The Cincinnati Bengals unveiled the first 10 players on their Bengals First 50 countdown series. This series honors the best retired Bengals in the team’s history, as voted on by the fans and media.
To kick things off, the Bengals announced the players ranked between 50 and 41 on the list. That includes returner specialist Stanford Jennings, wide receiver Tim McGee, defensive end Robert Geathers, linebacker Brian Simmons, quarterback Greg Cook, cornerback Eric Thomas, kicker Doug Pelfrey, defensive end Ross Browner, punter Lee Johnson, and defensive end Justin Smith. Eight different position groups and three special teamers are featured among this grouping of 10 of the Bengals’ 50 best-ever players.
Right off the bat, you’ll see a theme of players who played in one of the Bengals’ two Super Bowls. That includes McGee, Jennings, Thomas, Browner and Johnson. Like any ranking involving NFL teams or players, making it to a Super Bowl boosts one’s resume, though all of those guys more than earned their spot on this list.
We’re also already seeing specialists make the list in Pelfrey and Lee, two of the all-time greats at their respective positions in franchise history. Jennings was also one of the most dynamic returners the Bengals have ever rostered. But as good as these guys were, special teams-specific players don’t tend to be high on these lists, even if they played their positions better than many of the guys ahead of them.
Click here to watch all of these Bengals in action with analysis by Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham. Here is the full list of the first 10 players honored and a brief bio on all of them, courtesy of the Bengals.
- #50 – Stanford Jennings: Scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII with a 93-yard kickoff return. In the top five in team history for kickoff returns (136), kickoff return yards (2752) and longest kickoff return (98-yard touchdown against Kansas City in 1988).
- #49 – Tim McGee: Bengals first round draft selection in 1986. Third in team history for average yards per reception (16.68). Led team in receptions (65) and receiving yards (1211) in 1989, including five 100-yard games.
- #48 – Robert Geathers: Two-time team leader in sacks and one of 10 Bengals to have 10 or more sacks in a season, having registered 10.5 in 2006. Holds team record for fumble return yards in a season, with 113 in 2009. Recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2013, given to players who best demonstrate commitment to values of sportsmanship and courage.
- #47 – Brian Simmons: Bengals first round draft selection in 1998. Versatile linebacker who played all three spots in 122 games as a Bengal. Led team in tackles in 1999, 2003 and 2004.
- #46 – Greg Cook: Holds team record for average yards per passing attempt in a season with 9.41 yards per attempt in 1969. Led AFL in passing in 1969, connecting on 106 of 197 passes for a 53.81 completion percentage.
- #45 – Eric Thomas: Member of Super Bowl XXIII team. In the top 15 in team history for career interceptions (15). Blocked three field goals in 1991. Made Pro Bowl in 1988.
- #44 – Doug Pelfrey: Third in team history in total points, with 660 points scored. Holds team record for consecutive extra points made (103) and ranks third in field goal percentage (77.27).
- #43 – Ross Browner: Bengals first round draft selection in 1978 and named to all-rookie team. Third in team history for career sacks, with 59 sacks. Led team in sacks in 1978, 1979 and 1985. Led team in tackles in Super Bowl XVI.
- #42 – Lee Johnson: Holds team records for total punts (746), career punting yards (32,196) and punts inside the 20-yard line (186). His 63-yard punt in Super Bowl XXIII ranks second in Super Bowl history.
- #41 – Justin Smith: Bengals first round draft selection in 2001. Sixth in team history with 43.5 career sacks. Led the line in tackles for six straight seasons.
Personally, I think Justin Smith is a little high on this list. While he was certainly a great NFL player worthy of making a list like this, he was underutilized in Cincinnati, thus his impact was not one of a player that should be ranked 41st all time in Bengals lore. If we’re including his impact with the San Francisco 49ers, where he was an All-Pro-level performer for several years, then his spot here is justified.
I’m also not sure about Geathers, though we can’t say for sure someone else deserved to be more on this list than him until we see all 50 players. I’m still not putting him ahead of McGee, however.
All said, it’s great to see the Bengals honoring their best players and these 10 players are deserving of the recognition they’re being given. It’s going to be interesting to see the remaining 40 guys revealed, which will be happening daily until all 50 have been named.
The Bengals First 50 and other Bengals Legends will be recognized during halftime ceremonies at every regular season home game this season, which will include video highlights and an on-field presentation.
Do you agree with all of these players and their ranking?