isn't the flashiest or even most decorated players in team history, he was a very good player for the team for almost a decade. Unfortunately, most of his career was played when the Bengals weren't competitive, which was before the Marvin Lewis era commenced in 2003.
What say you, Bengals fans? Will you vote for Simmons in Hobson's Hall of Fame this year? Or will he take a back seat to other Bengals greats and have to bide his time before he makes it?