Chronology

PRE-1966
Paul Brown
When Paul Brown founded the Bengals he was already a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Paul Brown had left the Cleveland Browns following the 1962 season, with an NFL coaching record of 115-49-6 and three league championships. He had also won four titles with the Browns in the All-America Football Conference, before they joined the NFL. But Brown was ousted from Cleveland by Art Modell, who had bought the Browns franchise in 1961. Despite Brown’s founder’s status with the Cleveland club, he had never been majority owner, and Modell showed Brown the door while telling the already legendary coach, “This can never be my team as long as you are here.” It was a compliment, in a fashion, but it was a bitter blow to pro football’s legendary innovator. Brown sought to return to the game, with operational control of a franchise, and in 1965 his son Mike completed a study on pro football expansion. The study recommended Cincinnati as a potential site. Later that year, Paul Brown met with Ohio Governor James Rhodes, who agreed to support a push for a second team for the state.

1966
Faced with serious concerns from the Reds baseball team regarding Crosley Field, as well as with growing civic support to push for pro football, Cincinnati’s city council approved the construction of a dual-purpose downtown riverfront stadium, with seating capacity of more than 50,000.

1967
Cincinnati was awarded an American Football League expansion franchise on May 24, and on Sept. 26, the league’s ownership decision came down in favor of the group led by Paul Brown. The franchise was to begin play in 1968, but it acquired its first player late in ’67, trading two draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for QB John Stofa. And what would the team’s nickname be? A Cincinnati newspaper poll showed much sentiment among Queen City fans for the name “Buckeyes,” but Brown nixed that idea. Brown said that the name “belonged to Ohio State,” and he added that the Buckeyes weren’t all that popular in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, which he considered part of a regional fan base for his team. Ownership instead chose the nickname “Bengals,” with Brown making the announcement at an Oct. 26 news conference. The tiger theme was familiar to Brown, who had enjoyed great success with the Massillon (Ohio) High School Tigers early in his coaching career. Also, “Bengals” had been the nickname of a Cincinnati pro football franchise of the late 1930s and early ’40s, and Brown had three members of that original Bengals team at his news conference. Brown cited a “precedence for reviving old team nicknames,” noting that the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills carried the same nicknames as previous unrelated pro teams in their towns. As for how the original 1930s team came to be known as Bengals, one school of thought associated the name with a hugely popular mid-’30s movie called “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.” The movie dealt not with tigers, but with the exploits of British soldiers in colonial India. That concept was clearly in Paul Brown’s mind some 32 years after the movie’s 1935 nomination for Best Picture, because Brown said at the nickname news conference, “We mean the tigers, not the lancers.” But whatever connection may have been made between the original team and the movie, it seems to have been more a case of coincidence than design. The original Bengals indisputably used tiger images in promoting the team. And Hal Pennington, who coached and managed the team after his 1934 graduation from Xavier University as a multi-sport star, said in a ’67 interview that he named the team to represent a tiger theme. Pennington said he was sitting in his mother’s kitchen when he was struck by a product or advertisement — he couldn’t remember exactly what — whose trademark included the name “Bengal” and a tiger-head image. “The (tiger) picture was so animated, it inspired me,” Pennington recalled. “I just figured ‘Bengals’ would be a good name for the team.”

1968
Nippert Stadium
Before the Bengals moved into Riverfront Stadium home was the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium

The Bengals fielded their first team, with an agreement to play two seasons at Nippert Stadium, on the University of Cincinnati campus, during construction of the as-yet-unnamed downtown stadium. The Bengals were placed as the fifth team the AFL’s Western Division, bringing league membership to 10. They were awarded 40 veteran players in the AFL allocation draft, but the draft was not generous to Cincinnati, allowing existing teams wide latitude to protect the best talent. Of the 40 selections, only 16 ever played for Cincinnati, and only three would play as many as four seasons. G Pat Matson of Oregon, obtained from the Denver Broncos, would play the most Bengals seasons (seven) of any of the expansion draft signees. In the college draft, the Bengals selected Tennessee center Bob Johnson as their first pick. Johnson would go on to play 12 Bengals seasons, with an AFL All-Star game selection. The Bengals played their first preseason game on Aug. 3 at Nippert, losing 38-14 to Kansas City before a crowd of 21,682. Jon Stofa was the starting QB against the Chiefs. In the regular season, the Bengals lost their opener at San Diego, with rookie Dewey Warren as starting QB, but Cincinnati won its next two, posting double-digit margins at home over Denver and Buffalo. The team would win only once more, however, finishing 3-11. Though Warren, a sixth-round draft choice from Tennessee, took the first regular-season snap at QB, Stofa and future Bengals head coach Sam Wyche also saw significant time at QB during the season. Regular-season home attendance averaged 25,766. Rookie RB Paul Robinson led the AFL in rushing with 1023 yards and was named AFL Rookie of the Year.
1969
Cincinnati was awarded an American Football League expansion franchise on May 24, and on Sept. 26, the league’s ownership decision came down in favor of the group led by Paul Brown. The franchise was to begin play in 1968, but it acquired its first player late in ’67, trading two draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for QB John Stofa. And what would the team’s nickname be? A Cincinnati newspaper poll showed much sentiment among Queen City fans for the name “Buckeyes,” but Brown nixed that idea. Brown said that the name “belonged to Ohio State,” and he added that the Buckeyes weren’t all that popular in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, which he considered part of a regional fan base for his team. Ownership instead chose the nickname “Bengals,” with Brown making the announcement at an Oct. 26 news conference. The tiger theme was familiar to Brown, who had enjoyed great success with the Massillon (Ohio) High School Tigers early in his coaching career. Also, “Bengals” had been the nickname of a Cincinnati pro football franchise of the late 1930s and early ’40s, and Brown had three members of that original Bengals team at his news conference. Brown cited a “precedence for reviving old team nicknames,” noting that the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills carried the same nicknames as previous unrelated pro teams in their towns. As for how the original 1930s team came to be known as Bengals, one school of thought associated the name with a hugely popular mid-’30s movie called “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.” The movie dealt not with tigers, but with the exploits of British soldiers in colonial India. That concept was clearly in Paul Brown’s mind some 32 years after the movie’s 1935 nomination for Best Picture, because Brown said at the nickname news conference, “We mean the tigers, not the lancers.” But whatever connection may have been made between the original team and the movie, it seems to have been more a case of coincidence than design. The original Bengals indisputably used tiger images in promoting the team. And Hal Pennington, who coached and managed the team after his 1934 graduation from Xavier University as a multi-sport star, said in a ’67 interview that he named the team to represent a tiger theme. Pennington said he was sitting in his mother’s kitchen when he was struck by a product or advertisement — he couldn’t remember exactly what — whose trademark included the name “Bengal” and a tiger-head image. “The (tiger) picture was so animated, it inspired me,” Pennington recalled. “I just figured ‘Bengals’ would be a good name for the team.”
1970
Paul Brown 1970
Paul Brown talks to two of his quarterbacks Dave Lewis(left) and Sam Wyche. Wyche would later coach the Bengals to a Super Bowl.
Cincinnati was awarded an American Football League expansion franchise on May 24, and on Sept. 26, the league’s ownership decision came down in favor of the group led by Paul Brown. The franchise was to begin play in 1968, but it acquired its first player late in ’67, trading two draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for QB John Stofa. And what would the team’s nickname be? A Cincinnati newspaper poll showed much sentiment among Queen City fans for the name “Buckeyes,” but Brown nixed that idea. Brown said that the name “belonged to Ohio State,” and he added that the Buckeyes weren’t all that popular in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, which he considered part of a regional fan base for his team. Ownership instead chose the nickname “Bengals,” with Brown making the announcement at an Oct. 26 news conference. The tiger theme was familiar to Brown, who had enjoyed great success with the Massillon (Ohio) High School Tigers early in his coaching career. Also, “Bengals” had been the nickname of a Cincinnati pro football franchise of the late 1930s and early ’40s, and Brown had three members of that original Bengals team at his news conference. Brown cited a “precedence for reviving old team nicknames,” noting that the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills carried the same nicknames as previous unrelated pro teams in their towns. As for how the original 1930s team came to be known as Bengals, one school of thought associated the name with a hugely popular mid-’30s movie called “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.” The movie dealt not with tigers, but with the exploits of British soldiers in colonial India. That concept was clearly in Paul Brown’s mind some 32 years after the movie’s 1935 nomination for Best Picture, because Brown said at the nickname news conference, “We mean the tigers, not the lancers.” But whatever connection may have been made between the original team and the movie, it seems to have been more a case of coincidence than design. The original Bengals indisputably used tiger images in promoting the team. And Hal Pennington, who coached and managed the team after his 1934 graduation from Xavier University as a multi-sport star, said in a ’67 interview that he named the team to represent a tiger theme. Pennington said he was sitting in his mother’s kitchen when he was struck by a product or advertisement — he couldn’t remember exactly what — whose trademark included the name “Bengal” and a tiger-head image. “The (tiger) picture was so animated, it inspired me,” Pennington recalled. “I just figured ‘Bengals’ would be a good name for the team.”
1971
The Bengals went 5-0-1 in preseason and opened the regular season with high hopes of defending their AFC Central Division title. They started off with a 37-14 rout of Philadelphia at home, but they lost the next seven and finished at 4-10. The puzzling outfit stumbled despite outgaining foes by more than 25 yards per game and posting a plus-16 turnover differential. Six of their losses came by four points or less. QB Sam Wyche, who would become Bengals head coach in 1984, was traded in May to Washington, and Virgil Carter was the starting QB for most of the season. But Carter missed some time with injuries, allowing for the debut of third-round draft pick Ken Anderson, who immediately attracted notice as a prospect of great promise. Anderson could not turn the ’71 season around, but it was the start of a 16-year career (longest in Bengals history through 2016) that would end with him holding all the team’s major passing records at that time. The first of Anderson’s career 197 Bengals TD passes was a five-yarder to WR Eric Crabtree in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 loss on Oct. 3 at Green Bay. On Nov. 28, the Bengals posted the first shutout in franchise history, 31-0 at home over San Diego. Regular-season home attendance was strong in Riverfront Stadium’s second year, as the average of 59,266 would not be topped until the 2003 season at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati’s Dave Lewis won his second consecutive NFL punting title, averaging 44.8 yards.
1972
Essex Johnson
Running back Essex Johnson rushed for more than 3,000 yards and recieved more than 1,500 in his Bengals career.

The team rallied from the disappointment of 1971 to finish 8-6 for the second time in three seasons. It wasn’t enough for a second playoff berth in three years, but Coach Paul Brown said at season’s end that the Bengals had met his goal of becoming a “fully competitive” NFL franchise by Year Five. (The Bengals would back up those words by going 38-18 over the next four seasons.) Besides the drama of a playoff bid that ended with a loss to Cleveland in Game 13, the season’s major storyline was the battle between veteran Virgil Carter and second-year Ken Anderson for the No. 1 QB spot. Anderson got Brown’s nod in preseason, but Carter took the job back for Game 9 vs. Oakland, after Anderson had struggled in a 40-17 loss to Pittsburgh. Carter was injured in the Oakland game, however, and Anderson started Game 10, a 20-19 upset loss to a Baltimore team that had won only twice. Carter started in a Game 11 win at Chicago, but passed for only 120 yards with two INTs, and Anderson was re-installed at No. 1 for a Game 12 win vs. the Giants. Anderson started the crucial Game 13 vs. Cleveland, but he was sidelined with an injury, and the Browns sealed a 27-24 win when Carter suffered an INT by LB Billy Andrews on a short pass to Cleveland’s goal line with 0:36 to play. Anderson came back to start the play-for-pride season finale, directing a 61-17 romp at Houston, and Anderson would not again be seriously challenged until 1984, when at age 35 he was bothered by injuries and began to give way to Boomer Esiason. DT Mike Reid, Cincinnati’s top pick from the 1970 draft, was the only Bengal named to the Pro Football Writers’ first-team All-Pro squad, but rookie S Tommy Casanova also made a big impression and was voted by his teammates as the club’s MVP. The 61 points scored at Houston stands through 2016 as a club record. It has been matched once since, in a 61-7 win vs. the same Houston franchise in 1989.
1973
The Bengals claimed their second AFC Central title in the division’s four-year existence, winning their last six games after a 4-4 start and claiming the crown over 10-4 Pittsburgh via conference-record tiebreaker. The Bengals’ rivalry with the Steelers heated up in ’73, with Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw saying, “I’d really rather beat Cincinnati than anybody.” The Bengals and Steelers split their two season meetings. In postseason, the Bengals lost 34-16 at Miami, which would go on to win Super Bowl VIII. It marked the second time in two playoff appearances that the Bengals were eliminated by the team that would go on to win it all. Though the schedule at this time remained at just 14 games, the Bengals missed by just 15 total yards having two 1000-yard rushers. Veteran Essex Johnson had 997 yards, and bruising 12th-round draft choice Boobie Clark had 988. Clark was named AFC Rookie of the Year. Through 2016, only six teams in NFL history have had two 1000-yard rushers in a season (Bengals not among them), and four of those instances came in 16-game seasons. The ’73 offense was further improved by WR Isaac Curtis, a first-round draft pick who would go on to play 12 excellent seasons for Cincinnati. The NFL’s rules on home television blackouts were changed for 1973, with blackouts lifted on games sold out 72 hours in advance, and the Sept. 24 game vs. Houston — a 24-10 Bengals victory — became the first Bengals home contest with live local TV. Paul Brown turned 65 on Sept. 7, but retirement was not on his mind. He would go on to serve through 1975 as head coach, and he would remain the Bengals’ chief executive until his death in 1991 at age 82.
1974
Chris Joiner 1974
Isaac Curtis(right) became the prototype of the 21st century wide reciever during his 12 seasons in Cincinnati. Charlie Joiner(middle) played four of his 19 Hall of Fame seasons for the Bengals.

A break-even (7-7) season for Cincinnati included the individual highlight of QB Ken Anderson winning the first of his four NFL passing titles. He posted a league-best 95.7 rating, with 213 completions in 328 attempts (64.9 percent) for 2667 yards, with 18 TDs and 10 INTs. In a Nov. 10 win vs. Pittsburgh, Anderson set a Bengals record (still standing through 2016) for completion percentage, ringing up a 90.9 by connecting on 20-of-22. Through 2016, that’s third-best in NFL history (minimum 20 attempts). CB Lemar Parrish led the NFL in punt returns, with an 18.8-yard average that remains through ’16 as the franchise record. The Bengals were 7-4 through 11 games, but were still a game and a half behind first-place Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati lost its last three contests. The Bengals swept the “Battle of Ohio” series vs. Cleveland for the first time, winning 33-7 at home in the season opener and 34-24 at Cleveland in Game 5. The campaign was preceded by a tumultuous offseason. Labor unrest roiled the league scene well into the preseason. The NFL Players Association called a strike, but not all players were on board, and most teams welcomed willing veterans into training camps. The Bengals were at the top in terms of veterans reporting to camp. Early preseason games were played with large numbers of rookies and other new personnel, however, and the Bengals offered fans refunds to those games. Most fans kept their tickets. The strike effort dwindled as preseason neared its end, and the regular season opened normally. Prior to preseason, the Bengals were in the thick of an NFL battle against player raids by the new World Football League, as they disputed the WFL Philadelphia franchise’s signing of star LB Bill Bergey to a contract to begin in 1976, even though Bergey still was obligated to the Bengals through 1975. The Bengals lost that battle in court, but the decision wound up being moot. Bergey’s offers from the unstable new league eventually fell through, and on July 10 of ’74, Cincinnati traded Bergey to Philadelphia’s NFL team, the Eagles, for first-round draft choices in 1976 and ’77, plus a second-rounder in ’77.
1975
In their final season with Paul Brown as head coach, the Bengals opened with six straight wins and went on to post an 11-3 record. Their .786 winning percentage stands through 2016 as the best in franchise history, and their plus-differential in yards per game (81.2, on 361.4 offensively vs. 280.2 defensively) also stands as a franchise record. The team also set a franchise record for fumble recoveries per game (1.57, on 22 total). But two of Cincinnati’s losses were to AFC Central Division rival Pittsburgh, and the Steelers took the division title at 12-2, setting up their drive to the Super Bowl X championship. The Bengals qualified as the AFC Wild Card team for the playoffs, but had to play on the road at Oakland, which also had finished 11-3, and the Raiders prevailed, 31-28, withstanding a Bengals rally from a 31-14 deficit. QB Ken Anderson won the second of his four NFL passing championships, with a 93.9 rating, and he was also named Dodge NFL Man of the Year, an award reflecting both athletic and civic achievement. Attempts to revive the injury-plagued career of iconic QB Greg Cook ended on July 9, when the Bengals allowed Kansas City to claim Cook on waivers. Cook played in preseason for the Chiefs but did not reach the regular season with the club. The Bengals opened the preseason in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio, playing Washington on Aug. 2 on a day when the on-field temperature was estimated at 105, believed to be the hottest conditions ever (through 2016) for any Bengals game. Labor unrest forced the preseason to unfold under another strike threat, but it was averted just before the regular season began. The Bengals defense was strong despite the pre-training camp loss of Pro Bowl DT Mike Reid, who retired at age 26 to pursue a career in music. The last player still with the Bengals from the 1968 expansion draft, G Pat Matson, was traded to Green Bay on Sept. 10. Prior to the season, Paul Brown hired Kim Wood as the first “strength coach” in franchise history, citing the need for a more comprehensive year-round conditioning program for players. Wood would serve in the job through 2002.
1976
Paul Brown 1970
After becoming the only college player to ever win two Heisman Trophies, Archie Griffin became a first-round draft pick of the Bengals in 1976.

On Jan. 1, Paul Brown announced his retirement as head coach, while remaining general manager and overall chief executive. Brown had coached 41 seasons at various levels of football, with a career including dominance at the high school level, a national championship at Ohio State, and an AAFC and NFL dynasty with the Cleveland Browns. Brown also led the expansion Bengals into the playoffs in their third season (1970), making them the “youngest franchise” in league history at that time to reach postseason. His overall coaching record was 342-126-15, for a winning percentage of .724. Brown named Bill “Tiger” Johnson, Bengals offensive line coach since the franchise’s inception, as his successor as head coach. Johnson led the team to a 10-4 record, tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC Central, but the Steelers won a tiebreaker (head-to-head sweep) for the division title, and the Bengals lost out to 11-3 New England for what was then a lone AFC Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The Bengals’ .714 winning percentage is the highest (through 2016) of any Cincinnati team not to make the playoffs. The Bengals entered the final regular-season weekend tied with Pittsburgh at 9-4, but the Steelers clinched the playoff spot with a Saturday win against Houston. The Bengals were playing only for pride the following day when they swamped the N.Y. Jets 42-3 in what was to be the last Jets appearance by Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath. The Bengals acquired defensive end Coy Bacon in a March 31 trade with San Diego for WR Charlie Joiner, and Bacon contributed 22.0 sacks, still the Bengals record through 2016, and by a margin of 9.0. The team had 46 sacks, and its average of 3.29 per game is still the franchise record though 2016. Also still a record through ’16 is the club’s average yield of only 15.0 points per game. CB Ken Riley led the AFC with nine INTs. In the first round of the draft, Cincinnati selected HB Archie Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, and Griffin went on to play for the Bengals through 1983.
1977
Head coach Bill Johnson posted a second straight winning record (8-6), but the team missed the playoffs, one game behind AFC Central champion Pittsburgh. The Bengals logged a huge win in Game 15, beating Pittsburgh 17-10 in a Saturday afternoon contest at frigid Riverfront Stadium (temperatures hovering between five and 10 degrees). The game left the teams tied for the division lead, and the Bengals were assured of winning a season-end tiebreaker, based on better point differential in their 1-1 season split with the Steelers. But on the final weekend, Pittsburgh won 10-9 over San Diego, and the Bengals fell 21-16 at Houston. The Oilers tied the Bengals’ 8-6 record and officially took second place in a tiebreaker, but Houston also missed the postseason. The Bengals rallied into contention after a 2-3 start that included a season-opening loss to underdog Cleveland, the first time the Bengals had lost in a season opener played at home, following six straight wins in that situation. On Nov. 13 at Minnesota, QB Ken Anderson and WR Billy Brooks teamed up for a 94-yard TD pass, which stands through 2016 as the longest pass play in franchise history. The season ended the NFL’s 17-year run (1961-77) of playing a 14-game regular-season schedule.
1978
The Bengals and the NFL played the first year with a 16-game schedule, and it was a long 16 for Cincinnati. QB Ken Anderson missed the first four games with a broken bone in his right hand, and Bill Johnson resigned as head coach following an 0-5 start. Among the first four games, Cincinnati’s losing margins included one point (vs. Kansas City), three points (in overtime at Cleveland) and two points (vs. New Orleans). Johnson was replaced as head coach by Homer Rice, who had joined the staff for ’78 as quarterbacks coach. The team dropped to a 1-12 mark before rallying to win the last three games. The Bengals closed the year with a 48-16 rout of Cleveland, a 32-point winning margin that stood until 2015 as Cincinnati’s largest in the Battle of Ohio series. Prior to the season, CB Lemar Parrish and DE Coy Bacon were traded to Washington for the Redskins’ first-round draft pick in 1979 (used to select RB Charles Alexander). Two Pro Bowlers, TE Bob Trumpy and S Tommy Casanova, retired prior to the season. On July 26, Paul Brown’s eldest son, Robin, died of cancer at age 46, and Paul Brown had to cancel plans to be the presenter for Weeb Ewbank at Ewbank’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. The Ben-Gals cheerleaders were in the news in ’78. They attracted considerable new attention, going away from their “malt shop” look to a more revealing uniform, described at the time as “chic, smart and sexy, but not vulgar.”
1979
Fullback Pete Johnson powered his way to 15 TDs, a club record at the time. But the team finished 4-12 in its only full season under head coach Homer Rice, who was released the day after the Dec. 16 season finale. The team struggled despite a plus-15 mark in turnover differential (44 takeaways, 29 giveaways). On Dec. 28, Rice was replaced by former Cleveland Browns head coach Forrest Gregg, who resigned as head coach of the CFL Toronto Argonauts to take the job. During the season, controversy flared over the publication of “PB: The Paul Brown Story,” an autobiography written by Brown in collaboration with sportswriter Jack Clary. The book included lengthy and explicit criticism of Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who had fired Brown as Cleveland head coach after the 1962 season. Modell made a formal complaint to the league office, charging Brown with violating league policy on public criticism of other teams’ management. Brown eventually was fined $10,000 by Pete Rozelle, whose appointment as NFL Commissioner in 1960 had been spearheaded by Brown. After paying his fine, Brown told reporters, “I have sent (Rozelle) his check, but I stand by the book as written. His (Rozelle’s) action is not based on any judgment on the facts I have presented.” Prior to the season, on Jan. 17, the Bengals created the coaching staff’s first full-time position in charge of special teams, hiring Frank Gansz. On Nov. 14, after an injury to C Blair Bush, C Bob Johnson was coaxed out of retirement and played the remainder of the season. Johnson was the team’s original No. 1 draft pick in 1968, and when he hung up his cleats for good after the ’79 season, it marked the final departure of the last player who had been on the inaugural ’68 club. On Sept. 23 vs. Houston, Bengal Chris Bahr kicked a 55-yard FG, which would stand alone as longest in franchise history for 33 years, until Mike Nugent tied it in 2012.
1980
Forrest Gregg managed only a 6-10 record in his first season as head coach, but he was laying the groundwork for a trip to the Super Bowl the following year. The first building block in that plan was the drafting of Southern California OT Anthony Munoz with the No. 3 overall selection. Munoz, who 18 years later would be a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame inductee, having played his entire career with Cincinnati, was enthusiastically endorsed by Gregg as Cincinnati’s top choice. Gregg’s deciding moment came when he was accidently knocked to the ground by an errant Munoz forearm while working Munoz out in a supposedly “light-contact” drill on a scouting trip. Gregg himself was a Hall of Fame OT, inducted in 1977. After drafting Munoz, the Bengals endured a high-profile and acrimonious contract negotiation with Munoz agent Mike Trope. But Munoz was signed just before training camp, hyped as “the NFL’s first million-dollar offensive tackle,” and he started all season at LOT. Gregg instituted notably tougher discipline policies on Bengals players and became the first Cincinnati head coach to insist players wear sport coats and ties on road trips. But on the field, QB Ken Anderson was injury-plagued and wound up splitting time with Jack Thompson on an offense whose 244 total points ranked last in the AFC. Gregg notched two of his wins against defending league champion Pittsburgh, but his club lost twice to eventual AFC Central champ Cleveland, which had fired him as head coach after the 1977 campaign.
1981
Paul Brown 1970
Ken Anderson became the Bengals' first NFL MVP in leading Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl at the end of the 1981 season.

The Bengals began the year with a dramatically redesigned uniform, highlighted by their now-signature striped helmets, and they ended the season in the Super Bowl, losing a heartbreaking 26-21 decision to San Francisco. The Bengals were favored in Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac, Mich., but they finished minus-three in turnover differential and fell short in trying to erase a 20-0 halftime deficit. Still, it was a foundational year for Bengals-mania in the Tri-State. Coach Forrest Gregg’s second Bengals edition won the AFC Central Division title by four games, with a 12-4 record, and they won home playoff games over Buffalo and San Diego. Cincinnati’s 27-7 “Freezer Bowl” AFC Championship win over the Chargers was played in conditions of minus-59 wild chill, still the lowest in NFL history through 2016. (The recorded temperature was minus-nine, second lowest in league history). Attendance at the Freezer Bowl was 46,302, more than creditable considering the weather, and attendance at the game is such a point of pride among longtime fans, it’s said jokingly that more than 10 times that number of 46,302 now claim to have been in the stands. QB Ken Anderson earned NFL Most Valuable Player honors with a league-best and career-high passer rating of 98.4. With 29 TD passes and just 10 INTs, Anderson posted a 2.9-to-1 ratio, best in franchise history until 2015. TE Dan Ross and rookie WR Cris Collinsworth had big receiving years. Ross’ 71 receptions was a club record to that point. FB Pete Johnson rumbled for a then club-record 1077 rushing yards, with 12 TDs. Future Hall of Fame OT Anthony Munoz played his second season and earned his first of what would be a Bengals-record 11 Pro Bowl berths. Defensively, the front line trio of DEs Ross Browner and Eddie Edwards and DT Wilson Whitley were in the fourth of their five seasons starting together. An outstanding veteran LB corps of Jim LeClair, Reggie Williams, Glenn Cameron and Bo Harris finished 1-4 in tackles. CB Ken Riley, by far the franchise’s all-time INT leader, was in the 13th of his 15-season Bengals career. For QB Anderson, getting to his eventual season accolades was no easy journey. The year began with Anderson trade rumors (nothing materialized), and Anderson went through preseason in an open competition with Jack Thompson, the franchise’s No. 1 draft pick from 1979. Anderson became sure of the season-opening job only when Thompson became unavailable, due to an injury in the final preseason contest. Anderson fared poorly in the season opener vs. Seattle and was benched in favor of Turk Schonert. But although Schonert was a hero that day, leading a wild come-from-behind win, Anderson was re-installed by Gregg the following week and went on to his memorable season. Cincinnati swooned over rookie WR Collinsworth, who produced the franchise’s first 1000-yard receiving season (1009) and displayed a magnetic personality that by year’s end infected fans far beyond the Queen City. In December, Collinsworth became the first Bengals player featured on a Sports Illustrated cover. The offense had four Pro Bowlers (Anderson, Collinsworth, Johnson and Munoz), and the special teams had one (P Pat McInally), but the defense had none. Paul Brown was named NFL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. Tickets for Super Bowl XVI were only $40 face value. It was also an historic year for technology in the Bengals organization. On Sept. 25, it was confirmed to media that the club had bought and installed its first office-wide computer system, with “several terminals available for the ticket office and other business needs.” As noted above, the new uniforms for 1981 featured tiger-striped helmets, and they made quite a splash. The design was chosen by Paul Brown, who said he wanted the helmet to be “instantly recognizable even from a distance.” The bold look sparked debate among fans, and the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted a source from NFL Properties as saying “the design was not our first choice” among several presented to the Bengals. “But,” the Enquirer source continued, “these helmets will definitely get recognized.” Indeed, they have become an institution, still distinctive among NFL headgear after 36 years.
1982
The Bengals finished a strike-shortened season at 7-2, tied for the second-best record in the AFC. QB Ken Anderson was at the height of his Cincinnati prowess, winning his fourth NFL passing title (95.3 rating). Anderson stands through 2016 as the only Bengal to win more than two major NFL season titles of any variety. Anderson’s 70.55 completion percentage was an NFL season record at the time, and through ’16 it still stands as third-best in league history. Anderson also set a standing Bengals season record for passing yards per game, at 277.2 Isaac Curtis and Cris Collinsworth were in their second year as a Cadillac duo at wide receiver, helping Anderson to his high marks. But a players’ strike began after Week 2 and lasted 57 days, until Nov. 17. Games scheduled in Weeks 3-9 wound up being canceled, and Week 10 games were rescheduled for Jan. 2, a week after the regular season had been scheduled to end. They were the first NFL regular-season games not played in the calendar year of the season. The defending AFC champion Bengals split their first two games, and when play resumed after the strike, they established themselves as again one of the top clubs in the conference, winning four straight to stand at 5-1. Cincinnati was 6-1 in its seven post-strike games, the only loss being a memorable 50-34 Monday night shootout at San Diego. In that game, Anderson set a Bengals record for completions (40) that still stands through 2016, but the Chargers’ 661 yards net offense stands as the most ever allowed by the Bengals, and Chargers WR Wes Chandler set a still-standing Cincinnati opponents’ record with 260 receiving yards. Buoyed by the previous season’s AFC championship and the strong regular-season finish, Bengals fans had high hopes of a second straight Super Bowl appearance as the playoffs began. But in one of the most stunning losses in Bengals history, Cincinnati opened an expanded playoff format by falling 44-17 to the underdog N.Y. Jets at Riverfront Stadium. The Jets’ point total stands through 2016 as the most ever in the playoffs against the Bengals, and Freeman McNeil’s 202 rushing yards also still stand as a Bengals opponent playoff record. Four Bengals went to the Pro Bowl — Anderson, WR Cris Collinsworth, OT Anthony Munoz and TE Dan Ross. The nine regular-season games played were the fewest in the NFL since 1934, the year before the league adopted standard number of games for all teams. Bengals players were among the first to vote as a team to end the strike, doing so Nov. 11 in a meeting at the club’s Spinney Field practice facility.
1983
It was a tumultuous year from start to finish as the Bengals posted a 7-9 record, dropping from the postseason picture after going 19-6 over the previous two regular seasons. In January, the new United States Football League announced that it would begin play in the spring of 1984, and the USFL roiled the ’83 offseason by pursuing contracts with NFL players and coaches, including a number of Bengals. G Dave Lapham and TE Dan Ross signed “future contracts” with the new league for 1984, and they would indeed go there, but they played out their Bengals contracts for Cincinnati in ’83. The biggest stunner to Cincinnati fans came June 27, when star WR Cris Collinsworth signed a future contract to begin in 1985 with the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits. But over an extended period of angst in Bengals Nation, extending into February 1985, Collinsworth and Bandits owner John Bassett never fully consummated their deal. Collinsworth wound up playing his full pro football career (through 1988) with the Bengals. In July, offensive coordinator Lindy Infante signed a future deal as head coach of the USFL Jacksonville Bulls, and rather than let him coach in Cincinnati under his ’83 contract, the Bengals fired him for breach of contract. On June 3, once highly-touted QB Jack Thompson was traded to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a 1984 first-round draft choice. On July 26, Bengals DE Ross Browner and FB Pete Johnson were among the first four NFL players ever suspended by the NFL for illegal drug activity. They missed all of training camp and Games 1-4 of the regular season. The team lost six of its first seven games, and in Game 6, a Monday night Riverfront Stadium visit by Pittsburgh, Steelers DE Keith Gary inflicted a severe neck sprain on QB Ken Anderson, bringing him down with a visually sickening twist of the face mask. Though Gary would in the end be only fined by the NFL (not suspended), the play proved to be key in raising NFL awareness that QBs were often in vulnerable positions and needed more rules protection. “It’s fortunate (the play) was on national television,” said Paul Brown. “Maybe now it won’t be repeated.” Anderson missed the next three games. On Nov. 20 vs. Houston, an obscure rookie drafted in the 10th round made his first NFL start, as an injury replacement. The player was Tim Krumrie, who would take over as full-time starter the next season and become one of the best defensive linemen and most admired players in franchise history. The Bengals rallied to finish 6-3 over their last nine games, and coach Forrest Gregg was under contract through 1984. But on Dec. 24, Gregg resigned with the team’s blessing to take the head coaching job in Green Bay, where he had played his way into the Hall of Fame as an offensive tackle. On Dec. 29, the Bengals replaced Gregg with Indiana University head coach Sam Wyche, a former Bengals QB who five years later would join Gregg as the only other Bengal coach to take the team to the Super Bowl. Despite their disappointing season, the Bengals led the NFL in total defense under Gregg and coordinator Hank Bullough, allowing only 270.4 yards per game. The performance stands through 2016 as the club’s only No. 1 defensive ranking.
1984
Paul Brown 1970
Larry Kinnebrew (28) scored nine touchdowns for the 1984 Bengals in Sam Wyche's first season as head coach.

Rookie head coach Sam Wyche took the Bengals on a wild ride that ended just short of a playoff berth. The team rose from an 0-5 start to finish 8-8, winning its last four. After routing Buffalo 52-21 in a 1 p.m. ET season finale, the Bengals needed the 11-4 L.A. Raiders to win at home over 8-7 Pittsburgh in a 4 p.m. game. That result would have produced a Bengals-Steelers tie for the AFC Central title, and the Bengals would have been declared champions via tiebreaker. But the Steelers dashed Cincinnati’s hopes in a 13-7 win over the Raiders, as Wyche and a number of invited media members watched on television at the coach’s home. Wyche juggled his quarterbacks all season, due to injuries and/or coaching decisions. Ken Anderson began and finished the year as No. 1, starting nine games, but rookie Boomer Esiason started four and veteran Turk Schonert started three. Esiason made the first of his eventual 123 Bengals starts on Oct. 7 vs. Houston, in a battle of 0-5 teams. Esiason didn’t dazzle, passing for 159 yards with no TDs and two INTs, but the Bengals won 13-3, and Esiason would finish 3-1 in his four starts on the year. Prior to the season, it was a big year for Cincinnati in the trade department. The Bengals entered April holding the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, via their 1983 trade of QB Jack Thompson to Tampa Bay. But with the top prospect, Brigham Young QB Steve Young, having signed with the USFL Los Angeles Express, the Bengals traded the pick on April 5 to New England, gaining the Nos. 16 and 28 spots in round one. The Bengals selected DE Pete Koch of Maryland at No. 16 and G Brian Blados of North Carolina at No. 28. The Patriots used the No. 1 pick on Nebraska WR Irving Fryar. On May 29, the Bengals made arguably the best straight player-for-player trade in franchise history, sending FB Pete Johnson to San Diego for RB James Brooks. Johnson would prove to be on the downside of his career, while Brooks would have a stellar Bengals tenure through 1991. The year 1984 was, and remains through 2016, the second time in club history for the Bengals to have three first-round draft picks (first year was 1977). With their own first-round ’84 selection, the Bengals chose LB Ricky Hunley of Arizona, but Hunley became (and remains through 2016) the only Bengals first-rounder never to sign with Cincinnati. Hunley’s stalemated contract negotiations set a Bengals record for length, and on Oct. 9, he was traded to Denver for three future selections, two of which brought Cincinnati productive WR Tim McGee (first round 1986) and Pro Bowl S David Fulcher (third round 1986).
1985
The 7-9 Bengals scored 441 points in Sam Wyche’s second season as head coach, a club record at the time. But their 437 points allowed also was a record to that point. Rookie WR Eddie Brown, who had surprisingly been available with the No. 13 pick in the ’85 draft, missed the first 18 days of training camp due to (Team chronology, continued) contract talks, but he wound up as Associated Press NFL Rookie of the Year after catching 53 passes for 942 yards and eight TDs. Bengals icon Ken Anderson opened the season as the starting QB, but the 15th-year vet was supplanted in Game 3 by second-year pro Boomer Esiason, who went on to pass for 27 TDs and just 12 INTs while posting a 93.2 passer rating. The team rebounded from an 0-3 start to stand 7-7 after a rousing 50-24 win over Dallas, and a playoff berth was clearly within range in an AFC Central Division race in which no team was able to dominate. But in Game 15, the Bengals lost 27-24 at Washington after leading 24-7, and their only hope for the playoffs entering the final weekend was via tiebreaker in a possible three-way deadlock with Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The day before their season finale at New England, they were eliminated — and Cleveland became division champion — when Pittsburgh lost a Saturday game to the N.Y. Giants. Prior to and during the season, the team had a number of high-profile personnel issues. Star WR Cris Collinsworth, who had stunned Cincinnati fans in 1983 by signing a “future contract” with the United States Football League’s Tampa Bay Bandits, was to join the Bandits for their 1985 spring season. But after a soap-opera series of “will he go or will he stay?” events, Collinsworth re-signed with Cincinnati on Feb. 27. WR Isaac Curtis, a premier Bengal for 12 years, was released in July and shortly thereafter announced his retirement from pro football. DE Ross Browner went to Houston of the USFL in the spring, but he re-signed with Cincinnati in late August. TE Dan Ross, another ex-Bengal who had gone to the USFL, was re-acquired by Cincinnati in late August but was traded to Seattle in October.
1986
Cincinnati Bengals 1986
Mike Martin juiced the 1980s with his punt returns. His 15.7-yard average return led the NFL in 1984.

The ’86 team was the second Bengals club, and the last one through 2016, to win 10 or more games and not make the playoffs. They lost their chance for a division title when they were bombed 34-3 by eventual champ Cleveland in Game 15 at Riverfront Stadium, but they stayed alive for a Wild Card berth to the very end. After swamping the N.Y. Jets 52-21 on the season’s final Sunday, they were set to qualify with a Miami win over visiting New England on Monday night. But as many Bengals players gathered to watch at a popular Cincinnati night spot, the Patriots won 34-27, taking the AFC East title by a game over the Jets and eliminating Cincinnati from postseason. The 10-6 Jets and 10-6 Chiefs took the Wild Card spots over the Bengals via tiebreaker, with better records against AFC foes. In his first full season as Bengals starting QB, Boomer Esiason passed for a then-club-record 3959 yards, and RB James Brooks posted a club record that still stands through 2016 for yards from scrimmage (1773, on 1087 rushing and 686 receiving). LB Reggie Williams won the prestigious NFL Man of the Year award, for his combined football and community efforts. In late July, the NFL completed successful defense of a multi-million-dollar antitrust suit filed by the United States Football League. The courts ruled technically in favor of the USFL, but awarded only a token $1 in damages. “(The suit) could have been catastrophic to the NFL,” Bengals assistant GM Mike Brown told reporters. “We are glad to see it end in what we consider a complete victory.” In ’86, the NFL began the regular use of instant replay officiating and stepped up its drug-testing program, two measures that were supported by the Bengals. After a year of instant replay, however, the Bengals would join a minority of teams that unsuccessfully opposed its continuation.
1987
The Bengals entered the season with big plans, after finishing 10-6 in 1986, but their aspirations were to be dashed. They started 1-1, but the loss was an exceedingly painful one, as Cincinnati lost to San Francisco despite having a lead and the ball with :06 to play. After that loss, the NFL players’ union went on strike. Games scheduled for Week 3 were canceled, and the next three games were played primarily by replacement players. Cincinnati went 1-2 in the three “replacement games.” The replacement-player strategy led to picketing by Bengals veterans outside the team’s practice facility, but replacement ball was effective in breaking the strike. A total of 85 NFL veterans crossed picket lines to play in the first replacement games, and though the Bengals were a stronger union team than many, LB Reggie Williams was among the 85. The flow increased after the first replacement weekend, though the Bengals had only one additional defection from the strike ranks, DE Eddie Edwards. But veterans agreed leaguewide to return for Game 6 and beyond, without a settlement to their labor issues. The “real Bengals,” however, could not get it back together again, posting a 2-8 record after their return, for a 4-11 overall team finish. The season ended with widespread speculation that fourth-year head coach Sam Wyche would be replaced, but Bengals general manager Paul Brown announced Dec. 30 that the club would honor the final year of Wyche’s five-year contract. Brown termed the 1987 season “an aberration” for which Wyche should not take the brunt of blame, and looking ahead to 1988, Brown told media, “We have a team with talent, and yours truly does not consider this to be a rebuilding year.” Brown and Wyche, of course, were to be vindicated as the Bengals would go on on to win the 1988 AFC Championship. One bright spot from ’87 was the first Pro Bowl berth for NT Tim Krumrie, the 10th-round ’83 draft choice who had already earned status as a key player and fan favorite. Prior to the ’87 campaign, Bengals Nation saw the end of an era, as QB Ken Anderson announced his retirement on June 2. The 1986 season had been Anderson’s 16th as a Bengal, a term that stands through 2016 as the longest in franchise history. Anderson had participated in the team’s spring minicamp, but he changed his mind about a 17th season following a late May exam that showed reduced strength in his right (throwing) shoulder. “The doc told me, ‘You’re starting to wear out a little bit,’ ” Anderson said, “and there is life after football. I want to make sure that I can continue to play golf and otherwise enjoy that life.”
1988
Sam Wyche & Boomer Esiason
Head coach Sam Wyche had the perfect quarterback in Boomer Esiason to shock the league with the no huddle offense.

Snubbed on the NFL’s prime-time TV schedule after a 4-11 season, the Bengals staged one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history, posting a 12-4 record. They clinched the AFC home field advantage for the playoffs, and they won games at Riverfront Stadium over Seattle and Buffalo before losing a dramatic Super Bowl XXIII by 20-16 to San Francisco at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. In the Super Bowl, the Bengals took a 16-13 lead on a 40-yard Jim Breech FG with 3:20 remaining, but the 49ers drove 92 yards in 11 plays to seize victory with 0:34 to play, on a 10-yard pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor. The Bengals suffered two dramatic player losses for the Super Bowl, as troubled FB Stanley Wilson missed the Sunday game due to a Saturday night drug relapse, and Pro Bowl NT Tim Krumrie suffered a broken leg early in the first quarter, with TV cameras catching the fracture in grim detail. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle called Super Bowl XXIII the most exciting to that point in history of the game, which had recently suffered from very lopsided results. (The five previous winners had an average victory margin of 27.6 points). Nine Bengals were selected for the Pro Bowl, a club record that still stands through 2016. FB Ickey Woods did not make the Pro Bowl, but in his only full season of a career later derailed by injuries, he rushed for 1066 yards and a club-record 15 rushing TDs. His “Ickey Shuffle” dance became an iconic TD celebration nationally and would bring him widespread notice for many years, despite the brevity of his playing career. Sam Wyche, whose continued status as head coach was questioned by many entering the season, was named NFL Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association. But the more prestigious coaching award, from Associated Press, went to Mike Ditka of Chicago, whose team lost 28-3 in the NFC Championship game. Cincinnati’s two playoff wins were fraught with high-level controversy over Wyche’s hurry-up “no huddle” offense. In the Divisional game, Seattle players transparently feigned injuries to buy time for situational defensive substitutions, and that flap, raised to a higher level by comments from Buffalo coach Marv Levy, led the NFL to ban the no-huddle for the AFC Championship game against the Bills. But the Bengals dispatched Buffalo 21-10 without their full bag of tricks, and the NFL later admitted its ban was a mistake. The Bengals were allowed to use the no-huddle in the Super Bowl. In developments prior to the season, the Ben-Gals cheerleading squad was reinstated after a year’s absence — “We heard from the fans that they wanted them back,” said assistant general manager Mike Brown — and LB Reggie Williams on June 16 became the first (and still only) Bengal to serve on Cincinnati City Council, appointed by the Charter Party to a seat from which Charterite Arn Bortz had retired. In January of ’88, Williams had received the “Sportsman of the Year” award from Sports Illustrated, and he was presented the award by President Reagan in a ceremony at the White House.
1989
The defending AFC champions showed the ability to be among the NFL’s most powerful teams, winning games by scores of 41-10, 56-23, 42-7 and 61-7. But injuries and inconsistencies defined the season, and Cincinnati finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs despite outscoring foes by 404-285. The plus-119 point differential stands through 2016 as the biggest plus in NFL history by a team without a winning record. The Bengals had a chance to claim a Wild Card berth in the final game of the league’s regular season, a Monday night (Christmas night) match in Minnesota. But the Vikings, needing a win to clinch the NFL Central title, prevailed by 29-21. The Bengals started 4-1 but lost four of their next five. Colorful and controversial head coach Sam Wyche helped keep fans’ emotions high as he sparred throughout the season with division rivals Cleveland and Houston. Wyche took repeated issue with rowdy crowd behavior in Cleveland Stadium’s “Dawg Pound,” and when Bengals fans threw snowballs on the field during a Dec. 10 home game vs. Seattle, Wyche grabbed a public address microphone and scolded the crowd, saying “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati.” The next week, in the highest-drama moment of Wyche’s long feud with Houston coach Jerry Glanville, Wyche eschewed running out the clock in the final minute despite holding a 58-7 lead over the Oilers. He called for a FG and got a 61-7 conquest, then blasted Glanville as a “phony” in his post-game news conference. Prior to the season, iconic Bengals WR Cris Collinsworth was released in final cuts. On Sept. 17 vs. Pittsburgh, 1988 rookie sensation Ickey Woods suffered a knee injury that would play a big part in short-circuiting his career. Woods would play only two more partial seasons (1990 and ’91). On May 11, the long-troubled saga of Bengals FB Stanley Wilson ended when Wilson was permanently barred from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle. NFL fans had been shocked in March when Rozelle announced his impending retirement. Rozelle, noted often as the most successful sports commissioner in United States history, had been boosted into the job in 1960 as an unknown compromise candidate supported by the Bengals’ Paul Brown. Rozelle was replaced by Paul Tagliabue on Oct. 26. The ’89 draft stands through 2016 as the only one in which Cincinnati did not exercise a first-round choice. Slated originally to have the next-to-last selection in round one, the Bengals traded down with Atlanta and made RB Eric Ball their first selection, with the seventh pick of Round 2. LB Reggie Williams retired with the end of the season, his 14th as a Bengal. In November, Williams was elected to Cincinnati City Council, after having already served five months as an appointed replacement to fill a Charter Party vacancy.
1990
Ickey Woods
Ickey Woods' fame wasn't fleeting even though knee injuries limited his career to 37 games.

The Bengals weathered a season with the only five-game road trip in franchise history, finishing 9-7 and claiming the AFC Central title out of a three-way tie with Houston and Pittsburgh. Cincinnati finished first based on best head-to-head record against the other two teams (3-1). Houston earned a Wild Card berth, and Pittsburgh missed postseason, based on the Oilers topping the Steelers in the tiebreaker of record against all AFC opponents. The Bengals had no assurance of making the playoffs entering the season’s final day, but they earned the division title by beating Cleveland in an afternoon game, combined with a Houston victory over Pittsburgh that night. The Bengals had stayed in the race in Week 15 by pounding Houston 40-20 at Riverfront Stadium, and they pounded the Oilers again at home in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, prevailing 41-14. Cincinnati was eliminated the next week in the Divisional round at Los Angeles, falling 20-10 to the Raiders. In the L.A. game, Raiders RB Bo Jackson, the dual-sport superstar, suffered a hip injury in the third quarter when tackled by Bengals LB Kevin Walker. Though the tackle looked routine and the injury was not initially considered serious, it proved to be a hip dislocation that ended Jackson’s pro football career. He never would play in another NFL game, and in baseball, he would not again appear in as many as 100 games in a season. The Bengals had to play five straight regular-season games on the road because their scheduled Oct. 14 home game against Houston was moved to Houston, due to a stadium conflict with Reds postseason baseball play. The Reds in fact did not wind up playing at home on Oct. 14, but the schedule change had to be made in advance — on the basis of the baseball game being possible — because Riverfront Stadium’s baseball/football conversion process was too cumbersome to allow a late decision. The Bengals schedule had called for two road games prior to Oct. 14 and two road games after Oct. 14. The Bengals finished 2-3 on the trip, and their scheduled Dec. 23 game at Houston was moved to Cincinnati. In the second of the five straight road games, a 34-31 overtime win against the L.A. Rams at Anaheim Stadium, Boomer Esiason passed for 490 yards, a team record that still stands through 2016. Esiason passed for only 412 yards before the overtime, however, leaving Ken Anderson’s 447 in 1975 vs. Buffalo as the highest club total in regulation time. Prior to the season, offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet left the Bengals to become head coach of the N.Y. Jets, and in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener, at Riverfront, the Bengals beat the Jets 25-20.
1991
Paul Brown, the Bengals’ founder and first head coach, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died on Aug. 5 at age 82, at his Cincinnati home. The cause of his death was complications from pneumonia. His funeral was held Aug. 7 in his hometown of Massillon, Ohio. Among those in attendance were NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner Pete Rozelle, numerous team owners and eight Hall of Famers. Pall bearers included former Bengals Ken Anderson, Reggie Williams and Dave Lapham. As directed by Brown during his final days, the current coaches and players remained at work in training camp at Wilmington, Ohio during the days after Brown’s death. But head coach Sam Wyche, a private pilot, flew his own plane from Wilmington to Massillon during a short break in his camp schedule. At the funeral, Pete Rozelle said: “Whether they know it or not, nearly everyone in the game of football has been affected by Paul Brown. His wealth of ideas changed the game.” Brown’s son Mike, a key figure in both bringing the Bengals to Cincinnati and in operating the club, took over as chief executive. The season, a major disappointment at 3-13, would be the eighth and final one for Wyche as Bengals coach. Following a Dec. 24 end-of-season meeting between Wyche and Mike Brown, the team announced that Wyche had unexpectedly resigned. Wyche interpreted events as his being fired, but there was no disagreement that his tenure had ended. On Dec. 27, the Bengals announced that WRs coach Dave Shula was promoted to replace Wyche. Shula, the son of legendary coach Don Shula, became at age 32 the second-youngest head coach in NFL history. (Harland Svare took over the L.A. Rams in 1962 at age 31). Mike Brown and Wyche went on to maintain cordial relations, and a disagreement over compensation for Wyche from his 1992 contract was later settled amicably. Wyche would go on to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as head coach from 1992-95. Prior to the season, the NFL announced new guidelines for media locker room access, action that had been sparked in large part by Wyche repeatedly expressing concern over the propriety of having female reporters in the locker room. Though the NFL maintained full access for all reporters, teams were instructed to screen shower areas from view, provide robes or extra-large towels to all players, and provide separate post-game interview areas for head coaches and key players.
1992
Dave Shula
Dave Shula became one of the NFL's youngest head coaches ever when he took over the Bengals in 1992.

In the franchise’s 25th anniversary season, the team started 2-0 under new head coach Dave Shula, with wins at Seattle and vs. the L.A. Raiders. And they seemed a lock to go 3-0 the next week against an 0-2 Green Bay team under rookie head coach Mike Holmgren, leading almost all the way. But a little-known Packers QB, Brett Favre, made the first splash of what would become one of the NFL’s greatest careers. Favre directed a 21-point fourth quarter for a 24-23 win. A second-year pro at the time, playing in only his fourth game, Favre had come off the bench to replace injured starter Don Majkowski in the first quarter. Favre’s two TD passes, including a 35-yarder to unheralded WR Kittrick Taylor with 0:13 to play, were the first two of a total that would rise to an NFL-record 508. The Green Bay game was the start of a five-game losing streak for Cincinnati, and the team finished 5-11. The year was marked by news involving many of the franchise’s biggest names. All-Pro OT Anthony Munoz, with 11 Pro Bowl selections on his resume, was limited to eight games by injuries and announced his retirement prior to playing in the season finale. Another Bengals icon, QB Boomer Esiason, was benched in favor of ’92 top draft pick David Klingler after the team fell to 4-7. Esiason asked to be traded as the season ended, and the club said it would try to accommodate him. Early ’92 was the end of the line for Ickey Woods, Cincinnati’s 1988 rookie RB sensation. Woods had seen some action in ’90 and ’91, after suffering a season-ending ’89 left knee injury, but his ’91 year included a significant right knee injury, and he was waived after failing to show well in the ’92 spring minicamp. WR Eddie Brown, a standout performer from 1985-91, saw his NFL career essentially ended by a ruptured disc in his neck discovered early in training camp. Brown underwent surgery and missed the season. He gained free agency after the season, but found the market slow and wound up re-signing with the Bengals. He was released in final 1993 preseason cuts and did not play again in the NFL. Through 1991, Brown ranked third in Bengals history in receiving yards (6134) and held club records for receiving yards in a game (216) and a season (1273). Bright spots in ’92 included WR Carl Pickens, named Associated Press NFL Rookie of the Year, and RB Harold Green, whose 1170 rushing yards were second-most in club history to that point. After the season finale, the Bengals hired team QB legend Ken Anderson as QBs coach. In the Game 3 loss at Green Bay, Bengals rookie Pickens turned in a 95-yard punt return for a TD, the longest punt return through 2016 in Bengals history.
1993
The difficult road toward the eventual 2000 completion of Paul Brown Stadium began in earnest in November of ’93. At that time, Bengals president Mike Brown, with support from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, sounded the call that Riverfront Stadium had become economically obsolete in the changing world of pro football. Brown warned that absent real progress on improving the Bengals’ stadium situation, the club might be forced to consider moving. The first step toward a solution came in December, when the club agreed to stay at least through 1998, in exchange for a deal to partially renovate Riverfront and amend the team’s lease. It was also stated that civic leaders would explore construction of a new stadium by the “early 2000s.” The Bengals played their first season since 1984 without QB Boomer Esiason, who was traded to the N.Y. Jets in March for a third-round 1993 draft pick. David Klingler, Cincinnati’s first-round 1992 selection, had taken over at QB at the end of 1992. Klingler directed late-season victories in ’93 over the Rams and Falcons, but the bottom line was a 3-13 finish. Klingler had missed three games at midseason, due to back problems, but veteran backup Jay Schroeder had been unable to right the ship. The ’93 season was the most defense-dominated in Bengals history (through 2016), as Cincinnati and its foes averaged total combined points of only 31.6 per game. Preseason cuts had seen the Bengals release longtime kicker Jim Breech in favor of rookie Doug Pelfrey of Kentucky, a Greater Cincinnati native (Fort Thomas, Ky.) who would play for the team through 1999. Breech through 2016 is still Cincinnati’s all-time leading scorer (1151). Breech started his Bengals career in 1980, after one season with Oakland, and through ’16 he ranks third in NFL history in consecutive games played scoring at least one point (186). Changing public attitudes on smoking impacted Bengals fans in April, as Cincinnati City Council enacted a ban on smoking in seating areas at Riverfront Stadium, to take effect in 1994.
1994
Doug Pelfrey
From 1994 - 96 kicker Doug Pelfrey, celebrating with head coach Dave Shula, secured six of the Bengals' 18 wins with last-second field goals.

A shot of “Blake-mania” livened a 3-13 overall season. Due to injuries to QBs David Klingler and Donald Hollas, late-August waiver pickup Jeff Blake got a chance to start on Oct. 30 against Dallas, the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. Blake couldn’t engineer the season’s first win, but he threw for two TDs and had the Bengals up 20-17 until late in the third quarter of an eventual 23-20 loss. Blake went on to lead wins the next two weeks, at Seattle and vs. Houston. He remained the starter despite Klingler’s return to health, and finished the year as a huge fan favorite, leading the NFL in pass completions of 50 or more yards (eight). In a nationally televised Oct. 2 Sunday night game at Riverfront, Miami’s Don Shula and Cincinnati’s Dave Shula became the first father and son to oppose one another as head coaches in North American major pro sports. The Dolphins won, 23-7. The Bengals closed the season with a unique comeback, beating Philadelphia 33-30 when Doug Pelfrey kicked two FGs in the last :03 of the fourth quarter. He connected from 22 yards at :03 to tie the score, then kicked a 54-yarder at :01, after the Bengals kickoff team recovered an Eagles muff at the Philadelphia 37. Though there is no official NFL record for multiple FGs in the waning seconds of a game, the Elias Sports Bureau confirms that from 1970 through 2016, no other player has kicked two in the last :03. On May 5, the Bengals signed Ohio State DT Dan Wilkinson, the first overall pick in the ’94 draft. Wilkinson was the first player ever drafted No. 1 overall by the Bengals (later to be joined in 1995 by RB Ki-Jana Carter and in 2003 by QB Carson Palmer). In December, fan favorite Tim Krumrie, a two-time Pro Bowler, announced his retirement, effective at season’s end. Krumrie was honored by the team at the regular-season finale, and shortly after the season he was hired to the coaching staff. He served as a defensive assistant in 1995 and was promoted to defensive line coach in 1996. The two-point conversion was added to NFL rules prior to the ’94 season, with the Bengals among 23 teams voting in favor, and in the first preseason game, when Cincinnati played against Tampa Bay and former head coach Sam Wyche, a Buccaneers two-point conversion was the deciding play in a 17-16 Tampa Bay win. Much debate and some controversy continued through the year as the Bengals and baseball’s Reds negotiated with Cincinnati leaders about the need for a new stadium, or even two. As co-tenants with the Bengals at Riverfront, the Reds balked at parts of an agreement the Bengals had reached in 1993 for interim improvements at Riverfront, and in an attempt to resolve issues, a city/county Stadium Task Force was formed, led by Cincinnati mayor Roxanne Qualls and Hamilton County Commission president Guy Guckenberger. The Bengals meanwhile agreed to share the cost of major improvements to Spinney Field, the team’s city-owned practice facility.
1995
The Bengals were alive in the playoff race through Game 14, but were eliminated in a 26-10 loss at Cleveland in Game 15. The Dec. 17 Browns game was the last home game for Cleveland prior to the franchise’s controversial move to Baltimore. The Bengals’ 7-9 finish included a 2-0 start and wins in four of the last seven games, but Cincinnati lost six of seven in a midseason stretch, including a 26-23 home loss to Miami in “Shula Bowl II,” as Bengals head coach Dave Shula opposed his father, Don, for the second straight year. The Bengals closed the season by erasing a 21-point deficit in a 27-24 win vs. Minnesota, tying the largest comeback to win in club history. Jeff Blake held serve on the No. 1 QB job he had gained in 1994, keeping David Klingler in a backup role, and both Blake and WR Carl Pickens earned Pro Bowl berths. Pickens set a franchise record for TDs (17, all receiving) that stands through 2016. (In receiving TDs only, no other Bengals player through 2016 has had more than 12.) The Bengals had retained Pickens for 1995 by matching a free agency offer he received from Arizona. The Bengals suffered a severe blow in preseason game three on Aug. 17 at Detroit, as RB Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State, the top overall pick in the ’95 draft, was lost for the season to a severe knee injury. Carter, who had missed the first two preseason games with an ankle sprain, was lost at Detroit on his third Cincinnati carry. The Bengals had traded with Carolina to gain Carter as an offensive centerpiece, moving up in the first round for the first time in franchise history. Carter would come back to play seven NFL seasons, four of those for Cincinnati, but he never matched his college form at the pro level and closed with only 1144 career rushing yards. 1995 was a year filled with issues regarding the Bengals’ need for a new stadium. A lack of progress on the local front led club president Mike Brown to explore the possibility of a move to Baltimore, pressed by a deadline on Baltimore’s end. But Brown repeatedly professed he had no desire to move the team unless forced to by an untenable local situation. On June 28, just minutes before a Bengals-set deadline, Cincinnati City Council voted 5-4 to approve a Hamilton County plan from Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus to raise the county sales tax by one percent to fund two new stadiums. In the end that proposal was scaled down to a one-half percent hike, funding stadiums and also providing homeowners with property tax relief. But after the County Commission voted to implement the tax, forces opposed to the increase successfully petitioned to make approval subject to a public referendum to be held in March of 1996. In October, Mike Brown announced that the Bengals for 1996 would move most of their front-office operation from Riverfront Stadium to the team’s new practice facility building at Spinney Field.
1996
Ashley Ambrose
Cornerback Ashley Ambrose turned a free-agent pickup into a 1996 Pro Bowl berth.

Progress continued to be forged on the Bengals’ efforts to secure their future in Cincinnati with a new stadium. The biggest step came on March 19, when Hamilton County voters approved by 61-to-39 percent a measure to fund new Bengals and Reds stadiums with a half-cent sales tax increase. The vote came after vigorous public debate, and the Cincinnati Post termed it a “landslide victory” for backers of the issue. On Sept. 10, the Bengals reached preliminary agreement with Hamilton County on a 30-year lease, for an as-yet unnamed and un-sited stadium. The Bengals pushed vigorously for a riverfront site, opposing proposals to build in the Broadway Commons area just northeast of downtown. Both public polls and experts’ recommendations indicated a preference for a riverfront site, but the question remained undecided as the year ended. The new stadium’s name also remained undecided, but early public response showed strong support for naming it after Bengals founder Paul Brown. On Sept. 9, Riverfront Stadium was re-named Cinergy Field, as the energy utility Cinergy reached a $6 million naming rights deal with Hamilton County to cover the stadium’s remaining years of use. On the field, the team lost six of its first seven games, but Cincinnati’s fortunes took a U-turn after offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet was promoted to head coach on Oct. 21, replacing the released Dave Shula. Coslet directed the team to a 7-2 finish, including a 5-0 mark at Cinergy Field. The Bengals stayed alive for the playoffs until the next-to-last week of the season, when despite defeating Houston they were eliminated due to results elsewhere. Coslet, signed only through ’96 when he took over as head coach, was extended on Dec. 14 through 2000. A signature win for Coslet came Nov. 3 at Baltimore, when the Bengals rallied from a 21-3 deficit to win 24-21. The 18-point deficit stands through 2016 as largest ever overcome by the Bengals in a road win. WR Carl Pickens, who in 1995 had become the first Bengal to lead the AFC in receptions, led the conference again with 100, the first Bengal to hit the century mark. The defense had 34 INTs, a club record that stands through 2016. CB Ashley Ambrose, a veteran free agent in his first Bengals season, led the team with eight INTs and went to the Pro Bowl along with Pickens.
1997
On Feb. 13, the Bengals and Hamilton County reached tentative agreement on a western riverfront site for a new football stadium. The Bengals yielded to County wishes for a site one block farther west than the club’s preferred spot, supporting the goal of opening central riverfront space for development of other attractions and neighborhoods between a football and a baseball stadium (though the baseball site had yet to be agreed upon.). A drawback for the development of the more western football site was that some of the needed land was not owned by the county, and that would lead to future delays, as well as higher costs than the Bengals’ preferred site. On May 29, the 30-year Bengals lease was completed and signed. It was announced on May 29 that the facility would be named Paul Brown Stadium, with the Bengals agreeing to cover $5 million for the loss of potential corporate naming rights. On April 29, the Bengals received a favorable ruling in a tax case that had threatened the viability of the franchise. In United States Tax Court in Chicago, Judge John O. Colvin ruled that the heirs of the late Paul Brown were not liable for $40 million sought by the Internal Revenue Service, due to a dispute over Paul Brown’s acquisition of team shares held formerly by John Sawyer. The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial page opined that the Bengals had been spared an unfair “ambush by the IRS.” The football team opened training camp in a state-of-the-art new facility at Georgetown (Ky.) College, after 29 seasons of training at Wilmington (Ohio) College. On April 5, the Bengals had re-signed QB Boomer Esiason as a veteran No. 2 to back up Jeff Blake. Esiason had gone on to play for the Jets and Cardinals since playing for the Bengals from 1984-92. The team was struggling with a 2-7 record on Nov. 9 at Indianapolis when Blake was sidelined with a concussion, and the 36-year-old Esiason entered the game in the third quarter and led a comeback victory. The Bengals lost the next week at Pittsburgh with Blake as the starter, and Esiason was named starter for the final five games. The Bengals were 4-1 in his starts, and they scored 42 points in the start he lost. Esiason did not have enough pass attempts to qualify for a Bengals-record season passer rating, or for the NFL passing title, but he finished the season with a 106.9 rating. The team finished the season 7-9. It was the last Bengals hurrah for Esiason, who retired after the season to take a broadcasting job with ABC’s Monday Night Football. The ’97 season saw the debut of HB Corey Dillon, a second-round draft choice who stands through 2016 as the club’s all-time leading rusher (8061 yards). On Dec. 4 vs. Tennessee at Cinergy Field, Dillon rushed for 246 yards and four TDs, breaking Jim Brown’s NFL record for rushing yards in a game by a rookie (237) and tying the Bengals record for TDs and points in a game. Dillon’s four TDs and 24 points remain tied for the Bengals record through 2016.
1998
Anthony Munoz HOF Initiation
Anthony Munoz (second from left) became the first Bengal to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Jan. 24, Bengals OT Anthony Munoz (1980-92) was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Munoz was part of a five-member induction class, and he and Chicago Bears LB Mike Singletary became the 47th and 48th players among the then-194 members to be elected in their first year of eligibility. The official induction ceremony took place Aug. 1, at the Hall in Canton, Ohio. NFL labor events had led to Munoz gaining free agent status after announcing his retirement following the 1992 season, and he had signed with Tampa Bay (and his former Bengals head coach, Sam Wyche) as a free agent in ’93. But Munoz gave up the comeback bid after suffering a shoulder injury in training camp, and because he was not with the Bucs in the regular season, he is recognized in the Hall as having played only for the Bengals. Plans for the Bengals’ new stadium hit a serious snag in January of ’98, due to a dispute between Hamilton County and the city over the county acquiring 12.5 acres of city land that it needed to build at its preferred western riverfront site. As the stalemate dragged on, the Bengals announced that if no agreement was reached by Jan. 31, the club would no longer be bound by the lease it had signed in spring of 1997. Tension continued to build until, at 1:15 a.m. on Feb. 1, City Council forged a past-the-11th-hour agreement to accept a county proposal. On April 25, officials from the county, city and the Bengals joined in a public groundbreaking for Paul Brown Stadium construction, with plans for the facility to be ready for the 2000 season. The news on the field was not so encouraging, as the team dipped to 3-13 in its second full season under head coach Bruce Coslet. QB Boomer Esiason, who had a sensational late-season return to the starting job in 1997, after four seasons playing elsewhere, announced prior to the season that he was retiring to join ABC’s Monday Night Football as a broadcaster. The Bengals signed former Steeler Neil O’Donnell to compete with Jeff Blake for the starting QB job. O’Donnell won the job in training camp, but the team lost nine straight after beating Pittsburgh in Game 5. Blake started Games 14 and 15 before being injured, and the season ended with no clear starter in sight for 1999. HB Corey Dillon rushed for 1130 yards, becoming the first Bengal (and still through 2016 the only Bengal) to top 1000 in each of his first two Cincinnati seasons. In the season opener vs. Tennessee, injury-plagued HB Ki-Jana Carter, top overall pick in the 1995 draft, suffered a season-ending wrist fracture. DT Dan Wilkinson, drafted No. 1 overall by the Bengals in 1994, saw a rather stormy Cincinnati career end prior to the season, when he was traded to Washington for picks in the first and third rounds of the ’98 draft. The Bengals used the picks to obtain LB Brian Simmons (first round) and G Mike Goff (third round).
1999
For the first year since the idea’s original proposal in 1993, plans for the Bengals’ new stadium proceeded with only minor issues. The rise of the seating bowl of Paul Brown Stadium was watched by citizens throughout the year. However, past issues — particularly a delay in Hamilton County’s acquisition of needed land from the city — put construction on a very tight schedule to meet the goal of an August, 2000, inaugural game. On the field in ’99, veteran Jeff Blake and rookie first-round draft choice Akili Smith would end up sharing QB duties during a 4-12 season. Blake was benched after an 0-4 start, and Smith started and won his NFL debut, 18-17 on Oct. 10 at Cleveland. The game marked the renewal of the “Battle of Ohio” series, as the Browns returned to play as an expansion team. Cleveland had spent three years without NFL football after the Browns moved to Baltimore for 1996. The Bengals did not win again until Game 12, however, and Smith suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Game 9 vs. Jacksonville. Blake engineered three straight wins in Games 12-14, but the team lost the final two. HB Corey Dillon rushed for 1200 yards and went to the Pro Bowl along with KOR Tremain Mack, whose 27.1-yard average was the team record until Adam Jones surpassed it in 2014.
2000
Corey Dillon
Corey Dillon stiff-armed his way to one of the greatest records in sports when he broke Walter Payton's NFL single-game rushing record with 278 yards in a 2000 Paul Brown Stadium victory over the Broncos.

The Paul Brown Stadium era began on Aug. 19, as the Bengals christened Cincinnati’s new football showplace with a 24-20 preseason win over the Chicago Bears. WR Peter Warrick scored the first Bengals preseason points in PBS on a 14-yard end-around run in the first quarter. In the stadium’s Grand Opening regular-season game Sept. 10 vs. Cleveland, before a Cincinnati sports record crowd of 64,006 (since surpassed by the Bengals). The Browns won, 24-7. Rookie WR Ron Dugans scored the first Bengals regular-season points in PBS on a four-yard TD pass from Akili Smith. The ’00 Bengals drew four other crowds which exceeded the pre-PBS record for a sports crowd in Cincinnati, but the Browns game stood as the new record at year’s end. On Sept. 25, following an 0-3 start to the season, Bruce Coslet resigned as head coach and was replaced by assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was named interim head coach. The team finished 4-9 under LeBeau, including 4-6 in the final 10 games and a 2-2 mark in the final four. On Dec. 20, LeBeau signed a multi-year contract to begin in 2001. LeBeau’s first victory, on Oct. 22 vs. Denver, featured a then NFL-record 278 rushing yards by Corey Dillon, who went on to set a Bengals record (since broken) of 1435 yards for the season, earning his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl. Against Denver, Dillon broke a 1977 record of 275 yards set by Chicago’s Walter Payton. It was an all-or-nothing day for Dillon, as he was stopped on 10 of his 22 carries for one or fewer yards, but he had five runs of 30-plus, including TD runs of 65 and 41 yards. “It seemed like a high school game,” Dillon said of his numbers. Dillon’s 278 stood as the NFL record until Sept. 14, 2003, when Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis had a 295-yard game vs. Cleveland, and Dillon’s total ranks fourth in league history through 2016. The Denver game was Cincinnati’s first regular-season win at Paul Brown Stadium. Akili Smith opened the year as starting QB, but the offense stalled, and he was replaced after a Nov. 5 loss at Dallas by veteran 2000 free agent signee Scott Mitchell. Prior to the season, on June 1, the Bengals released HB Ki-Jana Carter, their injury-plagued 1995 top draft pick. On July 20, Cincinnati released talented but malcontent WR Carl Pickens. Pickens’ departure had left Darnay Scott set to take over as the No. 1 wideout, but Scott suffered a broken leg in training camp on Aug. 1 and missed the season.
2001
The Bengals got off to a 4-3 start in Dick LeBeau’s first full season as head coach, but they did not win again until the final two games, finishing 6-10. The defense finished No. 9 in the NFL, but the offense ranked 23rd. The early season was played amidst the tragedy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. All of the NFL’s Week 2 games, scheduled for Sept. 16-17, were postponed until the first weekend in January, the weekend after the regular season had been scheduled to end. The Bengals resumed play on Sept. 23, moving to 2-0 with a win over Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium, and by that time stadium security procedures had been strengthened, including a ban on “coolers, backpacks and oversize purses.” Also, the Federal Aviation Administration moved to ban aircraft from operating within three miles of outdoor venues with events in progress. Free agent signee Jon Kitna took over as the starting QB, winning a training camp battle with Scott Mitchell and Akili Smith. The ’01 season featured the Bengals’ first visit to Pittsburgh’s new Heinz Field, on Oct. 7. On Oct. 28 at Detroit, a 31-27 Bengals win featured a 96-yard TD run by HB Corey Dillon, which stands through 2016 as the longest scrimmage play in Bengals history. The ’01 season was the first for flamboyant WR Chad Johnson, who through 2016 is Cincinnati’s all-time leader in receptions (751) and receiving yards (10,783). Johnson, a second-round draft pick from Oregon State, put up only modest rookie numbers, missing four games with a collarbone fracture, but he publicly pleaded with coaches and medical staff to let him come back sooner from the injury, and he promised, “I’m going to make a lot of noise here early.” On Oct. 14, the Bengals re-set their own record for the largest crowd ever at a Cincinnati sports event, as 64,217 fans watched a 24-14 win over Cleveland.
2002
The Bengals began the season in a new division, the AFC North, as the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions. The Bengals were successful in efforts to keep longtime rivals Cleveland and Pittsburgh as division foes, and the Baltimore Ravens completed the four-team lineup. The Bengals entered the season after an encouraging 2001 finish. But despite some noteworthy individual performances, the team sunk to the worst record (2-14) in franchise history. The team was hit hard by injuries, losing the league’s second-highest number of games by starters. The offense got off to a very slow start with free agent signee Gus Frerotte at QB. The offense perked up noticeably after the 2001 starter, Jon Kitna, returned to the No. 1 QB role. For the first time since 1989, Cincinnati had a 3000-yard passer (Kitna), a 1000-yard rusher (Corey Dillon) and a 1000-yard receiver (Chad Johnson). Johnson had the first of his club-record 31 games of 100 receiving yards on Nov. 10 at Baltimore (seven-for-110). On Oct. 27 vs. Tennessee, Dillon raised his Bengals career rushing total to 6542 yards, passing James Brooks (6447) into the all-time franchise lead that he still holds through 2016 with 8061 yards. The Bengals set a team record for pass completions with 350 (since surpassed). But the team was 0-7 before getting a win at expansion Houston. The defense was inconsistent, and with nine TDs allowed on special teams or by the offense, the Bengals as a team allowed the second-most points (456) in club history. On Dec. 30, it was announced that head coach Dick LeBeau would not be retained for 2003.
2003
Marvin Lewis & Carson Palmer
The Bengals' new era began when new head coach Marvin Lewis welcomed USC quarterback Carson Palmer as the 2003 NFL Draft's overall number one pick.

The Bengals launched a new era on Jan. 14, when Marvin Lewis was hired as the ninth head coach in franchise history. “We’ve turned over a new leaf,” said Bengals president Mike Brown, and the Bengals have had no other coach since. Lewis has become the franchise’s all-time leader in tenure (14 seasons through 2016) and wins (118). At the time of his hiring, Lewis was the eighth African-American to be named an NFL head coach. Architect of the Baltimore Ravens’ record-setting Super Bowl defense in 2000, Lewis received a broad mandate from Bengals ownership to implement his program, and the team finished 8-8, six games better than the 2-14 Bengals of 2002. Though the Bengals missed the playoffs — eliminated on the final weekend of the season — their six-game improvement was the biggest of any NFL team from ’02 to ’03. It was also the second-biggest one-year improvement in Bengals history. Lewis finished second to Bill Belichick, coach of the World Champion New England Patriots, in Associated Press voting for NFL Coach of the Year. The season included the four largest pro sports crowds in Cincinnati history (to that time), topped by 65,362 on Dec. 28 vs. Cleveland, and the highlight game was a 24-19 win on Nov. 16 over an unbeaten (9-0) Kansas City team. The Chiefs game started what would be a Bengals-record streak of 57 consecutive home sellouts in regular season and postseason. WR Chad Johnson, who led the AFC with 1355 receiving yards, signed a five-year contract extension in November. Prior to the season, the Bengals had the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft for the third time in team history, and the club chose Southern California QB Carson Palmer. Palmer was signed on April 24, just before the actual draft, as the Bengals took the option to execute an early signing. Palmer did not play as a rookie, as veteran Jon Kitna was the only NFL QB to play every offensive snap for his team, but Palmer would go on to set numerous Bengals passing records, beginning his playing career in 2004. QB Akili Smith, an unsuccessful first-round QB choice in 1999, was released on June 2. In an ironic twist for longtime Bengals followers, the club prior to the season hired Ricky Hunley as LBs coach. Hunley was a Bengals first-round draft choice as a player (LB) in 1984, but he never signed with Cincinnati, staging the longest holdout in franchise history before being traded to Denver on Oct. 9, 1984.
2004
In their second season under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals continued their rebuilding process, posting a second straight 8-8 record. All eight regular-season games at Paul Brown Stadium were sellouts — the first sold-out regular season since 1992 at Riverfront Stadium — and the total regular-season attendance of 524,248 put the team over the half-million mark for the first time. The team’s break-even finish was a creditable performance, given that injuries were severe (18 players were placed on season-ending medical reserve lists) and that second-year QB Carson Palmer was seeing his first NFL playing time. Palmer, the 2003 first overall NFL draft pick, had not played as a rookie while backing up Jon Kitna. Palmer started the first 13 games before missing the final three with a knee strain. HB Rudi Johnson rushed for a club-record 1454 yards (a mark he later broke), and the team had four players named to the Pro Bowl, its highest total since 1990. The Pro Bowl quartet was Rudi Johnson, WR Chad Johnson, OT Willie Anderson and CB Tory James. K Shayne Graham set a club record with 122 points (since surpassed by Mike Nugent). Home games were played on a new, synthetic FieldTurf surface, on which installation was complete in early July. PBS had grass fields from 2000-03, but durability and maintenance issues dictated a switch. The team also made its first significant uniform change since 1981. The signature striped helmet was not changed, but the jersey design was modernized, black pants were added as a regular option to white pants, and a special-occasion orange jersey was added for up to two games per year. The team wore orange jerseys for the first time in franchise history in a 26-3 win vs. Dallas on Nov. 7. On Nov. 28, the Bengals played in what remains through 2016 as the second-highest scoring game in NFL history, a 58-48 home win over Cleveland (106 total points). The game stands through ’16 as the only one in which the Bengals have scored in double figures in all four quarters (14-13-14-17). Prior to the season, HB Corey Dillon, the club’s all-time rushing yards leader, was traded to New England for a second-round 2005 draft choice (Bengals chose S Madieu Williams).
2005
Rudi Johnson
Running back Rudi Johnson set the single-season club rushing record in 2004 and again in 2005 in helping the Bengals to their first playoffs in 15 seasons.

In head coach Marvin Lewis’ third season, the Bengals returned to the playoffs, winning the AFC North Division title with an 11-5 record. But Cincinnati lost 31-17 to Pittsburgh in a Wild Card round playoff game, the first postseason game at Paul Brown Stadium, and QB Carson Palmer’s postseason was regrettably short. Palmer, who posted a 101.1 regular-season passer rating, a Bengals record at the time, was lost to a serious knee injury on the club’s second offensive snap in the playoff game, downed by former Bengal Kimo von Oelhoffen. On the play, Palmer had launched a 66-yard completion to WR Chris Henry. In the regular season, the team won its first four games, including an 88-29 point margin in the first three. The Bengals clinched the division title in Game 14, with a 41-17 victory at Detroit. A number of club individual single-season records were set, including two that still stand through 2016 — 1458 rushing yards by HB Rudi Johnson and 10 INTs by CB Deltha O’Neal. Five Bengals were voted to the Pro Bowl, the largest Cincinnati contingent since the 1989 team placed six. The five were Palmer, O’Neal, OT Willie Anderson, K Shayne Graham and WR Chad Johnson. The season’s home crowds included the top four attendance figures in franchise history to that time, headed by 66,104 for the Bengals-Steelers game on Oct. 23. Two notable Bengals “voices” passed away in ’05. Phil Samp, the team’s radio play-by-play man from 1968-90, died on March 10, and Tom Kinder Sr., the stadium public address announcer from 1968-2004, died on April 10.
2006
For the first time since 1992, the Bengals sold out all games before the season began, and a waiting list was established for new season ticket buyers. The regular-season attendance mark was 527,870, for an average of 65,984, and both the total and the averages stand through 2016 as club records. Also prior to the season, it was also announced that head coach Marvin Lewis had signed a contract extension through 2010. Lewis completed his fourth season by joining Paul Brown as the only Bengals head coaches to go four straight seasons without a losing record, but though the team remained in contention until the final weekend, it missed the ’06 playoffs with an 8-8 mark. The Bengals lost their last three games after standing 8-5. A win in either of the two final games could have secured a playoff berth, but Cincinnati lost 24-23 in Game 15 at Denver when an errant PAT snap foiled a chance to force overtime, and the Bengals lost the season finale in overtime vs. Pittsburgh, after record-setting K Shayne Graham missed a 39-yard FG try on the final play of regulation. QB Carson Palmer, sidelined with a major knee injury in the 2005 postseason, made good on his bid to play the full 2006 regular season, starting every game. He set a club record to that point with 4035 passing yards, and he boldfaced his status as the cornerstone of the roster by winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the Pro Bowl on Feb. 10, 2007. He stands through the 2016 season as the only Bengal to win the award. The season was a particularly notable one for flamboyant WR Chad Johnson. In March, NFL owners voted to clamp down on player end-zone celebrations, an art that Johnson had been increasingly expanding in production value. In April, Johnson was signed to a contract extension through 2011. He was featured on a Sports Illustrated cover in October, and for the season he became the only Bengal (through 2016) to lead the NFL in receiving yards, with 1369. Johnson set a still-standing Bengals record for receiving yards in a game, with 260 on Nov. 12 vs. San Diego, and with 190 the next week at New Orleans, he set an NFL record at the time for receiving yards in consecutive games (450). Also in ’06, Johnson became the only player to lead the AFC or NFC in receiving yards for a fourth consecutive season. No other player has done it since (through 2016). In February, federal judge S. Arthur Spiegel dismissed a Hamilton County lawsuit against the Bengals regarding the Paul Brown Stadium lease, ending two years of legal disputes. In March, the Bengals and Buffalo Bills were the only NFL teams to vote against a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players, deeming it unsound, and as time would pass, numerous owners and analysts would in hindsight praise the Cincinnati-Buffalo stance. The 2006 agreement, in some views, ultimately led to the conditions that caused a lockout of players from March through July of 2011. The Bengals in ’06 were among a number of teams responding to concerns about rowdy fan behavior at NFL games. The club installed and staffed a “Jerk Line” that fans could call during games to report problems. LB David Pollack, Cincinnati’s top draft choice in 2005, suffered what would prove to be a career-ending neck fracture in the home opener vs Cleveland. Pollack was never paralyzed and made a full recovery, but after some consideration of a comeback, he ultimately decided against it and moved into a successful career as a sports broadcaster.
2007
Paul Brown Stadium
In a Harris Interactive survey released in February, Paul Brown Stadium was the only football stadium to make a list of “America’s Favorite 150 Buildings and Structures.” PBS ranked 101st on the list, whose range included all manner of major structures, including skyscrapers, museums, churches, hotels and even bridges. (The Empire State Building ranked first). Among all sports venues, only Wrigley Field (31) and the old Yankee Stadium (84) ranked higher than PBS. For the second straight season, the Bengals sold out all games before the season began. The team entered the season with high expectations, with its first two home games selected for ESPN Monday Night Football. But the season’s first half ended with a disappointing 2-6 record, and a second-half rally lifted the club only to 7-9, the first losing season for head coach Marvin Lewis. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh tied for the league receptions title (112), setting a club record that still stands through 2016 and becoming the only Bengal ever to gain a share of the league lead. WR Chad Johnson broke his own team receiving yards record with 1440, a season mark that stands through 2016, and K Shayne Graham set two marks that stand through ’16 — season field-goal percentage (91.2 on 31-of-34) and FGs in a game (seven). Graham was seven-for-seven on Nov. 11 at Baltimore, scoring all of Cincinnati’s points in a 21-7 win. On Sept. 16 at Cleveland, QB Carson Palmer set a Bengals game record (still standing through 2016) with six TD passes, but the Bengals lost in a 51-45 shootout to the underdog Browns, starting a four-game losing streak that followed a season opening Monday night win vs. Baltimore. On Oct. 28 vs. Pittsburgh, the team established a franchise record for single-game attendance, recording a figure of 66,188. That number stands through 2016 as the largest crowd ever to attend a sports event in Cincinnati, and other Bengals crowds at Paul Brown Stadium more than fill out the other spots on the all-time Cincinnati top 10.
2008
With a club-record 23 players sent to the Reserve/Injured list, the Bengals struggled to a 4-11-1 finish. And that list of 23 did not include the biggest missing name, QB Carson Palmer, who stayed on the roster all season but played in only four games due to an elbow injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Palmer at QB. The team partly salvaged the season, going 4-3-1 in the campaign’s second half, but that was after an 0-8 start. Though the offense was near record lows in many statistical categories, the defense was promising under new coordinator Mike Zimmer, rising to a No. 12 NFL yardage ranking, the team’s best since 2001. For the third straight year, all home games were declared sold out before the season began. The Bengals’ 13-13 tie on Nov. 16 vs. Philadelphia was the NFL’s first deadlock since 2002, and some players on both teams would admit that they had been expecting the contest to continue when the 15-minute overtime ended scoreless, not realizing that NFL games still could end in ties. It was the first overtime tie in Bengals history. The Bengals had played one other tie, at Houston in 1969, but that game went just the regulation four quarters, as overtime was not yet in the rules. On Aug. 29, star WR Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, a Spanish reference to his uniform number (85). But he was not permitted to have the new name on his jersey until 2009, after he had fulfilled contractual obligations regarding the purchase of existing licensed “Johnson” merchandise. In 2012, while with the Miami Dolphins, Ochocinco would change his name back to Johnson, and the league subsequently determined that in all future references in league material, the player would be known as Johnson, regardless of the year involved. The 2008 preseason ended with dramatic final cuts, as those released included three Bengals with six Pro Bowls among them — OT Willie Anderson, HB Rudi Johnson and CB Deltha O’Neal. On May 19, the Bengals waived talented but troubled LB Odell Thurman, who had been a rookie sensation in 2005. Thurman had not played in 2006 or ’07, suspended by the NFL for various behavior issues, and on May 19 Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the team “had not seen the right steps taken” by Thurman to justify another chance to play for Cincinnati. Thurman would not play again anywhere in the NFL.
2009
Chris Henry RIP Sticker
Bengals suffered a heart-stopping and heart-wrenching season in 2009 when they won the AFC North with several late victories while enduring the deaths of wide reciever Chris Henry and the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Rebounding from the disappointment of injury-plagued 2008, the Bengals won their second division championship under coach Marvin Lewis, finishing with a 10-6 record. Their march to the AFC North title included a 6-0 mark in division games, marking the only time in franchise history (through 2016) for Cincinnati to sweep its division opponents. The Bengals were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, however, losing 24-14 to the visiting N.Y. Jets, who went on to reach the AFC Championship Game. The Bengals weathered tragedy en route to the title. On Oct. 8, Vikki Zimmer, wife for 27 years to Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, died unexpectedly in Cincinnati. And on Dec. 17, WR Chris Henry died in North Carolina from injuries suffered in a Dec. 16 fall from a moving pickup truck. Henry was not with the team at the time, recuperating from a forearm fracture suffered Nov. 8 vs. Baltimore. The Bengals chartered a plane for the entire team to attend Henry’s funeral in New Orleans on Dec. 22, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also attended. On the field in ’09, the Bengals were led by their defense, which continued rapid improvement under coordinator Zimmer. The Bengals finished fourth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (301.4 per game). The team suffered a stunning home loss to Denver in the season opener, on a wildly improbable late play, but Cincinnati rebounded to win its next four. The Bengals led Denver 7-6 with less than a minute to play, but the Broncos won 12-7 on an 87-yard TD pass that was deflected by the Bengals defense to Denver’s Brandon Stokley, who was not the intended receiver. The play stands through 2016 as the NFL’s longest game-winning TD play from scrimmage in the final minute of the fourth quarter. On Oct. 4, Shayne Graham’s 31-yard FG beat the Browns 23-20 in the longest Bengals game not to end in a tie. Graham’s winning kick came with :04 remaining in overtime. On Oct. 25 vs. Chicago, Bengals HB Cedric Benson vaulted into the NFL rushing lead with a 189-yard game against Chicago, the team with which he had debuted unsuccessfully as a high first-round draft choice. The Bengals won 45-10 in a game nicknamed the “Benson Bowl,” and NFL Network reported that Benson’s rushing total was the most by a player against his former team in league history, with research going back to 1950. Long known for his mischievous on-field antics, WR Chad Johnson logged his last significant zany move as a Bengal on Nov. 8 vs. Baltimore, when he playfully offered a dollar bill to the officiating crew as they were discussing a ruling. The NFL was not amused, and Johnson was fined $20,000. In Games 10-12, for the only time in franchise history (through 2016), the Bengals got 100-yard rushing games from three different players in a span of three games (Bernard Scott at Oakland, Larry Johnson vs. Cleveland and Cedric Benson vs. Detroit). It was the first such instance in the NFL since 1993. Benson set a Bengals individual record for 100-yard rushing games in a season (six), and the club set a mark with eight individual 100-yard rushers. Both marks stand through 2016.
2010
Following a 2009 division championship, the team never jelled despite having veteran talent, including that of free agent for high-profile WR Terrell Owens. After a 2-1 start, the Bengals tied a dubious team one-season record by losing 10 in a row. Wins in two of the last three games did little to ease the dissatisfaction. Head coach Marvin Lewis ended the season with an expired contract, but two days after the season finale, it was announced that Lewis had signed to return for a franchise-record ninth season in 2011, a wise move given that the next five Bengals teams would make the playoffs. In ’10, Owens and WR Chad Johnson combined for 139 receptions for 1814 yards and 13 TDs, and Cedric Benson rushed for 1111 yards while Carson Palmer passed for 3970. But the team could not deliver in the clutch. Opponents scored eight TDs on returns (INTs, fumbles, kicks), and the Bengals were minus-eight in turnover differential. Injuries played a part, as the Bengals were forced to place 17 players on the Reserve/Injured list, and nine were veteran defensive players who would have started or seen significant action if healthy. The season was the last one in stripes for Chad Johnson, who completed the year with franchise career record records (still standing through 2016) for receptions (751), receiving yards (10,783), receiving TDs (66) and most 100-yard receiving games (31). The club recorded a franchise-record 57th consecutive sellout (regular and postseason) for a Monday night game on Nov. 8 vs. Pittsburgh, but the streak ended when the Nov. 21 Buffalo game failed to sell out. The Bengals played five preseason games, their most since 1988, as the club was selected to open the NFL preseason against Dallas in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 8 at Canton, Ohio. On Aug. 7, former Bengals assistant coach and head coach Dick LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame. LeBeau, who spent 18 years on the Cincinnati coaching staff, also had a stellar playing career as a DB with the Detroit Lions, and after leaving Cincinnati he became a successful defensive coordinator with Pittsburgh.
2011
Marvin Lewis & A.J. Green
The Bengals began another new era on draft day 2011 when they selected Georgia wide reciever A.J. Green with the fourth pick.

Shortly after re-signing for a Bengals-record ninth season as head coach, Marvin Lewis had a message for Bengals fans upset over the 2010 team’s 4-12 record. “I will fix us,” Lewis pledged, and the record would bear him out. Lewis led a young team — the AFC’s youngest as of Week 1 — to a 9-7 record and a Wild Card playoff berth. Cincinnati lost at Houston in the Wild Card game. The young Bengals squad was not able to work with the coaching staff until late July, due to a player lockout over labor issues that had begun in March. The lockout ended just as training camps were due to open, with the announcement of a new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. But Cincinnati’s players had staged numerous workouts on their own during the lockout, and two veteran leaders — DT Domata Peko and OT Andrew Whitworth — were accorded great credit for helping the team hang together in preparation for its surprise season. The Bengals defied widespread last-place predictions from preseason analysts by putting new offensive pieces together quickly. Working in the scheme of new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, the club’s top two draft picks — WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton — became the first rookie QB-WR duo in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl. K Mike Nugent, from nearby Centerville, Ohio, set club records (still standing through 2016) for points (132) and FGs (33) in a season. The defense, in its fourth season under coordinator Mike Zimmer, ranked seventh in the NFL. DT Geno Atkins, a fourth-round 2010 draft pick, began emerging as one of the best draft steals in franchise history, tying for the NFL lead in sacks (7.5) among interior linemen and earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Dalton’s success at QB led to the Bengals trading holdout veteran QB Carson Palmer to Oakland on Oct. 18, and Cincinnati received Oakland’s first-round 2012 draft choice and second-round 2013 draft choice. The picks were used on CB Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) and HB Giovani Bernard (2013). On July 29, the Bengals traded talented but problematic Chad Johnson, their all-time leader in receptions (751) and receiving yards (10,783), to New England for a fifth-round and a sixth-round draft choice. Cincinnati used the picks to draft WRs Marvin Jones (2012) and Cobi Hamilton (2013). Johnson would make only 15 more NFL catches, released by New England in June of 2012 and released by Miami the following August. Lewis closed the year with 69 career victories, passing Sam Wyche (64) for most by a Bengals head coach. Through 2010, Lewis had been tied with Wyche and Paul Brown for most seasons as Bengals head coach (eight).
2012
The Bengals brought training camp to downtown Cincinnati, holding camp at the club’s home facility for the first time. The team had trained for 29 seasons at Wilmington (Ohio) College and for the next 15 at Georgetown (Ky.) College. Changes in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement helped drive the change, as the Bengals joined a majority of NFL teams which had switched to their home bases. With the new CBA reducing the amount of time players could be on the practice field, it was thought that their increased non-field time could be much better used at Paul Brown Stadium, where medical and classroom facilities were far superior to any remote camp site. Plans for a second straight playoff season seemed to have gone awry when the team lost four straight after a 3-1 start, standing 3-5 at the season’s halfway point. But the Bengals stormed back to go 7-1 in the second half and clinched a Wild Card postseason berth with a 10-6 record. The only loss in the final eight games came by one point, 20-19 to Dallas, on a Cowboys FG at the final gun. Of 131 NFL teams to post 3-5 starts between 1990-2012, the Bengals were one of only nine to reach the playoffs, and the 7-1 finish tied the 1981 Cincinnati Super Bowl team for best second-half record in a 16-game season. Cincinnati lost at Houston in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, but it was the first time for the Bengals to reach postseason two years in a row since 1981-82. The Bengals clinched their playoff berth with a 13-10 win at Pittsburgh in Game 15, at the same time eliminating the rival Steelers from contention. CB Leon Hall got the only Bengals TD against the Steelers, on a 17-yard INT return. The defense ranked sixth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (319.7 per game), and it collected a team-record 51 sacks (though the 1976 team, in a 14-game season, had a higher average of sacks per game). All-Pro DT Geno Atkins led the sack parade with 12.5, third-most in club history and most on the season by a margin of 4.5 among NFL interior linemen. WR A.J. Green scored at least one TD in nine straight games (Games 2-10), a Bengals record for within one season. He became only the second NFL player in a 48-year span to have at least one receiving TD in nine straight games in a season, joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. P Kevin Huber posted averages of 46.6 gross and 42.0 net, club records that he reset in 2014. New technology lessened the need of the ’12 team for notebooks and attention to bulletin boards, as the Bengals became one of the first NFL clubs to issue players tablets, for easy distribution of schedules, video and other key information. Shortly after the end of the season, Bengals RBs coach Jim Anderson announced his retirement. Anderson had joined the Bengals staff in 1984, and his 29 seasons stand through 2016 as a franchise record for most total seasons on the Cincinnati coaching staff. During his last six seasons, Anderson had the most consecutive years with his team of any position coach in the NFL.
2013
Marvin Lewis
Coach Marvin Lewis led the Bengals to their third straight playoff appearance — a franchise first. Cincinnati won its third AFC North Division title under Lewis, posting an 11-5 record and clinching the crown with a 42-14 rout of Minnesota in Game 15. The Bengals went 8-0 at home for the second time in club history (also 1988), and they were among only five NFL clubs to reach the postseason each year from 2011-13. They were in the postseason for the fourth time in five years, among only six teams to qualify four or more times in that span. For the third straight season, however, the playoffs ended all too soon for Cincinnati, as San Diego prevailed 27-10 in a first round game at Paul Brown Stadium. The ’13 team played three overtime games, most in a season in franchise history. They won the first OT contest, but lost in OT in consecutive weeks in Games 9 and 10. It was the first time in franchise history for the team to play two straight OT games. The consecutive losses dropped the team’s record to 6-4, but Lewis’ club closed the season with five wins in the last six games. QB Andy Dalton set franchise records for passing yards (4293) and TD passes in a season (33), and he became one of only five QBs in NFL history to pilot a playoff club in his first three seasons in the league. WR A.J. Green was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his three-year career, and he set club records for most 100-yard receiving games in a season (six) and most consecutive 100-yard receiving games (five). Second-year WR Marvin Jones also posted a club mark, becoming the first Bengal with four TD receptions in a game (Oct. 27 vs. N.Y. Jets). Jones accomplished his feat in the franchise’s 700th regular-season game. Green (11) and Jones (10) became the first Bengals duo to each hit double figures in TD receptions in a season. Marvin Lewis earned a “coaching-tree” compliment after the season when, in an NFL rarity, each of his coordinators signed as NFL head coaches. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden went to Washington, and defensive boss Mike Zimmer went to Minnesota. Also in the TV realm, the Bengals in ’13 agreed for the second time in five years to be featured during preseason on the all-access” HBO series, “Hard Knocks.” The club allowed virtually unfettered access to team activities to crews from NFL Films. Though many NFL clubs have shied from invitations to be a Hard Knocks team, the Bengals won the AFC North title for the second straight time after doing the show, as they also won after doing Hard Knocks in 2009.
2014
Head coach Marvin Lewis led the Bengals to a 10-5-1 record and a Wild Card playoff berth, and to new heights in terms of consistent success for the franchise. Lewis had the team in postseason for the fourth straight year, extending the club-record of three set in 2013 — and the team established a new club mark with a third straight season of double-digit wins. The season ended when an injury-depleted team lost 26-10 at Indianapolis in a Wild Card playoff game, but the Bengals stood as one of only four NFL teams to have made the playoffs four straight years. Lewis’ club record for head coaching victories was extended to 100 in the season’s final win, a Monday night playoff clincher in Week 16 vs. Denver. The Bengals tied a franchise record with four regular-season games in prime time on national TV. WR A.J. Green was voted to a fourth straight Pro Bowl, joining WR Isaac Curtis as the only Bengals selected in each of their first four seasons, and CB Adam Jones became the first Bengal to win an NFL kickoff return title, averaging a franchise-record 31.3 yards. In the year’s biggest off-field story, DT Devon Still touched hearts across the nation with his openness regarding his daughter Leah being diagnosed with cancer. The Bengals worked to have sales of Still’s No. 75 jersey benefit pediatric cancer research, and nearly 15,000 jerseys were sold to buyers near and far. At the Nov. 6 home game vs. Cleveland, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was presented with a check for $1.3 million. During training camp, the team signed QB Andy Dalton to a six-year contract extension, running through 2020. On April 17, the club continued its leading role in development of the Cincinnati downtown riverfront, announcing an agreement with Hamilton County that helped pave the way for General Electric to bring a major office facility to the emerging Banks neighborhood between Paul Brown Stadium and the Reds’ Great American Ball Park. Fans at home games in 2014 enjoyed the benefits of the first state-of-the-art WiFi system throughout PBS.
2015
Andy Dalton
In 2015 quarterback Andy Dalton joined the Ravens' Joe Flacco as the only starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to five straight post-season runs in his first five years.

The Bengals extended their franchise record for consecutive playoff seasons to five and stood as one of only four NFL teams to qualify those five consecutive years. But it was one of the more bittersweet seasons in club history. The team got off to an 8-0 start, setting a franchise record for most consecutive wins within a season and tying the mark for most wins regardless of seasons. The 12-4 finish tied Cincinnati records for most wins in a season and best winning percentage in a 16-game season. QB Andy Dalton was a huge key to it all, winning the AFC passing title with a Bengals-record 106.3 rating. But Dalton suffered a thumb injury in Game 13 vs. Pittsburgh and missed the remainder of the campaign, including a dramatic 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. Backup QB AJ McCarron, who went 2-1 as a starter in the last three regular season games, rallied the Bengals in the playoff game from a 15-0 deficit after three quarters to a 16-15 lead with 1:50 to play. But the Steelers came back for a winning FG after recovering a fumble by Bengals HB Jeremy Hill deep in Pittsburgh territory. The Bengals’ 2016 accomplishments also included a No. 2 NFL finish in scoring defense (17.4), the highest in club history. The club’s most singular game accomplishment came Oct. 11 vs. Seattle, when the Bengals overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit (24-7) to win 27-24 in overtime. The last time any NFL team had won a regular season or postseason game after trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter had been Week 15 of 2010, and Cincinnati’s win ended a streak of 427 consecutive games in which teams trailing by 17-plus in the fourth quarter had lost. By the end of the postseason, the game stood as the only win for such a trailing team in the previous 536 instances.
2016
For the first time in six seasons, the Bengals missed the playoffs, and their 6-9-1 record came with plenty of reason to think what else might have been. Cincinnati’s last five losses came by a total of 16 points, and a general lack of production in the fourth quarter was highlighted by the team suffering from crucial missed place kicks as no Bengals team had suffered in recent years. Injuries also were a worse-than-usual factor, but head coach Marvin Lewis said simply, “Your record is what you earn. We have to do a better job in so many ways (in 2017).” The most notable injury was a hamstring strain that cost WR A.J. Green all but two snaps of the last seven games. Through nine games, Green’s totals of 66 receptions and 964 yards had him on pace to set club season records in both categories by wide margins. DE Carlos Dunlap had a remarkable 15 passes defensed, leading the team by five in becoming the first DL to lead the team in the category, and Dunlap led all NFL defensive linemen by seven. DE Geno Atkins led all NFL interior linemen in sacks (nine), claiming at least a piece of that crown for the fourth time in his seven seasons. Green, Dunlap and Atkins were among five Bengals in the Pro Bowl, joined also by QB Andy Dalton and OT Andrew Whitworth. The Bengals took part for the first time in the NFL’s International Series, playing Washington to a 27-all tie on Oct. 30 at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Bengals officially named the home team in the game, as the team played only seven games at Paul Brown Stadium, but it stands as the only regular season game in franchise history played at a neutral site. The tie against Washington was notable because it was Cincinnati’s third tie in nine seasons (2008-16). Only eight other NFL teams played even one tie in that span, with the remaining 23 playing none. The Bengals extended an impressive popularity streak in ’16, running to 183 the number of consecutive weeks in which a televised regular-season or postseason game was the No. 1-ranked program for the week in Cincinnati. The streak began in 2004. Another notable statistic for the season was rookie WR Alex Erickson, a college free agent signee from Wisconsin, leading the AFC with a 27.9-yard kickoff return average, second-highest in team history.