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4 Bengals among NFL's 100 most important people

There's no question the Bengals have had a significant impact on the NFL over the past decade. Two people largely responsible for that were among USA Today's ranking of the 100 most important people in the NFL.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It's the offseason, so of course, the best way to pass the time is some form of methodical ranking.

While preseason power rankings and way-too-early top-25 polls are the normal methods of torture, USA Today Sports is taking a different approach. They've actually made an informative and informational ranking regarding the 100 most important people in the NFL.

As you can imagine, familiar names like Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are at or near the top of the list. However, the more you read into the ranking, the more you'll see names you may have never heard of, and how those people have managed to leave a significant impact on the sport we all watch and love.

And as you can imagine, several names with Bengals connections made the list. The highest ranked of which is NFL Players Association President Eric Winston, who comes in at 55th overall.

55. Eric Winston

President of the NFLPA and Cincinnati Bengals tackle. Winston has been very critical of the league when it comes to concussion research and reports, saying: "They cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players."

Any president of just about anything involved in the NFL will make this list, and of course the leader of the players association came in fairly highly. Winston probably would have been higher if this were earlier in his career when he made a big impact on the field as well, but he's become primarily a backup during his time with the Bengals.

The next Bengal to make the list is current head coach Marvin Lewis, coming in 63rd overall.

63. Marvin Lewis

Bengals head coach. Hired in 2003, he is currently the longest-tenured minority coach, and only Bill Belichick has served longer with a franchise among current coaches. Lewis has achieved sustained success (five consecutive playoff appearances) with a franchise where few thought that was possible.

Any time you've got as much tenure as Lewis has, you'll probably make a list like this, not to mention, Lewis was one of the first African-American coaches in the NFL to have a long and productive coaching career. If you think back to when he was hired, it wasa time when NFL teams werehesitant to hire those representing minorities as head coaches. Lewis hasyet to win a playoff game, but his impact on the league has clearly been felt.

Another trailblazing Bengal who made this list is team Vice President Katie Blackburn, who comes in at 66th on the ranking.

66. Katie Blackburn

Bengals executive vice president. The daughter of Cincinnati owner Mike Brown, Blackburn was the first woman to be a chief contract negotiator in the NFL and has assumed more day-to-day control of the franchise. The MMQB called her "The NFL's Most Powerful Woman Nobody Talks About."

While the NFL was not so long ago hesitant to hire minorities to positions of power, the league has sadly remained just as hesitant when it comes to hiring women into said positions. As the ranking mentions, Blackburn was the first woman to become a contract negotiator in the NFL among many other accomplishments.

There's no question both Lewis and Blackburn have helped to turn the NFL into a league that doesn't look at color or sex when hiring employees. As for the rest of the list, one more name with Bengals connections made the list, Cris Collinsworth who came in at 87th overall:

87. Cris Collinsworth

NBC Sunday Night Football analyst. Former Bengals receiver has a national broadcast audience every week. He also owns the football analytics website Pro Football Focus.

Collinsworth was once a star receiver in the NFL, and his broadcasting career has only enhanced his brand. As the ranking notes, Collinsworth is also the owner of Pro Football Focus, which has helped change the way advanced analytics in the NFL are used. After being a cornerstone for the Bengals for six years, Collinsworth is impacting the NFL with his work off-the-field.

While you can debate much of the orders of this list, it's a great read nonetheless that sheds light on some of the less-heralded names who've made a big impact on the world's best sport.

Be sure to read the entire ranking.