Whether being chosen as Man of the Year or simply stepping up as the Man of the Hour, these Bengals have left a lasting impression on the landscape of Cincinnati football. They are the players ranked 15-11 in our list of the 50 best Bengals players of all time. So far, we’ve revealed the players ranked between 16-50 and now it’s time to get closer to the single-digit reveal.
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 50-41
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 40-36
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 35-31
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 30-26
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 25-21
Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 20-16
15. Carl Pickens, Wide receiver
Pickens was selected in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Bengals with the 31st overall selection.
In his first season, Pickens was named The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. In 1995, he set a Bengals record for receptions in a single season with 99, and for touchdown catches with 17. Pickens later surpassed his own record by recording 100 receptions in 1996.
In his nine NFL seasons, Pickens recorded 540 receptions for 7,129 yards and 63 touchdowns, while also gaining another 307 yards and one touchdown on punt returns. His 63 touchdown receptions were a franchise record until surpassed by Chad Johnson in 2010.
He is also known for the “Carl Pickens Clause.” This was a loyalty clause that the Bengals created and added to Pickens' contract, which would cause him to forfeit all or some of his signing bonus if he insulted the organization in public. This clause was used in contracts with other players and also caused issues in creating contracts for the team.
14. Louis Breeden, Defensive back
Breeden was selected by the Bengals in the seventh round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He missed his entire rookie season while on Injured Reserve but became a starter in 1978 and made an immediate impact, intercepting three passes and recovering two fumbles. Breeden once again had injury problems during the 1979 season, playing just 10 games and recording no interceptions. But he came back at full-strength in 1980 and ended up leading the Bengals with a career high seven picks.
In 1981, Breeden set a Bengals record in a game against the San Diego Chargers by intercepting a pass from future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and returning it 102 yards for a touchdown. To this day, it is the longest play in franchise history, although it was tied by Eric Bieniemy’s 102-yard kickoff return in 1997 against the New York Giants and Artrell Hawkins’ 102 yard interception return in 2002 against the Houston Texans.
Breeden finished the 1981 season with four interceptions, 145 return yards, one touchdown and a fumble recovery, as the Bengals sprinted to a 12–4 regular season record. Cincinnati advanced through the postseason to the AFC championship game, where they once again faced Fouts' Chargers, this time in one of the coldest games in NFL history (it later became known as the Freezer Bowl).
Just like in the prior game, Breeden had a key interception that helped his team win the game. After the Bengals built a 17–7 lead, Breeden intercepted a pass from Fouts on the Bengals’ 5-yard line to prevent the Chargers from responding with a score. The Chargers never scored again and the Bengals ended up winning the game 27–7 and advancing to their first championship game in franchise history, Super Bowl XVI.
Breeden spent his entire NFL career with the Bengals and retired after the 1987 season. In his 10 NFL seasons, Breeden recorded 33 interceptions for 558 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also recovering 2 fumbles. His interceptions and return yards are both the second most in Bengals history behind Ken Riley.
13. Tim Krumrie, Defensive lineman
Krumrie was chosen by the Bengals in the 10th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, in 1987 and 1988, and led the Bengals to one Super Bowl appearance. Krumrie finished his career with 34 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries for 35 return yards in 188 games. At the time of his retirement, his 34 sacks ranked fourth highest in franchise history.
Krumrie is perhaps remembered most for the severely broken leg he suffered during Super Bowl XXIII in the game against the 49ers. As Krumrie came off a block from 49ers offensive linemen Jesse Sapolu and Randy Cross, he went to tackle 49ers running back Roger Craig. When Krumrie planted his foot, the pressure his weight put on his ankle joint caused his lower leg to snap above the joint.
The injury was severe enough that an inflatable splint had to be brought out onto the field to stabilize the leg. Krumrie was diagnosed with a broken tibia and fibula. Despite his injury, Krumrie refused to go to the hospital, insisting on staying in the locker room and watching the game on television. He only left when the paramedics told him he might go into shock. After a 15-inch steel rod was surgically implanted to stabilize the leg, Krumrie was ready by the 1989 regular season.
Krumrie played six more years and led the team with 97 tackles in 1992. He concluded his playing career following the 1994 season after compiling 1,017 tackles (700 solo), 34.5 sacks, 13 fumble recoveries, 11 forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed.
12. Reggie Williams, Linebacker
In 1976, Williams was drafted by the Bengals in the third round and played for the team for 14 seasons, including Cincinnati’s appearances in Super Bowl XVI (1981) and XXIII (1988).
Williams recorded 16 interceptions and set a franchise record with 23 fumble recoveries. During his career, Williams amassed 62.5 sacks, which is the second most in Bengals history. During his final two seasons with the Bengals, Williams was appointed to an open seat on the Cincinnati City Council (1988) and was elected for a second term (1989) on the Charter Party ticket.
Williams received numerous honors during the course of his career, including selection to the NFL All-Rookie Team (1976), the Byron "Whizzer" White Award for Humanitarian Service (1985), the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (1986), and Sports Illustrated's Co-Sportsman of the Year (1987).
11. Tim McGee, Wide receiver
McGee was selected by the Bengals in the first round of the 1986 NFL Draft. A major contributor in his eight seasons with the Bengals, McGee led the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,007) in his rookie season. In 1988, he caught 36 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns and helped the Bengals to a 12-4 record and a championship appearance in Super Bowl XXIII. McGee caught two passes for 23 yards in the Super Bowl, including a key 18-yard reception that set up Cincinnati's first score.
McGee had his best NFL season in 1989 when he recorded 65 receptions for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns. He continued to play for the Bengals until 1993 and then joined the Washington Redskins for one season. After that, he returned the Bengals in 1994, and retired at the end of the season.
In his nine NFL seasons McGee caught 321 passes for 5,203 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also rushed for 18 yards, returned three punts for 21 yards, and gained 1,249 yards on 58 kickoff returns.