We are taking it upon ourselves to do what the Bengals' franchise has failed and refused to do during the past 46 years -- compile a true Ring of Honor for Bengals fans. Each day, we're presenting a candidate for the Ring of Honor and educating Bengals fans on the great history of the franchise for which they root, and the great players that have donned the stripes over the years. After our 10 candidates are presented, you, the fans, will vote for the first five players to be inducted into the Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor inaugural class. Let's get started with our next candidate!
Norman Julius "Boomer" Esiason (7)
Bengals Career: 1984-1992, 1997
Drafted: Round 2, 38th Pick
Replacing a great is one of the most difficult things to do in sports. Expectations are high, often unrealistic, and the margin for error (in the eye of the fans) is non-existent. Replacing "the guy that replaced the great" is one thing, but no one wants to be the guy saddled with the job of replacing the great. After being drafted in the second round of the 1984 draft, Boomer Esiason was not only tasked with replacing the best QB in Bengals franchise history, he was drafted with the expectations to unseat him.
CJ Bengals Ring of Honor
Cincy Jungle Ring of Honor Candidate No. 1: Paul Brown
We start our Ring of Honor series at the most appropriate spot to start - the beginning of the franchise. Paul Brown is one of, if not the best coach in football history and the reason the Queen City has a professional football team.
CJ Bengals Ring of Honor
From 1972-1984 Ken Anderson held the role as the Bengals' starting quarterback and led the Bengals to eight winning seasons, four playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance during his tenure. At the time Esiason was drafted, Anderson was the Bengals' all-time leading quarterback in every worthwhile statistical category. From a physical standpoint, Boomer was the opposite of Ken Anderson.
Anderson was not a big quarterback (6'2" 212 pounds), lacked a big arm and relied on pinpoint accuracy, excellent timing, quick passes and his legs to succeed. Boomer, on the other hand, was the "Prototypical" NFL pocket quarterback. At 6'5", 224 pounds, he had a rocket arm and provided the Bengals' offense a whole new array of possibilities. In 1984, Esiason showed promise, and because of injuries to Anderson, he would start four games in 1984, going 3-1 in those starts.
In 1985, after Anderson and the Bengals got off to an 0-2 start, Boomer was handed the reins to the offense and never looked back. Under Sam Wyche, a creative play-calling genius of sorts, Boomer became the first quarterback to run the "No-Huddle" offense as a base offense - and he excelled at doing so. In 1985, his first year as a starter, Boomer threw 27 TDs and just 12 INTs; the Bengals went 7-7 under his lead. In 1986, Boomer led the Bengals to a 10-6 record only to miss out on the playoffs based on conference record tie-breakers. After a disappointing third season (3-9), Boomer stormed back into the Bengals' history books winning the 1988 NFL MVP award on his way to leading the Bengals to their second Super Bowl.
If not for the best final drive in Super Bowl history - by a guy named Joe Montana - Boomer would have handed the Queen City their first Lombardi trophy and possibly changed the course of the Bengals' (and 49ers') history. Instead, the Bengals were edged by Montana and the 49ers for the second time in seven years and the franchise would begin a 15 year tailspin. In the 1989 season, the Bengals would fall victim to the Super Bowl "Runner up curse" and miss out on the playoffs. In fact, after his 1988 MVP season, Boomer would only have one more winning season in his career, going 9-7 in 1990 and leading the Bengals to the playoffs - and the franchise's last playoff win (41-14 over Houston). Boomer and the Bengals would eventually fall in the second round to Bo Jackson and the Los Angeles Raiders (20-10) and Boomer would never again return to the playoffs. In fact, Boomer would be traded to the Jets just two short years later.
Boomer never did recover his 1988 form and after three disappointing seasons in New York under three different coaches, Boomer was released and picked up by the Arizona Cardinals for the 1996 season. He contemplated retirement after the 1996 season but was talked into coming back for one more season with the Cincinnati Bengals. After Jeff Blake started the 1997 season going 3-8, Boomer found himself as the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals once again, going 4-1 in five starts and throwing 13 TDs to just 2 INTs. Boomer ended the season with a career high 106 QB rating and during the last five games of his career, he led the Bengals to 30+ points four times and 40+ points twice. During that span, his only loss was a 44-42 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bengals attempted to bring Boomer back for two more seasons but he decided to leave the field and join the broadcasting booth as the color analyst for MNF. During the past 17 seasons, Boomer has established himself as one of the most respected and recognizable NFL broadcasters. It is only fitting that his last pass as a Bengal was a 77-yard TD pass to Darnay Scott in a 16-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Resume For Induction
- 4 Time Pro Bowler (1986, 1988, 1989, 1993)
- NFL MVP - 1988
- 37,920 Career Passing Yards - 16th in NFL (27,149 with Bengals - 2nd)
- 247 Career Touchdowns - 16th in NFL (187 with Bengals - 2nd)
- 7.3 YPA - T-38th in NFL (7.6 YPA with Bengals - 1st)
- 81.1 Passer Rating - 49th in NFL (83.1 with Bengals)
- 57.0% Completion (56.5% with Bengals - 5th)
- T-3rd in Franchise History with 28 TDs in a season (2x - 1988, 1989)
- 3rd in Franchise History Passer Rating - 83.1
- 3rd Best Single Season Passer Rating (97.4 - 1988)
- Passed for 3,000+ yards 7 times
- At age 36 (1997), Boomer took over for a team that started 1-7 and set a career high in Passer Rating (106.9) in route to going 4-1 as a starter, winning 4 of the last 5 games
- 80-93 Overall Record (62-61 with Bengals)
- Most passing yards in a single game (490)
- 7.62 YPA (1st)
- Most 300-yard passing games (23)
- Most 300-yard passing games in a season (5)
- Best playoff record in franchise history (3-2)
- Only QB in franchise history with a winning playoff record (3-2 - Wyche is only coach - also 3-2)
- Most TDs for a left handed quarterback (247)
- Most Passing yards for a left handed quarterback (37,920)
Impact on the Franchise
- Led the Bengals to their 2nd (and last) Super Bowl appearance
- One of only two QBs in franchise history to lead the team to a playoff win (Anderson)
Impact on the NFL
- Became the first QB to run the "No Huddle" as a base offense
- Has been a staple as an NFL analyst for the past 17 years (1998-present)
Blemishes on Resume:
- Like many quarterbacks awaiting enshrinement, Esiason never won a Super Bowl ring
- Surprisingly, despite his impressive numbers, Esiason only had three winning seasons as a starter (1986, 1988, 1990 - four if you count his 4-1 record in 1997) and only made the playoffs twice in his career - likely the biggest issue in regards to Pro Football Hall of Fame voters.
From a Pro Football Hall of Fame standpoint, I believe Boomer is border line and I could agree with either side of the argument as far as his enshrinement. From a Bengals Ring of Honor standpoint, he is absolutely deserving and led the Bengals to their most dominant and exciting season in franchise history - a team, that brought you one of the best NFL song/videos ever produced - even if Boomer wasn't involved!