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Bengals Legends: Cris Collinsworth Deserves His Due

Most Bengals fans recognize former Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth on NBC's Sunday Night game and Showtime's Inside The NFL. Oh, and Madden video games. Can't forget about those, can we? But the reality is that Collinsworth deserves his due with Bengals fans. Older fans surely recognize his production, probably throwing in a little jab like, "before there was Chad Ochocinco, there was Cris Collinsworth." And we don't mean on the field. But younger fans need to understand how productive he really was.

Let's start out with the fairly obvious. Collinsworth made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, was a three-time Second-Team AP All-Pro and he helped lead the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII. Few receivers in franchise history can claim any of that, much less all of it.

Primarily because we'd love to keep the NFL Draft slang around, Collinsworth was drafted because of a desperate need to help quarterback Ken Anderson. Right. From the beginning. Pointed out in a previous post, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson struggled in the late 70s, prompting the Bengals to select Jack Thompson as his eventual replacement during the 1979 NFL Draft. Along with injuries and former Bengals greats retiring, one of the simple reasons Anderson struggled was that the Bengals just didn't have a full compliment of receivers to help Anderson. After Isaac Curtis, Anderson's most frequented targets included players like Don Bass and Pat McInally (who was also the team's punter). Tight end Dan Ross was selected in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft, immediately contributing. Even with Curtis and Ross, the Bengals needed an infusion of talent to help Anderson (or Thompson).

In the second round of the 1981 NFL draft, the Bengals selected Florida wide receiver Cris Collinsworth 37th overall. Collinsworth made an immediate impact, posting 67 receptions, leading the team with eight touchdown receptions and posting the only 1,000-yard receiving season on the team.

Leading receivers on the 1981 Bengals roster
Player Pos. Rec. Yards TD Avg.
Dan Ross TE 71 910 5 12.8
Cris Collinsworth WR 67 1,009 8 15.1
Pete Johnson FB/RB 46 320 4 7.0
Steve Kreider WR 37 520 5 14.1
Isaac Curtis WR 37 609 2 16.5

Collinsworth career blossomed afterwards, leading the Bengals in yards receiving in each of his first six seasons from 1981-1986 with the Bengals. He led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns in four of his first six seasons. The following chart illustrates Collinsworth's production through his first six seasons, along with how he ranked on the team that year.

Season Rec. Yards TDs
1981 67 (2nd) 1,009 (1st) 8 (1st)
1982* 49 (1st) 700 (1st) 3 (t-1st)
1983 66 (1st) 1,130 (1st) 5 (1st)
1984 64 (1st) 989 (1st) 6 (1st)
1985 65 (1st) 1,125 (1st) 5 (t-3rd)
1986 62 (1st) 1,024 (1st) 10 (1st)
* Only played nine games due to player's strike

Currently Collinsworth ranks fourth in franchise history in receptions (417), yards receiving (6,698), yards/reception (16.1) and 100-yard games (18). His 206 yards receiving against the Baltimore Colts on October 2, 1983 is the fourth most yards receiving, in a single-game, in franchise history. In five major statistical categories in franchise history, Collinsworth ranks fourth. I'd understand if you thought somehow Collinsworth tied into the Dharma Initiative -- hell, he might!

Collinsworth deserves to be mentioned amongst the franchise great wide receivers like Isaac Curtis, Carl Pickens, Eddie Brown, Chad Ochocinco and even T.J. Houshmandzadeh. We're not asking for a Hall of Fame nomination. Nothing close. It's time he be known as one of the great receivers in franchise history. And probably the best Bengals receiver that almost played for the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits.