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Bengals Rank 6th in NFL Pain Power Rankings

Few NFL franchises have endured the kind of pain the Bengals have.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Any Bengals fan will tell you it's far from easy being a fan of one of the most tormented franchises in NFL history.

Alas, if you've been a fan of Cincinnati since it's inception in 1968, you know just how much frustration, heartbreak, and just plain ole sadness has befallen Cincinnati for more than four decades.

Dan Hanzuz of NFL.com is power ranking the top 10 NFL teams who've experienced the most pain during their franchises' tenor. To no surprise, the Bengals came in quite high on his list at No. 6, and Hanzuz calls the Bengals, "the NFL's Kings of What Might Have Been."

Hanzuz also pointed out how Cincinnati's pain began early in the franchise's history when rising star QB Greg Cook had what was effectively a career-ending injury to his shoulder.

Greg Cook was The Chosen One. He led the AFL in multiple passing categories as a rookie, helping to turn Cincinnati from hapless expansion team to a franchise that deserved respect. And then he was gone.

Early in his rookie season, Cook hurt his shoulder on a sack. He played through the injury and continued to perform at a high level, but the shoulder began to deteriorate and medical science at the time wasn't advanced enough to provide a fix. A torn rotator cuff -- the same injury that served as a momentary speed bump in Drew Brees' career -- had essentially ended Cook's.

"If he had stayed healthy," owner Mike Brown once lamented, "we would have been the team of the '70s, not the Steelers."

Said Bill Walsh: "Greg Cook was, I believe, the greatest talent to play the position. He was Steve Young, but bigger."

The Bengals held the winning lotto ticket, then watched a gust of wind steal it from their fingers.

Cook would become the first of many 'what could have been' stories, which have plagued the Bengals throughout the years. From Bill Walsh's departure, to losing two Super Bowls in gut-wrenching fashion, to Carson Palmer's knee injury, it's been a painful history for Bengals fans to endure.

Still, most of the Bengals' most painful moments have come when they were a winning franchise competing at the highest level. Would you rather have the pain of two Super Bowls losses in your memory, or have never seen Cincinnati in the playoffs at all?

Would you have rather seen Palmer tear his ACL in a playoff game, or have seen the Bengals sitting at home for the postseason with a QB like Byron Leftwich?

In the end, these many painful memories were tough to endure, but it's better to have seen Cincinnati competing at the high level they were than to be a perennial loser like that other team in Ohio.

If you haven't yet read the article in full, it's well worth rehashing the less-than-great memories.

Which heart-breaking Bengals moment do you remember best?