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Bengals Ring of Honor candidates: Isaac Curtis

The original No. 85 should be an early addition the the Bengals’ Ring of Honor after his speed got a rule change named after him.

Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

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.

Today we get to talk about one of the most talented Cincinnati Bengals that most fans probably don’t know about. In Cincinnati’s long history of receivers, Isaac Curtis may stand at the top as the most talented.

Isaac Curtis (No. 85)

  • Height: 6-1
  • Weight: 192
  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Bengals Career: 1973-1984
  • Drafted: 1st round, 15th pick (1973)

When Bengals fans think of talented wide receivers from their favorite franchise, names like A.J. Green, Chad Johnson, Carl Pickens and maybe even Chris Collinsworth come to mind the quickest. It is for good reason as those guys are extremely talented and good at what they do. However, one name lost to time is Isaac Curtis.

Curtis’ career needs some background to fully appreciate. During his college career, he was a track star and running back before moving out wide to receiver his final season, which turned out to be a great move. His terrific season where he caught 44 passes for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns led him to being selected by the Bengals in the first round.

His rookie season is one of the most noteworthy to the way modern football is played. Curtis was so fast that most teams resorted to grabbing him and pushing him as he ran down field; things today that are unheard of in today’s pass happy league. The following season the NFL changed the rules so defenses couldn’t do that, and it was known as the “Isaac Curtis” rule. The rule also completely eliminated defensive players cutting and “roll-blocking” receivers after the rookie averaged 18.7 yards per reception.

That gives you the kind of idea of the era that Curtis played in. Teams didn’t have quarterbacks throwing the ball 30 to 40 times per game, and defenses were still allowed to be relatively physical with wideouts. This has a huge impact on where Curtis lands compared to the all-time receivers as far as stats go. Curtis never caught more than 50 passes in a season, and he never had a 1,000 yard receiving season either. What he did do was average over 15 yards per reception in eight of his 12 seasons, which includes averaging over 20 yards per reception in 1974 and 1975.

It is easy to see how Curtis could have easily benefited by playing during a time period where teams were more willing to throw the ball. Even if he played in the 90’s, he would probably still be the holder of many of the Bengals’ major receiving records. His entire career would probably be far more respected as well. It is also worth noting that the NFL didn’t move to 16 games until 1978 as well.

Even when you compare Curtis to Hall of Famers from his era in John Stallworth (537 receptions, 8,723 receiving yards, 63 touchdowns and three Pro Bowls) and Lynn Swann (336 receptions, 5,462 receiving yards, 51 touchdowns and three Pro Bowls), Curtis stands above or on par with each of them.

Ring of Honor Resume

  • 4-Time Pro Bowler
  • 17.1 Yards Per Catch (1st in franchise history)
  • 7,101 Receiving Yards (3rd in franchise history)
  • 53 Touchdowns (4th in franchise history)
  • 416 Receptions (6th in franchise history)
  • 6th longest reception in franchise history (85 yard TD from Ken Anderson - 12/12/76 at NY Jets)

Curtis was a player well ahead of his time, and that is apparent by him forcing the league to change its rules. It is frustrating to see such a talented player forgotten simply because his era’s stats are simply outdated by modern standards.

One thing is for sure, Curtis was a very important piece of the Bengals success in the early 80’s. This Ring of Honor is meant to make sure the most important names to this franchise’s history don’t get forgotten to time. Curtis should be in that ring as fast as he played the game.