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Cincy Jungle Ring of Honor Candidate No. 8: Isaac Curtis

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The Bengals have a strong history of Pro Bowl wide receivers and despite no longer having the franchise receiving records, candidate no. 8 for the Cincy Jungle Ring of Honor may very well have been the best pass catcher to ever call the banks of the Ohio River his home.

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's inaugural class. Let's get started with our next candidate!

Isaac Curtis (85)

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 192

Position: Wide Receiver

Bengals Career: 1973-1984

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 15

Biography

Many Bengals fans under the age of 40 are not aware of how good Isaac Curtis was. Curtis, a former running back and college track star with world class speed, did not move to receiver until his senior year in college, and while his franchise records for yards, receptions and touchdowns have since been passed by some other great Bengals receivers, there has not been a better receiver to call the banks of the Ohio home than Isaac Curtis.

If Curtis had played in a bigger market, won a Super Bowl, or have been a little more vocal and flashy, there is no doubt in my mind he would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame today. When comparing players, you must compare them to others in their era. For example, when evaluating Curtis's stats, his 7,101 yards (118th), 416 catches (t-192nd), 53 touchdowns (t-101st), 17.1 YPC (t-51st) do not stand out. However, he played in an era when teams did not throw the ball 40-50 times a game like they do today. If Curtis had played today, it is fair to think his numbers might be double what they are To get an idea of just how good Curtis was, I have compared his stats to two Hall of Fame Steelers from the same era, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, both of whom are considered two of the best receivers to play the game. Curtis compares very favorably to both, and in fact, it could be argued that he is the best of the three. But those two were on the Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls, so they received much more attention.

Receptions

Yards

Touchdowns

YPC

Pro Bowls

Isaac Curtis

416

7,101

53

17.1

4

John Stallworth

537

8,723

63

16.2

3

Lynn Swann

336

5,462

51

16.3

3

While Curtis may not have been - and may never be - properly recognized for his play nationally, his skill did not go unnoticed by his teammates and those who saw him play on a regular basis.

According to Curtis's former teammate and current Bengals radio analyst, Dave Lapham, Curtis was "Larry Fitzgerald with speed. He'd blow away any of the top guys today in the 40. Are you kidding me? World class speed and flypaper hands? He might have the best hands of anyone I've ever seen."

Another teammate, cornerback Louis Breeden, who practiced against Curtis and played against the likes of Swann, Stallworth, Steve Largent and James Lofton, said "[a]s a DB I had more respect for [Curtis] than anyone I ever played...Lynn Swann, Steve Largent, James Lofton. In terms of being able to get open, plus the ability just to run past you. Athletically, there was nobody like him."

During his rookie season of 1973, Curtis had an astounding 18.7 yards per catch average and his speed caused defensive players to start grabbing and holding him all the way down the field.

Resume For Induction

Accomplishments

  • 4-Time Pro Bowler
  • 17.1 Yards Per Catch (1st in franchise history)
  • 7,101 Receiving Yards (2nd in franchise history)
  • 53 Touchdowns (5th in franchise history)
  • 416 Receptions (5th in franchise history)
  • 20 100-Yard Games (2nd in franchise history)
  • 3 Consecutive 100-Yard Games (t-2nd in franchise history)
  • 5th longest reception in franchise history (85 yard TD from Ken Anderson - 12/12/76 at NY Jets)
  • T-3rd most postseason receptions in franchise history (13)
  • T-3rd most receiving yards in franchise history (184)
  • 2 postseason receiving touchdowns (2nd in franchise history)

Team Records

  • 17.1 Yards Per Catch (1st in franchise history)

Impact on the NFL

  • His speed is often cited as the reason the NFL Competition Committee put in place what many refer to as the "Isaac Curtis Rules." After Curtis' rookie season, where he averaged 18.7 yards per catch, the rules were changed to restrict the defense from contacting receivers downfield and cutting and roll-blocking of receivers was eliminated.

Blemishes on Resume:

None.

My Opinion:

Curtis's numbers are not overly impressive, but he played in an era where the ball was not thrown around like it is today. With all due respect to Chad Johnson and Cris Collinsworth, if Curtis had played in a pass happy era, you can bet he would still be the holder of every franchise receiving record. In the 46 years the Cincinnati Bengals franchise has been in existence, they have had a Pro Bowl receiver in 26 of those years. They have had a Pro Bowl pass catcher (wide receiver/tight end) in 32 of those 46 years. So they have had some great pass catchers come through the organization, but in my opinion, none better than the original "85" Isaac Curtis.