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Top-Ten Bengals Draft Picks In Franchise History

We take a look at the top-ten draft picks in franchise history, starting with a fan-favorite and ending with the most logical of choices.


10. Tim Krumrie, 1983 NFL Draft, 10th round, 276th overall

Tim Krumrie will always be known as the player that unsettled stomachs during Super Bowl XXIII, suffering two breaks in his tibia and another in his fibula. Personifying a level of toughness that's difficult to find in today's game, Krumrie refused to go to the hospital after being taken off the field. Instead, Krumrie planted himself in the locker room, cheering his teammates. At one point it seemed like he'd be celebrating with his teammates, drinking mead from wooden steins delivered gracefully by foul-mouthed wenches. You know, just like how we imagined they celebrate wins.

Eventually paramedics convinced Krumrie that if he doesn't get to the hospital soon, his mangled leg could force him into shock. There was little worry that the injury was life-threatening; not because the injury wasn't serious, we're just not sure if death would risk facing Krumrie in the emotional state that he was in. If Krumrie were sent as a peace ambassador to Ukraine, Russia would lift their arms with a "whoa, our bad. No need to pull out the big guns."

Doctors placed a 15-inch steel rod into Krumrie's leg and returned in time for the start of the 1989 regular season, allowing him to continue his games played streak, which would end in 1994 at 122 games. That's right. In the middle of his games played streak, his leg broke so much it was virtually liquefied.

Krumrie was the 276th player selected in the 1983 NFL Draft (the tenth round in that draft), eventually becoming one of the Bengals all-time best defensive tackles and one tough son of a bitch. Krumrie is a two-time Pro Bowler, named as the First-Team All-Pro selection in 1988 and Second-Team All-Pro in 1987. His 34.5 quarterback sacks ranks fifth all-time and his 188 games played ranks fourth. He also finished with 1,017 career tackles, 13 fumble recovers, 11 forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed.

9. Corey Dillon, 1997 NFL Draft, second round, 43rd overall

I am a leaf on the wind - watch how I soar.

The epic collapse of a franchise, that went from greatness in the 80s to... whatever that was in the 90s, is traced back to the start of Mike Brown's inauguration as team president; 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 with a combined winning percentage of .314, which wouldn't even be a top-ten batting average in Major League Baseball last season. Trust me. Baseball fans understand the meaning.

During this phase that I used to phrase the Age of Helplessism (because we were helpless watching this unfold), there was always one aspect of the team, one player, that we enjoyed watching. It was a player so aggressive and so mean that his running style was often mistaken for a bulldozer.

Corey 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 in '97. 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; if not disagreeable. 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." There was an era of Bengals football in which he was largely the only competitive force that 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/Oilers
  • 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 heading into the next season.

"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 (at least until 2001) and by the time Dillon joined Cincinnati, Carl Pickens would only record one more 1,000-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.

8. Eddie Edwards, 1977 NFL draft, first round, third overall

Without doing a Google search, or scouring the pages of, name the player that owns the franchise's all-time sack record. You didn't actually read the title, did you? The truth is, Eddie Edwards is a historic player that's not mentioned nearly enough when listing the talking points of Bengals legends, most of whom revolve around offensive players. The Bengals have had some awesome defensive players too, one of whom is Eddie Edwards.

A consensus All-American defensive end at the University of Miami, the Cincinnati Bengals used their third overall selection in the 1977 NFL draft. Spending his entire career in a Bengals uniform, Edwards' mark of 87.5 quarterback sacks leads all Bengals players. By a lot. Reggie Williams ranks second all-time and he still falls 21 sacks short of Edwards' mark. Robert Geathers has the most quarterback sacks by an active player, falling over 50 short of Edwards' record. Edwards also recovered 17 fumbles and was one of six players to play in both of franchise's Super Bowls.

If not for Coy Bacon's ridiculous 22 quarterback sacks in 1976 (considered unofficial), Edwards would own two of the top three franchise marks for quarterback sacks in a single season today; Geno Atkins (who will be in this discussion soon) jumped into the fray with 12.5 in 2012.

Antwan Odom posted five quarterback sacks against the Green Bay Packers in 2009 and yet, he simply tied Edwards' franchise mark of 5.0 quarterback sacks in a single game. Edwards remembers that day "like it was yesterday" with the Bengals concluding their 1980 season and the Browns gearing up for the playoffs with quarterback Brian Sipe.

"To tell you the truth, I wanted to hurry up and play the game and get back to Florida; It was just too cold," said Edwards, who grew up in Fort Pierce, Fla., and went to the University of Miami. "Sipe ran around a lot like Fran Tarkenton and everything I did that day worked. I did swim moves where I'd head butt (the tackle) and go over the guy's shoulder or do a rip move and go underneath him. That day, everything our line coach (Dick Modzelewski) told me worked."

Edwards' final game came in Super Bowl XXIII where he "begged head coach Sam Wyche to dress him out in front of family and friends because he had a pretty good idea this was it." Wyche dressed him and allowed him a couple of snaps.

Last we've heard, Edwards lives in Fort Lauderdale, working at a concrete company as a supervisor.

7. Reggie Williams, 1976 draft, 3rd round, 82nd overall

When Joe Montana spiked the football after a touchdown during a regular season game, former Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams was angry, remembering that in the days leading up to Super Bowl XVI.

"I can't speak for everyone, but I can recall vividly seeing Joe Montana spike the football in the end zone," Williams said. "I don't mind a quarterback being happy that he scored a touchdown. But when he spikes a football in the our face, so to speak, I'm going to to remember that," Williams said. "I think I've been working on spiking quarterbacks this week."

As a kid that went from a perceived learning disability -- which simply turned out to be an issue with his hearing -- to graduating from Dartmouth, Williams is one of the classic examples of a legendary player being all-around great person. While fighting against opposing offenses, Williams was taking on much deeper causes at the same time.

Largely credited for his inspiring and courageous work to help end apartheid in South Africa, Williams won the NFL Man of the Year award in 1986 and the Sports Illustrated's Co-Sportsman of the Year in 1987.

As a Cincinnati city councilman, he was a key figure in getting the city to divest the stock in its pension fund from all companies that did business in South Africa -- which Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised as crucial in the fight against apartheid.

Yes. While sitting on the council, helping to end apartheid, he was spiking quarterbacks every week. Do they make players like this anymore?

His struggles continued long after his NFL career concluded, waging a fight to save his leg. Infections forced him to receive multiple knee surgeries in 2008 with a planned third knee replacement delayed until the infection was killed. Williams had as many as 14 knee surgeries since the end of his career, nine of which have come after April 2008.

Lying in his hospital bed, Reggie Williams watched a flow of blood, four or five inches high, coming from his postsurgical knee.

"A fountain!" Williams called it.

"I can’t believe I am going to go out like this," Williams thought to himself on May 2, when the knee began to spout. Days later, he recalled, "You’re waiting for the cavalry to come through the door."

As soon as his leg healed, he had his knee replaced. The post-career of an NFL player chronicled the devastating affects of the sport than Williams' struggles.

Selected in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft (out of Dartmouth), Reggie Williams would go on to have one of the more effective careers in a Bengals uniform. He was one of a handful of players that played on both Super Bowl teams and recorded 62.5 quarterback sacks, second in franchise history. He also recovered 23 fumbles, picked off 17 passes, tied for most safeties in a career, played the second-most games by any player (206) in team history and recorded the third-highest consecutive games played (137). Williams, a 14-year player, recorded the fourth-most quarterback sacks (11.0) in a season (1981).

6. Ken Anderson, 1971 NFL draft, 3rd round, 67th overall

The Cincinnati Bengals were losing 17-10 to the undefeated Denver Broncos on October 23, 1977. Quarterback Ken Anderson, starting despite suffering badly damaged strained knee ligaments against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week earlier, completed nine of 17 passes for only 67 yards passing and an interception. Bengals head coach Bill Johnson had enough, pulling Anderson out of the game to the roaring cheer of Riverfront Stadium. Backup quarterback John Reaves, who complained publicly that he should be the starting quarterback against the Broncos, completed six of 11 passes for 92 yards passing but the Bengals ended up losing 24-13.

Reaves kept the pressure on Johnson, thinking he should start in place of the injured Ken Anderson the following week against the Houston Oilers. Johnson, feeling a sense of "damned if I do, damned if I don't", started Reaves. After completing five passes for 69 yards and throwing two interceptions, Anderson replaced Reeves in the second half. Anderson made the most of it, completing 12 of 16 passes for 107 yards passing, leading the Bengals during a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal in overtime.

"I'm so high right now," said Anderson after the October 30th game. "I don't know what I'm doing." A badly bruised thigh and his knee injury, along with a public outcry from his backup quarterback, forced Johnson to select Reeve. After what happened against Houston, Anderson remained as the starting quarterback, winning five of the next seven games to finish second in the AFC Central at 8-6.

Unfortunately for Anderson, injuries kept mounting. He broke his throwing hand during the preseason in 1978. And it showed. He started the first 12 games that year, losing eight of the team's first nine games (not by himself, mind you) and posting 10 touchdowns against 22 interceptions that season. At this point the Cincinnati Bengals decided to look towards the future, selecting Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson third overall in the 1979 NFL Draft.

Anderson suffered back spasms and was forced to leave the game against the New England Patriots on September 17, 1979. After Bengals fans reportedly cheered, Jack Thompson, who was deeply concerned about Anderson at the time, led a Bengals team that fans booed.

"We didn't quit, but to hear boos, it sadden you," Thompson said at the time. "It's sad, but that's the way it is. Everyone wants a winner."

Yet Anderson still started 15 games in 1979, posting 16 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. While still grooming Thompson, Anderson started another 12 games in 1980, throwing 13 interceptions and posting a 5-7 record. Thankfully for Anderson, Thompson just wasn't developing quick enough to take over as the Bengals starting quarterback.

Then 1981 happened.

During the first game of the year, Anderson posted two first half interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks, forcing head coach Forrest Gregg to bench the quarterback in favor of third-string quarterback Turk Schonert at half-time with Cincinnati facing a 10-21 deficit. Largely thanks to Pete Johnson and Archie Griffin scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns, Schonert led the Bengals to a nice comeback win, beating the Seahawks 27-21.

Coach Gregg didn't immediately name Anderson the starting quarterback against the New York Jets the following week. He considered Schonert, as well as Jack Thompson. Eventually Gregg picked Anderson and the Bengals quarterback had one of the best seasons in franchise history. Anderson threw multiple touchdown passes in ten games, threw more than one interception once, led one of the league's top ranked offenses and posted a league-high 98.4 passer rating.

Anderson was elected to the Pro Bowl that year, named as the First-Team All-Pro quarterback, the AP MVP, the PFWA MVP, the AP Offensive Player of the Year and the AP Comeback Player of the Year. He was by all definitions, the best player in the NFL that year.

Oh yea. And he led the Bengals to their first ever Super Bowl. Even though he posted 300 yards passing, completing 25 of 34 passes, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another, the Bengals would go on to lose 26-21. Damn Joe Montana. Damn Bill Walsh. And damn those damned 49ers.

During the strike-shortened 1982 season, Anderson would post a 70.6% completion rate, though his career never played out the way that season did in 1981. In the five seasons after the Super Bowl, Anderson would go on to throw 37 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. Anderson has been named a Hall of Fame finalist in 1996 and 1998, but never receiving the vote to be enshrined. There's arguments for and against Anderson's entry into the Hall of Fame. But one thing is for certain, the quarterback drafted in the third round of the 1971 NFL Draft out of Augustana wasn't so sure he'd make it that far in the late 70s.

Anderson's career dimmed in the early 80s, eventually giving way to the team's youngest starting quarterback, Boomer Esiason.

5. Ken "The Rattler" Riley, 1969 NFL draft, 6th round, 135th overall

When a list is made that includes Bengals players that should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bengals cornerback Ken "The Rattler" Riley is often argued at the highest. The reasoning is simple. When he retired, Riley finished fourth all-time in the NFL with 65 interceptions; since then dropping to fifth after Rod Woodson's retirement. Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Woodson (71), Night Train Lane (68), all Hall of Famers, are ranked ahead of Riley with Ronnie Lott (63) and Dick LeBeau (62) just behind him -- both also Hall of Famers. Of the players that hold the top-ten all-time interception mark, seven are in the Hall of Fame.

Riley once said of his Hall of Fame snub:

"I think my numbers are deserving of the Hall of Fame. I've always been a modest and low-key type guy. I've always thought your work would speak for you. It's like it's working against me now because the older you get and the longer you stay out of it, people forget who you are."

Later, Riley said:

"It's not my demeanor to speak out on my own behalf, but I am a little hurt when I sit back and look at some of the accomplishments and compare them to the former players who are getting inducted,'

The biggest challenge for Riley's Hall of Fame bid was that he was never really considered a great player in any given year during his 15-year career by outsiders. He never led the league in interceptions and he was never voted into the AFL All-Star Game or the NFL Pro Bowl. He was named First-Team All-Pro in 1983, his final season. And in truth, he wasn't even thought of as the best defensive back with the Bengals when Lemar Parrish was playing in Cincinnati.

But if there were a Bengals Hall of Fame, or at least a Wall-of-Honor, Riley would certainly be on it. Along with holding the franchise record for most interceptions (65), no player has played more games in a Bengals uniform than Riley (207), retiring 15 seasons after he was drafted out of Florida A&M in 1969. Until Deltha O'Neal posted 10 interception in 2006, Riley's nine interceptions in 1976 was the single-season standard. No Bengals player recorded more interception return yards (596), interceptions returned for a touchdown (5) in a career. His franchise record mark of three interceptions in a game is shared with Parrish, Louis Breeden, David Fulcher, O'Neal and Leon Hall. However, Riley and Fulcher are the only players to do it twice. Riley's two interceptions returned for a touchdown in 1983 is a franchise record tied with Parrish (there's that name again), Tommy Casanova, Scott Perry and Ray Griffin.

Riley wasn't drafted for his defensive back prowess in college. In fact he wasn't even a defensive back. He was a quarterback. It wasn't until the Bengals drafted him when the legendary Paul Brown converted Riley into one of the best cornerbacks in franchise history.

There's no doubt that Riley's argument for the Hall of Fame is a strong one. Even so, he'll go down as one of the best players in franchise history and one of the most successful draft stories.

No. 4 The Original Bengal Bob Johnson, 1968 NFL Draft, 1st round, second overall

Bengals center Bob Johnson will always be the answer to a trivia question as the first player ever drafted by Cincinnati Bengals. (Note: we've actually had more than one Cincinnati Bengals franchise before that played in the mid-to-late-30s). Regardless, the legendary Paul Brown received approval from Cincinnati to build a football team in 1967 and began that with a philosophy that corresponded to the type of style played at the height of his coaching career.

You're only as good as your offensive line that protects the quarterback and opens lanes in the running game. With a football team to build, Brown knew he would have to work on the offensive line; starting with arguably the most vital position of all... center. Back when football was a tougher and grittier version than what we see today, center was arguably the most important position. It was the center that shouted the offensive line calls (which largely still applies today) and there were vastly more inside runs than there are today. The better the center, where every offensive play starts, the better the offensive line played all around. In Brown's mind, it all started with center.

This was also a time when the Senior Bowl had a slight rivalry in their game. A sense of pride, much like baseball's All Star game, existed. Heading into the 1968 Senior Bowl, the South team had only won two of their previous 11 games. And Tennessee center Bob Johnson thought it was time to rectifying that.

"There was a definite feeling on our team that we wanted to do something about the South's poor showing in the all-star games and the bowl games," said Johnson at the time, whose Tennessee team lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma.

"The Senior Bowl is the biggest among them, even if the Southeastern Conference went 1-4 in the bowl games like we did, I feel we made up a lot of ground by winning this one."

The South won 34-21.

After graduating with honors in engineering, Johnson entered the NFL Draft and was selected second overall behind Hall of Fame offensive tackle Ron Yary in 1968. Nicknamed as "the Original Bengal", Johnson became the first Bengals player ever drafted in frachise history. The Bengals signed him on June 14, 1968 with Paul Brown saying that the signing "insures us he'll be in professional football for a long time." Johnson would be a team captain through most of his stay in Cincinnati.

During the final game of the 1978 regular season, the Bengals honored Johnson as the "original" Bengal, playing 11 seasons with the team. The team presented Johnson with a silver service set and his own uniform to keep. Most importantly, they retired his number after the game against the Cleveland Browns -- his number remains the only one retired in team history.

However, retirement didn't last long. After Blair Bush suffered a knee injury in 1979, the Bengals asked Johnson to come out of retirement as a long-snapper on punts, field goals and extra points. Which he did.

"I think it's a cute situation," joked Johnson. "I told Mike Brown that I wouldn't charge him much to do this, but he'll have to pay a price to get my jerseys back. I'm viewing this as a five-week thing to help the team out of a spot. I think I owe them this sort of thing. There's no way I'm coming out of retirement. I don't want to put my 220 pounds against (290-pound Houston nose guard) Curley Culp any more than I have to," Johnson said.

Johnson re-retired after the 1979 season for good. Johnson has another distinction, other than being the first Bengals player drafted in franchise history. His #54 is the only number retired by the team.

In 1976, Johnson said:

"You know, it doesn't seem like nine years since I joined the Bengals, but if you go back year-by-year we have played so many games that it seems like more than nine years."

"Personally, I am glad to be here. People kid me about being the original Bengal, but I've seen everything that's ever happened to this franchise. It gets exciting sometimes to think back to the first training camp we ever had and see the type of team we have now."

3. Boomer Esiason, 1984 NFL Draft, second round, 38th overall

Whenever the name Ken Anderson surfaces in the golden lore of all-time Bengals greats, Boomer Esiason trails... but just barely. Depending on one's point of view, you might even set him ahead of Anderson. Regardless, both quarterbacks have always seemed interchangeable, with the source of any argument being the age of the fan. Yet they were equal in so many ways. Kenny Anderson led the Bengals to a Super Bowl. So did Boomer Esiason; who was Anderson's protege during the twilight of his (arguably Hall of Fame) career in the mid-80s.

Yes. Anderson holds most passing records in franchise history. But Anderson is also the most tenured Bengals player with 16 years of service while Boomer Esiason quickly (and wisely at the time) fled a sinking ship by seeking a trade after Sam Wyche left the organization. It explains why Anderson holds most of the career records for quarterbacks; though Boomer Esiason ranks second on most statistical categories, well on his way to holding virtually every record in franchise history if Cincinnati would have invested on those squads in the late 80s.

And to his credit, he does own records, with 23 career 300-yard games and five 300-yard games in a season -- a record tied by Carson Palmer. And before Andy Dalton (2013), Esiason held the record for most yards passing in a season (1986) and most yards passing in a game (490 yards on October 7, 1990 at the Los Angeles Rams). No Bengals quarterback recorded a higher career average yard/attempt than Boomer's 7.62. And despite playing six seasons and 58 games less than Anderson in Cincinnati, Boomer fell ten touchdowns shy of the franchise record for a career.

Yet, Esiason's career in Cincinnati snapped out of existence. Just like that. It began on Christmas Eve in 1991 -- a date that literally set the tone for the next 15 years. During a meeting between head coach Sam Wyche and President Mike Brown, something happened, because when it was over, conflicting reports emerged. While the Bengals said Wyche resigned, Sam Wyche disputed it.

"I was simply fired by Mike Brown at a meeting today," Wyche said in a statement released by his lawyers. "I have no idea why the Bengals have chosen to announce this as my decision to leave."

The distinction was important, if not Mike Brownion. Because if Wyche were fired, he was due $1 million for the two years remaining on his contract. He wouldn't see a penny of it had he resigned. Wyche quickly found work as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, partially responsible for drafting players like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. And the Bengals organization was buried under cloud and ash for an entire generation, felt even today through saturating pessimism when things begin crumbling. The fall. The decline. Christmas Eve 1991 when it all began.

The initial firing/resignation of Sam Wyche, along with the team hiring an unproven and unqualified David Shula, severely fractured Boomer Esiason's loyalty to the Bengals. Esiason slipped into Mike Brown's office afterwards and demanded a trade. Brown agreed to capitulate, provided that Boomer stick around for another season while the team grooms a replacement -- because franchise quarterbacks are fully stocked in Aisle 17 at the Kroger Superstore. Good on his word, Brown drafted David Klingler and after the 1992 season, Esiason was traded to the New York Jets for a third-round pick.

Released after only three seasons with the Jets, Esiason spent a year with the Arizona Cardinals, even posting 522 yards passing against the Washington Redskins; fourth-most in a single game in league history.

Esiason was the verge of retirement in 1997 when something unexpected happened. The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback signed a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals on April 6, 1997, backing up starting quarterback Jeff Blake. Bengals head coach Bruce Coslett was also Esiason's head coach during his first year with the Jets.

Why would you sign Esiason as a backup quarterback? Blake was named to the Pro Bowl in 1995 with Darnay Scott and Carl Pickens a constant threat on the outside. He was the young up-and-comer while Boomer was the gunslinger riding into the sunset; back where it all began. Unfortunately the Jeff Blake led offense struggled. The Bengals opened the season with a 3-8 record in 1997 while Blake only generated eight passing touchdowns. Blake was benched against the Indianapolis Colts on November 11, 1997 and Esiason led the team with 21 second-half points and a 28-13 win.

Two weeks later, Coslett started Esiason. In return, he destroyed... everyone. Starting the final five games of the season, the Bengals went 4-1 and Esiason posted 11 touchdowns and only two picks with a season-long passer rating of 106.9. In four of the team's final five games, the Bengals scored 31 points or more; they scored 31 points only once in the 11 preceding games with Blake as the quarterback.

Boomer was back, baby. Hope permeated throughout the city. The glorious late 80s was upon us. It was epic. Then he retired for good.

Offered a five-year deal with ABC's Monday Night Football, Esiason decided to end his playing career, turning to the next phase in his life. Television, where you can see him every Sunday morning (ripping the Bengals... or at least being tough on them as a big brother would). Mike Brown provided a moving goodbye on Boomer's career in Cincinnati.

"Everyone in Cincinnati is always going to be fond of Boomer. He leaves here as one of the shining lights in Bengals lore. He was just a great field general. He had a presence on the field that was unequaled. And off the field, he was an exemplar. Look at all he has done with the Cystic Fibrosis crusade. Everyone admires him for that."

2. Lemar Parrish, 1970 NFL Draft, 7th round, 163rd overall

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 Bengals for a period of time. No. A more accurate description would be that Riley played alongside a great defensive back, much like the ol' duo of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall.

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

During their eight seasons together ('70-'77) in Cincinnati, the duo of Riley and Parrish combined for 57 interceptions with six returned for touchdown. Sadly, the Riley/Parrish combination didn't last. Much like several of our currently players, Parrish began demanding a trade. On January 24, 1976, just before that season's Pro Bowl, Parrish was quoted as saying, "I just want out", renewing a hostility that existed between Parrish and former Bengals 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."

In an unrelated note, the players threatened to boycott the Pro Bowl that year because the game does not "provide customary help to the players' pension so long as the players' association does not have a signed contract with the NFL." I just shivered. Closer towards the 1976 regular season, Parrish made it known that he'd like to join the Washington Redskins. In very Chad Ochocinco-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."

Set to expire after the 1977 season, Lemar Parrish made it know that if the Bengals want 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 promote Parrish's contract to the $100,000/year level, 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 was eventually traded to the Washington Redskins after the 1977 season.

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

While Riley is often remembered for his interceptions, Parrish will be remembered as the better defensive back of the group. Or in his words, greatest playing at the time. During his eight seasons with the Bengals, Parrish was elected to the Pro Bowl in six seasons. While his 25 interceptions with the Bengals ranks fourth all-time, he holds franchise 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 came in the same game (December 17, 1972 at Houston), giving him the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in the same game. 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 returns, punt returns, interception and fumble returns, Parrish scored 12 touchdowns in Cincinnati. Parrish led the NFL during three seasons with the most punt returns for touchdowns, twice led the NFL with most fumble returns for a touchdown 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 to it. 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.

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.

1. Anthony Munoz, 1980 NFL Draft, 1st round, 3rd overall

Selected third overall in the 1980 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Anthony Munoz would achieve so much more than any Bengals player ever has in the history of the franchise. An 11-time Pro Bowl player, a nine-time AP First-Team All-Pro selection, Munoz is on the 1980s All-Decade Team, the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time team and enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1998. He's one of a handful of players to participate in both of Cincinnati's Super Bowls, starting Super Bowls XVI and XXIII.

Everything was just as smooth as that, right?

Not quite.

On May 22, 1980, reports surfaced that the Cincinnati Bengals broke talks with Anthony Munoz's agent, Mike Trope. Trope immediately claimed that Bengals vice President Mike Brown reneged on a verbal agreement and a month later, a $13 million lawsuit was filed against the Bengals charging a "breech of contract". Since the team didn't sign Munoz, his attorney claimed that the verbal agreement was similar to a signed deal, therefore he should become a free agent.

At first it was about a broken deal before taking a more twisted turn into the the realm of unintentional racial slurs. Mike Brown sent Munoz something that prompted the prospect tackle to say, "I would feel very uncomfortable playing there," Munoz said in early July of 1980. "I don't want to play for the Bengals. That's what it comes down to."

Brown sent Munoz a Cincinnati Post article with a commentary that read the "Bengals should tell Munoz and Trope to 'get lost' and called Munoz a 'Big Burrito'".

"With the large number of Spanish-speaking people here in southern California, that writer would have been lynched if that story was published out here," said Munoz. "I'm upset that the article was sent to me by the Bengals. For someone to send something like that, I feel, is just putting fuel on the fire."

Mike Brown denied that he sent the article to Munoz for any reason other than the Bengals getting their point of view to Munoz that wasn't through Trope, his agent.

A month later, the Bengals signed Munoz and the future Hall of Famer said at the time, "The contract had the numbers I wanted." The lawsuits were finally dropped and the marriage between the Bengals and Munoz finally began. And Munoz would go to become the best Bengals player of all-time.