|I am a leaf on the wind - watch how I soar.|
The Bengals downfall from the Super Bowl XXIII team, the last great team this franchise put together, can be traced back to the start of Mike Brown's start as the reigning king; more specifically, when Sam Wyche left the team. Replacing him was Dave Shula, posting a career 19-52 record in four and a half seasons. Neither Bruce Coslet or Dick LeBeau fared any better, posting a combined winning percentage of .314. That wouldn't even win a batting title in Major League Baseball, much less respect around the league or from their own fans.
During the time I used to phrase the Age of Helplessism (because we were largely helpless watching this unfold), there was always one aspect of the team, one player , that a majority of us enjoyed watching. It was a player so aggressive and so mean that his running style was not unlike a boulder trying to crush Indiana Jones.
In the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected running back Corey Dillon out of Washington.
Dillon, a three-time Pro Bowl (1999, 2000, 2001) running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, quickly made his mark in the league, breaking the NFL rookie record for most yards rushing in a game, posting 246 yards rushing. On October 22, 2000 against the Denver Broncos, Dillon set the NFL record for most yards rushing in a game (278). Dillon rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons and was largely the only consistently successful offensive player on this team.
And his ability to catch the football out of the backfield wasn't entirely unnoticed, posting 192 career receptions for 1,482 yards receiving and five touchdowns with the Bengals.
However, the choice of Dillon might seem odd. And it's certainly going to draw reaction. However, few players have their names etched in the Bengals record books as much as Dillon; plus he once said, “we will never win with the Brown family in Cincinnati." And there was an era of Bengals football in which he was largely the only competitive change this team had to win games (maybe that's not saying much).
Let's take a look at some of the franchise records he holds:
- Most yards rushing in a career (8,061).
- First, second and third most yards rushing in a game.
- Most points scored in a game (24) on December 4, 1997 against the Tennessee Titans.
- Most touchdowns scored in a game (4) on December 4, 1997 against the Tennessee Titans.
- Most rushing attempts in a Bengals career (1,865).
- Longest run in franchise history (96 yards) on October 28, 2001 against the Detroit Lions. Also holds the sixth longest rush in franchise history.
- Most 100-yard rushing games (28).
- Second-most 100-yard games in a single season (5) in 1999. He's done that three times. Cedric Benson recently broke that record when he rushed for over 100 yards in six games.
- Second-most consecutive 100-yard rushing games (3) in 1997 and 1999.
- Third-most rushing attempts in a season (340) in 2001.
- Second-most rushing attempts in a game (39) against the Titans.
- Third-most yards rushing in a season (1,435) in 2000.
Is Dillon a fan favorite? Ask ten fans and you'll likely get evenly divided results. Remembered as the only real positive from 1997-2002, he is far more remembered as being the outspoken degenerate when he wasn't happy.
After the 1999 season, Dillon became a restricted free agent and threatened to sit out the season if he was still a Bengal once the restricted free agency period ended.
"Tell Mr. (Mike) Brown to please let me sign with a team that really wants me, and let's both move on with our lives," Dillon said. "Don't make it sound like I'm crazy or mad."
The Bengals tendered Dillon a one-year deal worth $1.37 million. If another team signed him to an offer sheet and the Bengals didn't match, Cincinnati would receive a first and third round draft pick. And if no team signed him?
"I'll be flipping burgers or something. I'll sit. They can take their $1.3 million and they know what they can do with it. I'll play for 50 bucks somewhere else."
A lot of Dillon's anger resonated from, what he believed, disrespect by the team for not offering him a nice extension. And by nice extension, we mean cold hard cash. The Bengals did make a six-year, $18 million offer before the 1999 season, which was soundly rejected.The holdout eventually ended just before the Bengals preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons when the team signed Dillon to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
Dillon would record one of his best seasons, posting a franchise record (at the time) 1,435 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. His 4.6 yard/rush average that season would tie a career high before moving on to New England in 2004.
In early May of 2001, the Bengals and Dillon agreed to a five-year deal after missing training camp and announcing he'd like to stay in Cincinnati. Dillon would only play three years, sparingly in 2003 due to an injury. With the emergence of Rudi Johnson, who would go on to to tie or break many of Dillon's single-season records, Dillon became expendable and was traded to the New England Patriots for a second round selection -- who would become safety Madieu Williams.
During Dillon's time in Cincinnati, there was no Carson Palmer. There was no Chad Ochocinco and by the time Dillon joined the NFL, Carl Pickens would only record one more 100-yard season. From 1997-2002, there was Corey Dillon against the other team. Cincinnati may not have won games, but at least he was fun to watch.
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