The gold teeth. The mohawk. The insane touchdown celebrations. It’s all part of the Chad Johnson, or for some, the “Ochocinco” character. No. 85 became quite the renaissance man, coupling his NFL all-star status with various social media endeavors and many public appearances.
Still, behind all of the flash was a guy whose production was critical to the early success of Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals. Some folks soured on Johnson, be it because of a perceived “me first” attitude and/or his unceremonious exit after 2010.
Still, because of many factors on and off of the field, Johnson remains the best Bengals player in the Marvin Lewis era.
Career accolades and stats under Lewis:
Receiving yards: 10,783 (first in team history)
Receptions: 751 (first in team history)
Touchdowns: 66 (first in team history)
Receiving yards per game: 71.4 (second-highest in team history)
Pro Bowl nominations: 6 (tied for third-most in team history)
All-Pro designations: 2 (tied for third-most in team history)
Why he makes the list:
Production, production, production: The franchise rankings in those significant receiving areas say it all. Yes, he was privy to a Comeback Player of the Year season from Jon Kitna in 2003 and a No. 1 overall pick for a significant chunk from 2004-2010.
Still, the enigmatic wide receiver was always primary and big-play outlet for whoever was under center. There still isn’t a clear answer to the question of “How do you stop eighty-five?”.
The lightning-fast feet: Johnson wasn’t overly-tall, nor was he a total brute against corners. Aside from having good hands and speed, though, eighty-five’s feet were some of the best in league history.
Though there were murmurs that he wasn’t absolutely immersed in the playbook, Johnson’s route-running ability was nearly-unparalleled. Today’s equivalent, in terms of feet and route-running is probably Antonio Brown of the Steelers.
A larger-than-life personality to give the city and the team national attention: Of course, the most important facet of Johnson’s 10-year tenure in Cincinnati is his statistical production. However, Johnson took it upon himself to bring the Bengals out of national obscurity.
Though some of his antics grew tiresome at the end of his reign, Johnson used a combination of big plays, a brash attitude and child-like enjoyment to a sport that often gets uptight with outspoken actions.
Whether it was the outlandish touchdown celebrations, the cornerback checklist he created, sending Fed-Ex packages of Pepto-Bismol to the Browns, or dominating the opposition, Johnson always kept things entertaining. The result was even the most casual of NFL fans paying attention to the Bengals, even if it was just to see what Johnson would do next.