BB: Nostalgic Look At '05 And The Second-Greatest Bengals Draft Pick In Franchise History

Matt Sullivan

We're not going to be popular, but it's the truth.

Bare with me. Or is it bear with me? Confusion on the English language leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Relationships have split from it (we're cool, right?). The latter suggests that a bear lounges beside me, which might be true if we were dropping a few pints with Billy from 48 Hours. The same Billy in Predator that's also in the movie Billy Lone Bear.

Your mind. Rocked.

So bear with me (because the former is entirely inappropriate).

A scathing Michael Silver report on Thursday cited three sources that Carson Palmer is angling his exit am Oakland, refusing a "modest" $3 million reduction in his scheduled $13 million salary for 2013. Silver writes that "according to three sources familiar with Palmer's mindset, is based on a sense that Oakland's prospects for success in 2013 are so bleak that money is no longer the predominant factor in his thought process."

Familiar with his mindset. We're seasoned and veteran Palmer-bashers, few can touch our antagonistic perspective. But familiar with his mindset hints generic psychologist at the local community college -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Is it Palmer himself? His wife? A dude he drank a beer with at a USC tailgate during an NFL bye week?

Silver continues:

Palmer's rejection of the Raiders' proposal could lead him to the Arizona Cardinals, who are in the market for a starting quarterback, or possibly put him on the path to becoming a backup for a contending team.

Believe Silver or not (or question the credibility of his report as many do), it's not the first time we've heard Palmer's refusal for a salary reduction, which has already given birth to our own predicable criticism. That being expressed, the acceptance of being a backup has Raiders fans (that didn't accuse of Michael Silver of being a hater) supporting Oakland releasing him sooner rather than later.

The problem is, with guys like Chad Ochocinco around him, Palmer was able to mostly fly under the radar with the Bengals. When he retired, however, some began wondering if he wasn't a malcontent himself. The story by Silver only serves to reinforce the idea of Palmer as a malcontent.

There is a sense of sadness, admittedly. Not for what Palmer is orchestrating in Oakland, or the way he wiggled g his way out of Cincinnati (really, he did the Bengals a favor anyway). For several years, hatred has always been initiated by two factors; a promising career turned malcontent and the depressing realization that his heart just wasn't into it; the latter being more depressing.

Despite my bitter feelings regarding his exit from Cincinnati, there is an admission of sadness that emerges while leaning back and daydreaming about 2005. Not only was Palmer mentioned as one of the few elite quarterbacks (before the term saturated into talk radio fodder... if you rank upwards to ten quarterbacks as elite, then "elite" thus becomes improperly used), the Cincinnati Bengals were destined for something greater. They were going to win the Super Bowl. And this silly Bengals fan believes that to this day. Alas you know what happened. The knee. The elbow. The increasing lack of interest.

We expand the thought slightly; a remembrance of arguments staged "back in the day". Where were the weapons? What happened during the NFL draft? Not until 2010 did Cincinnati effort a reasonable attempt to acquire a tight end threat. A year prior to that they ended the "distracting" Eric Ghiaciuc experience and at some point, finally planned replacements for the battered Levi Jones and aging Willie Anderson with Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith respectively (the latter took some time, but that's hardly Carson's fault).

They drafted Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. Though things finally started gelling with Palmer and the '08 draft picks, it was too late. And frankly neither became adequate replacements for a declining Chad Johnson or departing T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Kenny Irons, Kenny Watson, Chris "two-carry" Perry and the slimmer Rudi Johnson were disastrous performers after 2005.

The Bengals simply failed to capitalize on that '05 team. We'll criticize Palmer until we're physically unable. But it wasn't him alone that slowly declined back into .500 leading to another low with two four-win seasons over a three-year span.

+ FLASHBACK: Several years ago leading to the 2011 NFL draft, we were asked to countdown the best draft pick in franchise history. Obviously the answer is Anthony Munoz. Our number two was cornerback Lemar Parrish. Here's that posting from two years ago -- note that Johnathan Joseph was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the time.

The riddle of Ken Riley's absence in the Hall of Fame tends to baffle. How is someone with 65 career interceptions not enshrined, honored and remembered in the halls of history outside of the Bengals community that bemoans the snub? The truth is, Riley, while great, wasn't even the best defensive back with the Cincinnati Bengals for a period. A more accurate description would be that Riley played alongside a great defensive back, much like the Bengals duo of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall do today.

Riley's partner? A seventh round draft pick in the 1970 NFL Draft out of Lincoln named Lemar Parrish.

During their eight seasons ('70 to '77) together with the Bengals, the duo of Riley and Parrish combined for 57 interceptions with six returned for touchdowns. Similarly, the combination of Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, through four seasons starting together, have combined for 32 picks with four returned for a touchdown. If they stay together for another four seasons, they may surpass the combined interception totals that Riley/Parrish established together. When someone demands that Joseph and Hall remain together, at least listen to their arguments. [Editor's Note in the Present: I kind of cried a little inside]

Unfortunately the Riley/Parrish combination didn't last. Parrish began demanding a trade. On January 24, 1976, just before the Pro Bowl, Parrish was quoted as saying, "I just want out", renewing a hostility that existed between Parrish and former Bengals head coach Paul Brown.

Parrish said that under Paul Brown, veterans "are treated like a kid out of college. Paul wants to play his starters down, he doesn't want to pay anything." Like father, like son, we suppose. Maybe the issue we've related to Mike Brown isn't so much an isolated personality -- rather coming directly from his father.

"Paul never showed any affection for the guys," he added. "I don't care how good you are or how good you play, a guy likes to hear something from the coach."

Closer towards the 1976 regular season, Parrish made it known that he'd like to join the Washington Redskins. In Chad-like behavior, Parrish, through the newspaper, had a message for Redskins head coach George Allen.

"Tell George hello and I'll be seein' him soon. I'd like to go to Washington because of George Allen. I've always wanted to play for him."

Now replace the Redskins with the New England Patriots, George Allen with Bill Belichick and Lemar Parrish with Chad Ochocinco.

Set to expire after the 1977 season, Lemar Parrish made it know that if the Bengals wanted to keep him, they'll have to pay him.

"No cornerback in the league is better than I am, but a lot are getting paid better than I am."

According to Parrish at the time, if the Bengals didn't increase Parrish's contract to over the $100,000/year barrier, he would press harder for a trade.

"If they can't meet my salary standards, I got to move. I can't spend glory."

Parrish would sign with the Redskins after the 1977 season.

Fortunately, the conflict between the team and player dissolved over time, rebounding the traditions of remembering great players in Cincinnati's history.

While Riley is often remembered for his interceptions, Parrish was the better defensive back overall -- many veterans that watched both will claim it. He had the swagger to easily call himself the greatest player at the time. During his eight seasons with the Bengals, Parrish was elected to the Pro Bowl during six. Though his 25 interceptions ranks fourth in franchise history, he holds organization records with most interceptions in a game (3), second with four interception returns for a touchdown and most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season (2); which happened in the same game (December 17, 1972 at Houston). His 354 career interception return yards ranks third all-time.

Along with being one of the best defensive backs in the league, Parrish was perhaps the most gifted return man in franchise history. If you combine his kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns, Parrish recorded 12 touchdowns with the Bengals, scoring every possible way on defense and special teams. Parrish led the NFL three times for most punt return touchdowns, twice led the NFL with most fumble recoveries that led to a score and led the NFL in 1977 with most interception returns for a touchdown.

We're not finished.

Parrish's 24.7-yard average per kickoff return is a franchise best. As is his 18.8-yard punt return average in 1974 -- no one has come close. Parrish's four punt returns for touchdowns doubles any other player in franchise history and his two punt returns for touchdowns in 1974 has only been matched once (Craig Yeast in 1999). Before Carl Pickens' 95-yard punt return in 1992 against the Green Bay Packers, Parrish's 90-yard touchdown against the Washington Redskins on October 6, 1974 was the franchise's long punt return. He's also one of 10 players to record a touchdown return on kickoffs in a season (no player has scored two in a single season).

Additionally, his 130 punt returns ranks second behind returner Mike Martin, as does his 1,201 punt return yards. Parrish's 338 punt return yards in 1974 was a record at the time, until Mike Martin' 376 set the franchise record for most punt return yards in a season. Quan Cosby later blew that record out of the water, recording 474 yards on punt returns in 2009.

One thing we've noted through this look in history is that along with the Bengals greats, current Bengals president Mike Brown is far more like his father than most of us will ever admit.

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