Most NFL teams find a way to honor former players with a Ring of Honor, or similar concept, to highlight the franchise's greatest players.
Bengals owner Mike Brown takes a lot of heat for not doing a better job of honoring the best to ever don the Bengal stripes. Whether it's players, coaches or other contributors to the franchise, there have been a number of players worthy of some kind of major honor inside the walls — or even right outside — of Paul Brown Stadium.
Will that change in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the franchise's inception?
In a recent interview with Sporting News, Brown spoke about the possibility of doing something to honor former Bengals, but it doesn’t seem like a Ring of Honor will be happening.
“It’s an oddly complicated issue. We honor our old Pro Bowl players. We put up large permanent posters of them in the building and that has been our way of doing this. I was at a stadium recently and I looked around at the Ring of Honor players they have, and I would tell you that these are guys that played 30, 40, 50 years ago.
“People don’t know who the hell they are. These things have a shelf life and I wonder whether there isn’t a better way to recognize old contributing players. We are going to try to do it by focusing on the Pro Bowl players (and) putting something on our website. We’re pressed to have the space to do it out in the stadium itself. So, we will do it our way and we hope that the old players and the fans understand that it is a bona fide effort to recognize these people that played here and made the team what it is today.”
It sounds like Brown is considering a plan to honor former Bengals, but it sounds like it will come up short of what those Bengals deserve. Leading up to the 2015 NFL season, we presented 10 candidates for the first class of the Cincy Jungle Ring of Honor to give you an idea of which Bengals deserve this honor.
It’s hard to believe in and outside of Paul Brown Stadium, there’s not space to have a Ring of Honor, as Brown suggests. And, the point of a Ring of Honor would partially be to remind and inform fans of who the Bengals’ all-time greats are. So, his explanation of people not knowing who these guys are is even more troubling.
Brown also spoke about Paul Brown Stadium not having any kind of naming rights from an outside entity that could being in more revenue for the Bengals.
“That gets back to what we were talking about just a minute ago. Is the focus on maximizing income or is the focus on just the traditions that go with running a football team?” Brown said. “Let’s face it, the train has left the station and we are still standing next to the tracks.
“It may be unfortunate, in my eyes, but we are where we are in the National Football League these days. It will compel us to try to keep up (financially), try to adjust if we can. We don’t have a ready opportunity to do things that the large-market teams can do. They just aren’t available to us or they are available to us at such a level that it scarcely matters to make the effort. That gets back to what you asked when you first started this discussion, which is, well, there doesn’t seem to be much going on (among NFL owners). Yes, there is much going on. It just isn’t out front.”
The Bengals are certainly a small market team, but, to suggest no company is interested in buying the naming rights to the Bengals’ stadium is probably a stretch. This doesn’t matter much to Bengals fans, but, it’s a weird thing for Brown to say.
Another topic of discussion in this interview was Bengals Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Most of the talk surrounding Burfict over the past year has been about his reckless style, player-safety penalties, and his three-game suspension to open the season.
Avoiding another illegal and/or dangerous hit on a player is something Burfict must do, as evidenced by his suspension. But even with his suspension, Brown supports Burfict and wants the Pro Bowl linebacker in his corner every Sunday.
“He’s a difference maker,” Brown said of Burfict. “He just makes plays. I can’t explain why he does and others don’t. But the fact is he does and he’s a terrific player for us. He is a spark for others.
“He makes plays in games that win games. And when you get guys that can do that, you’ve got something that makes your team better.”
Brown was brutally honest about his scouting report of Burfict at the 2012 Scouting Combine, but is proud of Burfict and the Bengals coaching staff for what he’s become.
“Oh, it’s an odd story that he is here. I credit Marvin (Lewis, Bengals head coach) for bringing him on. He is an oddly talented player. If you were at the Combine his year (in 2012), he was a joke. He couldn’t run. He didn’t participate. And yet Marvin somehow got to know him out in Arizona, where Marvin’s daughter lives and Marvin spends some time.
“You put him on a football field and all this stuff about running fast and jumping high, maybe he doesn’t do that but he sure as heck plays well and things happen. And that’s what you want.”
Be sure to read the full interview, where Brown provides a lot of interesting quotes about the state of the Bengals.