Quarterback Carson Palmer quietly proclaimed that he was not going to play for the team anymore, so Marvin Lewis was definitely in the market for another franchise guy in a class that seemed to be ripe with them.
Instead of taking a massive gamble on someone like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker or Christian Ponder, though, the Bengals went with the “can’t-miss”, or sensible route with Georgia wide receiver, A.J. Green.
They hoped for someone who would become a solid contributor for a number of years, but what they netted was a Hall of Fame receiver.
Accolades and stats under Marvin Lewis:
Receptions: 556 (second-highest in team history)
Receiving yards: 8,213 (second-highest in team history)
Touchdowns: 57 (third-highest in team history)
Yards per game: 80.5 (highest in team history)
Pro Bowls: 7 (2011-2017, second-most in team history)
All-Pro designations: 2 (2012-2013)
Why he makes the list:
A human highlight reel: What can you say about No. 18? Some coaches have lovingly called him “Gumby”, while Jay Gruden famously named him “The Merchandise” on “Hard Knocks”. Whatever you want to call him, it had better be something great, because what he does on the football field—be it with his balance, speed or otherwise—is utterly awe-inspiring.
Greatly assisting in the successful transition from 2011: Because of Palmer’s sudden quitting on the team, some pundits believed that the Bengals would not win a single game in 2011. However, largely thanks to Green and Andy Dalton, the Bengals made another improbable playoff berth that season.
As a rookie that year, Green posted 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s been a pillar of consistency since.
Performance against the Steelers: Though Chad Johnson owns most of the Bengals’ franchise receiving records and was a great player in his own right, he had one major deterrent on his resume. Like many of his other teammates at the time, No. 85 didn’t show up in the two biggest games of the year for the Bengals.
In 14 games played versus their biggest foe (including the postseason), Green has nine touchdown receptions against the Steelers. By comparison, Johnson had just three touchdown receptions against Pittsburgh in 20 matchups—including the playoffs.
The anti-diva: NFL Wide receivers are always marked as “mouthy”, selfish and flamboyant. However, even with so much success, Green hasn’t fallen prey to the stereotype.
Yes, he exploded on Jalen Ramsey last year and he’ll show the occasional emotion after a touchdown, but he isn’t into massive celebrations and is one of the most low-key interviews you’ll ever come across. Even though Lewis’ first few years were successful, his teams were marked by a lot of selfish players. This new generation, led by Green, is a far cry from those days.
Set to become the team’s all-time leader in all significant receiving categories: Johnson, AKA “Ochocinco” owns most of the pertinent franchise records and has a Hall of Fame argument in his own right, but barring something completely unforeseen, Green will surpass him in those categories.
Green is 2,570 yards, 195 receptions and nine touchdowns away from besting Johnson as the franchise leader in these three major statistical categories. Green is under contract for the next two seasons and could conceivably break all three before he even gets a new contract.