A few weeks back, the famed site, ProFootballTalk, began a series naming the Mount Rushmore's for each NFL team. The idea was to ask the fans who they felt were the top-four faces of the franchise's history. It could be coaches, owners and/or players and opinions are often mixed.
Right around the same time, we decided to do a roundtable with our CJ contributors on the subject and sounded off on who we thought should be the enshrinees. Thanks to Jason Garrison, he put together the roundtable in one of our posts, which sparked some nice discussion. At the time, the four that I chose were Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz, Boomer Esiason and Lemar Parrish. We all agreed that Brown and Munoz, the Bengals' lone Hall of Fame player, deserved to be in the four. I, however, had two that differed from the rest.
My explanations for the two of mine that were different from the other contributors:
I went the unpopular route and went with Boomer Esiason over Ken Anderson. It was a tough call, but I just see No.7 as such a successful Bengal and one of the most popular players in franchise history. Watching him engineer a truly innovative and highly successful offense for a number of years was amazing. What's funny to me is that Esiason and Anderson have the exact same amount of Pro Bowls (four), All-Pro designations (one), MVP Awards (one) and Super Bowl appearances (one) to their names, yet Anderson is always viewed as the superior quarterback. Had Joe Montana not engineered that last-minute drive to win Super XXIII, there likely wouldn't be an argument of who the best Bengals quarterback is/was. I went with my heart instead of my head on this one.
There were so many other players to choose from, and almost all of them had some beef with the organization. Carl Pickens, Corey Dillon, and Chad Johnson all had their issues with the Bengals and Lemar Parrish was no exception. I felt like I had to put someone on defense on the list and Parrish was the first who came to mind. Though Ken Riley is often viewed as a better cornerback because of longevity and amount of interceptions, I feel that Parrish was the better player. In eight seasons with Cincinnati, he made six Pro Bowls (eight in all) and was a highlight reel on interceptions and punt returns. In his Bengals career, he had five special teams returns for touchdowns (punt and kickoff), and another four touchdowns off of interceptions. He's one of the greatest Bengals that's often forgotten.
When I threw out the opportunity to ask Bengals questions to me on Twitter, I was asked my thoughts once again on the Mount Rushmore subject:
At first thought, I asked myself why I'd change my stance on the four that I threw out a few weeks back. Then I began to think more about the greatest players in team's history--most that came to mind were on the offensive side of the ball. I tried to be political before in placing a defensive player on the list, but did I make the right choice with Parrish? What about James Brooks? Corey Dillon? Ken Riley? Reggie Williams? David Fulcher?
One name inexplicably kept popping in my head: Chad Johnson.
And it isn't Chad Ochocinco from 2008 to the present day (2009 maybe being the lone exception), where the headlines surrounding his name are more about legal issues and punchlines. It was the fun-loving, dominant player who proudly donned stripes from 2001-2007. In that time, Johnson made five Pro Bowls (plus a sixth in 2009), was a two-time All-Pro and helped make the Bengals and himself a household name. He also re-wrote the Bengals receiving records, while making these fun-loving moves.
For most Bengals fans, Johnson is a more recognizable name than Parrish because he played just a few short years ago. Personally speaking, I began to loathe some of the things that Ochocinco began to do and started to detract from his play on the field. He made a brief resurrection in 2009, but was never able to re-capture who he was in the mid-2000s.
Of the many names that could be on the list for me, the only one that I feel could currently replace Parrish is Johnson. For now, I'm leaving the four that I originally had, but maybe as time goes on, I'll permanently put Johnson on the top-four. Nevertheless, this discussion always leads me to drive home the point that the Bengals organization needs to do a better job recognizing their past greats.
In fact, they have only retired one player's jersey in their history. Do you have a guess on whose jersey that is?