As we pointed out Thursday morning, we're configuring the best Bengals lineup since Cincinnati last appeared in the Super Bowl (1988 season, 1989 calendar year). We'll go through each position, provide the candidates, give you my pick, and then you guys debate/poll the winners.
Time to get down with the ogres, the ballerinas of awesome, the soul of football, the core of why football is the best sport in the country. We've already started with left tackle and left guard. Now arguably the most important position.
Richie Braham: While Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are compared to Michael Jordan, every Bengals player that snaps the football will be compared to Rich Braham. Fair? Not at all. Natural basis of most sports discussions for players replacing greats? Oh, yea.
Yet when he entered the league and joined the Cincinnati Bengals in 1994, Braham primarily started at left guard until 1999. Braham was part of an offensive line that paved the way for Corey Dillon, who set (at the time) an NFL rookie rushing record of 246 yards against the Tennessee Oilers.
In 2004 and 2005, Braham was the starting center when Rudi Johnson twice broke the franchise rushing record for a season while also limiting the number of sacks against Carson Palmer (19) in 2005.
Kyle Cook: Cook has been a serviceable center, but considering that the time frame for these polls are mostly dominated by Braham, we included Cook regardless. But that's not to take away from his accomplishments.
Cincinnati's rushing offense was in a state of disaster in 2008, which would be the final season during Eric Guiaiuic's run that began in 2006. Cedric Benson was a powerful runner that nearly averaged 100 yards per game behind Cook in 2009. Additionally the Bengals featured three running backs that year with 100-yard games (Benson, Bernard Scott, Larry Johnson).
Not bad. But the standard was long ago set by Braham. And that's a bar that hasn't been reached yet.