The Cincinnati Bengals, despite being over 50 years old, still only have one player who resides in the NFL Hall of Fame. The franchise did have a few seasons of being pretty hapless, but there have been a couple of obvious players that should have a place in Canton, Ohio currently, and their absence is pretty frustrating. Those players are quarterback Ken Anderson and cornerback Ken Riley.
Anderson is the only quarterback to have consecutive passing titles for consecutive seasons in two separate decades. He also led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance in 1981. He put up Super Bowl record passing numbers (at the time), and was one miraculous Joe Montana drive away from earning Cincinnati their first Super Bowl.
Riley is simply one of the best ball hawks of all-time. He resides at currently at fifth on the interceptions list. He had the fourth most interceptions at the time of retiring. He was passed by Rod Woodson, and Charles Woodson also tied him with 65 interceptions. It is also worth noting that Ed Reed ended his career with 64. What do all of those names have in common? They are all Hall of Famers, and many of them were first ballot.
What makes it even more frustrating is there are voters who are apparently supportive of these guys finally having their day.
“Ken Anderson is the best quarterback not in the Hall and Ken Riley is one of the best pure cover cornerbacks out there,” Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “What are we waiting for? I vote for those two guys every time.”
“You can be sure I’ll be giving Mr. Riley any kind of support I can,” fellow Hall of Fame voter Ira Kaufman. “It’s hard to know why a ball-hawking cornerback like that isn’t in the Hall. And Anderson. Anyone who doesn’t vote for them because they didn’t win a Super Bowl is being unfair. They both had long and distinguished careers. I was shocked that when we were done they weren’t among the 20 finalists.”
The NFL recently announced their expanded senior class of Hall of Famers to commemorate the NFL’s 100th anniversary. It included 15 senior inductees, where as they only have one or two (it alternates by the year). Of course, neither Bengal was included in this class despite having every reason to also be included.
The reason these two missing this opportunity is so huge, is because this was probably their most likely chance to make it since they changed the rules to allow far more senior candidates in this years class. That is something that likely won’t happen again.
Instead they will have to rely on a much more selective process. Hobson explains that process:
The expanded senior class announced Wednesday is a product of what the Hall calls a “blue ribbon panel,” of 25 members that consisted of 13 Hall voters (including Gosselin, Pompei and Kaufman) and a dozen others either current head coaches (Bill Belichick), former head coaches (Dick LeBeau and John Madden), former personnel gurus (Ozzie Newsome, Ron Wolf, Bill Polian, Ernie Accorsi, Carl Peterson), a former league office official (Joel Bussert), NFL historians (Joe Horrigan and Chris Willis) and NFL.com’s Elliott Harrison.
Usually, the senior candidates are vetted by the nine-member senior committee that is a part of the overall selection panel and those nine whittle the field to 15 candidates in June or July.
Then, five members of the senior committee (they rotate yearly) meet in August in Canton and with the help of two Hall-of-Famers and/or consultants, they vote the field down to one or two seniors, depending on the year because it alternates. Then those names (or name) is put before the entire selection committee as the senior nominee the day before the Super Bowl with the Modern Era candidates and if they get 80 percent of the vote after their case is discussed they get the gold jacket.
This process means there is very little chance guys like Anderson or Riley will be able to make just based on the odds of it all, and it is a real shame because they have glaringly obvious cases to have their careers commemorated as players with similar career have been. Hopefully this years class can help motivate a change to allow for more opportunities for senior candidates.
We can only hope that eventually both of these guys get their jackets and an opportunity to make their speech. It would also highlight those Bengals teams that actually made fans proud to support their team.
The odds may not be in their favor, but maybe with the pecking order narrowed down a little bit their wait won’t be as long.