Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, the Bengals accidentally leaked what very much looked like the start of a Ring of Honor. After 50+ years since their inception and 40 years since their first Super Bowl run, it’s about time the club honors its greatest and most influential people.
In this series, we will highlight players we feel are either well deserving of a spot, or will be worthy very soon. The list has grown fairly sizable with how long Cincinnati has hosted the Bengals, and they have plenty to catch up on with the potential installation.
While the Cincinnati Bengals have had some inconsistencies with high-profile draft choices, there are a few positions in which they seem to regularly strike gold. They’ve found a number of productive quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs over the years, but some of the most successful players who have ever worn orange and black were the giant offensive tackles.
Simply put, Anthony Munoz is not only the greatest player the Cincinnati Bengals have ever fielded, but he is the greatest offensive tackle the NFL has ever seen. And, unlike many of his deserving Bengals contemporaries, Munoz has received his due in the form of a gold jacket from Canton.
If and when the Cincinnati Bengals put forth a Ring of Honor, Munoz should be one of, if not the very first honoree.
Anthony Munoz (No. 78)
- Height: 6-6
- Weight: 278
- Position: Left tackle
- Bengals Career: 1980-1992
- Drafted: 1st round, 3rd pick (1980)
Munoz was always highly-athletic and nimble for his enormous size. While he was a standout for the Trojans juggernaut football team of the late 1970s, Munoz was also a fixture at third base for the baseball team.
He excelled at both sports and was known for his strength, technique and tenacity as an offensive tackle. He was hampered a bit by injuries in his final two collegiate seasons, but nobody could deny the talent shown on tape.
Oddly enough, there were a lot of questions and concerns about Munoz by NFL scouts as he entered the 1980 draft. Many centered around those missed games, felt he had bad knees and wouldn’t be able to have a very long career, much less the greatest one ever by an offensive tackle.
When he joined us on The Orange and Black Insider a couple of years ago, Munoz recalled the sequence of events that endeared him to the Bengals in a pre-draft workout. Forrest Gregg was an outstanding offensive lineman in his own right with the legendary Green Bay Packers teams under Vince Lombardi, so he really wanted to test Munoz’s health and abilities before drafting him.
“Forrest Gregg came out (to USC) and put me through about an hour-and-a-half workout, Munoz recalled to us. “They had the third pick in the draft and they wanted to make sure I could still move and stuff, and towards the end of the workout—you know, Forrest was still pretty intimidating as a head coach at 40 years old at 6’5”, 250—he said ‘Anthony: I’m gonna be a pass-rusher and I just want you to react.”
Munoz went on to talk about how USC’s approach with their offensive linemen was quite innovative, teaching handwork and “punching” drills ad nauseum to its players. “I never forget, Forrest Gregg lines up on the outside, he fakes outside and comes inside and my reaction is he had his total chest exposed, so I planted both of the palms of hands into his chest and just punched him,” Munoz continued to recall.
“The first thing to hit the ground was the back of his head. I’m thinking ‘Oh, my goodness’ and I help him up and say ‘Coach, I am so sorry.’ He laughed and said “That’s alright, son’ and I knew it was all good—and, of course, they picked me a couple of months later with the third overall pick.”
The impression Munoz made on ownership and the coaching staff that day sealed the deal. Munoz was healthy had the drive and talent to show his old school coach he could be a team linchpin for nearly one and a half decades.
Ring of Honor Resume
- Nine-time First-Team All-Pro (two-time Second-Team All-Pro)
- 11-Time Pro Bowler
- First-Team NFL All-Decade Team (1980s)
- NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
- NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
- Seven-time NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year as voted by AP, NFLPA and NFL Alumni Association, respectively.
If you really look closely at the numbers and accolades, you’d note that there were just two of 13 seasons with the Bengals wherein Munoz did not receive an All-Pro designation. To put it professionally—that’s bananas.
Munoz had a tough matchup in the 1988 AFC Championship Game when going up against Bruce Smith, who got the better of No. 78 a couple of times in the heavyweight bout, but also held his own. Even though he got injured and didn’t see the contest through, Smith, the Hall of Fame defensive end, had nothing but glowing remarks for Munoz.
“There are no comparisons between him (Munoz) and other tackles. He’s proven it year after year that he’s the best,” Smith told Sports Illustrated over 30 years ago. Even with other NFL greats like Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Joe Thomas taking the field in the days after Munoz, the former Bengals tackle remains the gold standard for the position.
Oddly enough, one player the Bengals may be targeting this spring is Oregon tackle, Penei Sewell. The former Ducks standout has drawn comparisons to Munoz, so we’ll see if he not only ends up in stripes, but if he’ll also even come close to the level of his PAC-12 predecessor.
It’s no coincidence that the greatest era of Bengals football followed the selection of Munoz in 1980. Two Super Bowl appearances and two different quarterbacks garnering League MVP honors also directly point to the value of the franchise’s great left tackle.
And, like other great Bengals players, Munoz took the responsibility of a team leader very seriously. He was and is an active member of the community and was rewarded for such endeavors with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1991.
To that point, Munoz loves to give back to both the Greater Cincinnati and Southern California communities, through a number of ways. The main source is through the Munoz Foundation, which gives scholarship opportunities to youth, through educational recognition programs, football camps and more. Check out www.munozfoundation.org to learn more and see how you can contribute.
You simply can’t talk about the Cincinnati Bengals and the team’s history without mentioning the great Anthony Munoz. He should be a primary member of any Bengals Ring of Honor and it’s every fan’s hope that he gets rightfully joined by some of his Cincinnati brethren in the Hall of Fame in the very near future.