Cincinnati Bengals History | History by the Decade -

History by the Decades: 2020s


On March 13, the Bengals joined most other NFL teams by announcing that their facility would close the following week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that employees would be working remotely. As the pandemic continued to spread throughout the country and states began widespread shutdowns of businesses deemed "non-essential," the NFL soon mandated that all teams' facilities — no matter their location — remain closed until further notice. As a result, the entire NFL offseason program — everything between voluntary workouts in April and mandatory minicamp in June — was conducted online, as sports leagues in the U.S. remained shut down until mid-summer. The 2020 NFL Draft was held virtually, and the Bengals selected Louisiana State QB and Athens, Ohio-native Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL's first-ever virtual draft. A few days later, the Bengals released Andy Dalton, the team's starting QB the previous nine seasons (2011-19), signaling the official shift to Burrow, who arrived with much fan anticipation after having arguably the greatest season ever by a college QB (he set numerous SEC and NCAA records, won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in its 85-year history and led LSU to an undefeated season and national championship). The Bengals welcomed a limited number of employees back into the office on May 20, after a more than two-month closure of the facility. Numerous precautions were put into place and maintained for the rest of the year, such as the mandatory wearing of facemasks and the social distancing of workspaces. The NFL and NFLPA reached an agreement late in July regarding COVID-19 protocols for the season, and players began reporting to team facilities for pre-training camp physicals the last week of July. Full training camp practices didn't begin until mid-August, and the NFL and NFLPA eventually agreed to cancel all preseason games as a precaution. The league and the union also agreed to test for COVID-19 among players, coaches and select football staff each day at team facilities. Additionally, everyone in the testing protocol was required to wear an electronic tracker at all times while at team facilities, which would trace and identify all persons in close contact with any individual who tested positive. Some NFL states/cities permitted a limited number of fans to attend games, while others did not allow fans at all. The Bengals opened their season at home against the L.A. Chargers in the first and only NFL game ever held in Cincinnati without fans. The team did so to comply with an order from the State of Ohio to limit mass gatherings, however that order was later loosened, and the Bengals hosted between 6000 and 11,000 fans at their seven remaining home games. The Bengals struggled to a 4-11-1 record in 2020, though Burrow was among the team's bright spots as he got off to one of the most productive statistical starts to a career by a QB in league history. He had been on pace to smash several team and NFL rookie records, but in Game 10, Nov. 22 at Washington he suffered a torn ACL when an offensive lineman fell onto his left knee after a pass attempt. Cincinnati, which at the time had shown signs of a turnaround and was entering a stretch of games against several sub-.500 teams, turned to backup Brandon Allen and finished 2-4 over the final six contests. One of those two late wins, though, was considered among the biggest upsets of the season in the NFL, as third-string QB Ryan Finley filled in for the injured Allen on Monday Night Football and led a double-digit underdog Cincinnati to a 27-17 win over 11-2 Pittsburgh (the win snapped the Bengals' 11-game losing streak against the Steelers). The Bengals parted ways with a longtime veteran when it traded DE Carlos Dunlap to Seattle on Oct. 28. Dunlap had 82.5 career sacks at the time of the trade, just one shy of tying Eddie Edwards' team record of 83.5. As the NFL season moved forward, many NFL teams faced COVID-19 positive tests, outbreaks and policy violations. Cincinnati, however, was among the few which emerged from the 2020 season relatively unscathed. The Bengals went without a single positive test from a player or coach through the first eight weeks of the regular season, and in total only nine players (including four on the practice squad or reserve lists) spent time on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list at any point due to either a positive test or being deemed a close contact (missing only 15 combined games). Additionally, six Bengals assistant coaches missed a total of nine combined games. Most sports leagues on every level struggled with game cancellations due to the pandemic. In the NFL, numerous contests were postponed to Mondays, Tuesdays or even Wednesdays, while multiple teams lost their bye or were forced to re-arrange their schedule, but NFL guidelines proved effective as all 269 scheduled games (regular season and playoffs) ultimately were played. The Bengals were among the most fortunate teams, as all 16 of their regular-season games were played at their originally scheduled dates and times.



On the strength of one of the NFL's most talented young rosters, third-year head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals enjoyed one of the most successful runs in team history, cruising to a 10-7 record, AFC North title, AFC Championship and berth in Super Bowl LVI. It was the second consecutive season played under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continued to circle and affect the entire globe. The league's pandemic protocols remained in effect throughout the entirety of the 2021 season, but were loosened for teams and fans who were fully vaccinated. In April, the Bengals announced the formation of a Ring of Honor to display inside Paul Brown Stadium, with team founder Paul Brown and Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz as the first two members, who were later joined by, as voted by season ticket holders, both QB Ken Anderson and CB Ken Riley. The ROH was unveiled to fans during a halftime ceremony of Game 4 vs. Jacksonville. The team also unveiled new team uniforms in April, updating the striping on the various color options of the jersey and pants while keeping the team's iconic helmet design intact. It was the first major uniform change since 2004, and the fourth significant uniform redesign in team history. With regard to the roster, the Bengals assembled a collection of new players who proved to be key in the team's run to the Super Bowl. While the team said goodbye to a number of notable veterans — including two of the most celebrated Bengals ever in DT Geno Atkins (released) and WR A.J. Green (signed with Arizona as a UFA) — it began the new league year actively involved in free agency, signing many significant new players, particularly on defense. That list included DE Trey Hendrickson and DT Larry Ogunjobi, as well as CBs Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton. In the draft, the team added first-round WR Ja'Marr Chase (fifth overall) and fifth-round K Evan McPherson, who both proved to be key additions that were fundamental to the team's successful season. And via trade, the Bengals also acquired DT B.J. Hill from the N.Y. Giants. Second-year QB Joe Burrow posted new team records for passing yardage (4611), passing TDs (34) and passer rating (108.3) en route to being named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year. His 525 passing yards on Dec. 26 set a new team record, breaking Boomer Esiason's longtime mark of 490, which was set 31 seasons earlier in 1990. Burrow's primary target was Chase, who had teamed with him in college to win a national championship at Louisiana State University in 2019. Chase put together arguably the top NFL rookie season ever by a WR en route to earning the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. He caught 81 passes for 1455 yards and 13 TDs during the regular season. The receiving yards total established a new team record and was the most ever by an NFL rookie in the Super Bowl era, and his 1734 combined receiving yards in both the regular season and postseason counted as the most ever by an NFL rookie. He set a new team record for most receiving yards in a game with 266 on Jan. 2 vs. Kansas City. With the Bengals, Chase teamed with second-year WR Tee Higgins (74 catches for 1091 yards and six TDs) and sixth-year slot WR Tyler Boyd (67 for 828 and five) to form one of the NFL's most productive receiving trios. Fifth-year HB Joe Mixon proved to be one of the NFL's top RBs, posting career-highs in rushing yardage (1205) and total TDs (16), while seventh-year TE C.J. Uzomah, the longest-tenured Bengal on offense, also had a career season with 49 catches for 493 yards and five TDs. Cincinnati's defense showed significant improvement thanks to the new faces and returning veterans. Hendrickson recorded the second-most sacks (14) in team history while bookend DE and Cincinnati native Sam Hubbard added another 7.5. At NT, 347-pound D.J. Reader returned after his first Bengals season was cut short by injury, and he helped Cincinnati's 2021 run defense improve 24 spots over the '20 squad. Ogunjobi and Hill rotated next to Reader and combined for 12.5 sacks. Second-year pro Logan Wilson made the leap from 2020 rotational player to one of the NFL's top young LBs, leading the team both total tackles (98) and interceptions (four). Logan's four INTs also tied for the NFL lead among LBs, and counted as the most by a Bengals LB in 16 years. The secondary was led by a pair of team captains at S in Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III, who combined for three key INTs and a sack during the Bengals' playoff run, while all three of Cincinnati's starting CBs were new to the team in 2021 — Apple, Awuzie and Hilton — and each had a pair of INTs. On special teams, the celebrity of the year was McPherson, a 22- year-old rookie whose leg strength and reliability under pressure turned him into an immediate fan favorite. McPherson's nine FGs of 50 or more yards during the regular season was just one shy of tying the NFL single-season record of 10, and enough to set a new team career record. He also became the only kicker in team history to convert three FGs of 50 or more yards in a game, and he hit five game-winning "walk-off" FGs as a rookie, including two in postseason. On Dec. 19 at Denver, McPherson set a new team record for longest FG in team history when he converted a 58-yarder. The Bengals recorded their first postseason victory since the 1990 season when they won a Wild Card Playoff vs. the Las Vegas Raiders in front of a record crowd of 66,277 at Paul Brown Stadium. The team followed that win with road victories at the No. 1-seed Tennessee Titans and the No. 2-seed Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC Championship and secure a berth in Super Bowl LVI. The Super Bowl was played against the L.A. Rams on their home field at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., however Cincinnati was listed as the home team. The Bengals fell behind 13-3 early in the second quarter, but closed the gap to take the lead on the first play of the second half with a 75-yard TD pass from Burrow to Higgins that counted as the longest play from scrimmage in Bengals postseason history. Cincinnati stretched its lead to seven, but L.A.'s defense stood strong. A TD by WR Cooper Kupp gave the Rams a three-point lead with 1:25 remaining, and the Bengals' attempt to tie or win ended on a fourth-and-one at midfield when Burrow threw an incomplete pass while being tackled. Shortly after the Super Bowl, the NFL and the NFLPA jointly announced that they had suspended all COVID-19 protocols going into the new 2022 league year.

QB Joe Burrow runs the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams.
QB Joe Burrow runs the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams.

Year Totals

Table inside Article
Plays First Downs Net Yards Rush Net Yards Pass Total Net Yards Points
1046 337 1742 4403 6145 460
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase (left) runs the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles, CA.
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase (left) runs the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles, CA.

Individual Leaders

Table inside Article
Player Category
Evan McPherson Scoring
Joe Burrow Passing
Joe Mixon Rushing
Ja'Marr Chase Receptions
Ja'Marr Chase Receiving Yards
Kevin Huber Punting
Darius Phillips Punt Returns
Brandon Wilson Kickoff Returns
Evan McPherson Field Goals
Logan Wilson Interceptions
Trey Hendrickson Sacks
Evan McPherson (center) celebrates with his team after winning the 2021 season AFC Championship in Kansas City, MO.
Evan McPherson (center) celebrates with his team after winning the 2021 season AFC Championship in Kansas City, MO.

Coaching Staff

Table inside Article
Coach Position
Zac Taylor Head Coach
Lou Anarumo Defensive Coordinator
Colt Anderson Assistant Special Teams
Joey Boese Strength and Conditioning
Brian Callahan Offensive Coordinator
James Casey Tight Ends
Sigismondo Cioffi Defensive Quality Control
Mark Duffner Senior Defensive Assistant
Al Golden Linebackers
Justin Hill Running Backs
Marion Hobby Defensive Line
Todd Hunt Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Steve Jackson Secondary/Cornerbacks
Jordan Kovacs Defensive Quality Control
Brad Kragthorpe Assistant Wide Receivers
Robert Livingston Secondary/Safeties
Ben Martin Assistant Offensive Line
Dan Pitcher Quarterbacks
Frank Pollack Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator
Darrin Simmons Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
Garrett Swanson Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Troy Walters Wide Receivers
Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo (left) and Head Coach Zac Taylor talk during practice at Kettering Health Practice Fields on September 7, 2022.
Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo (left) and Head Coach Zac Taylor talk during practice at Kettering Health Practice Fields on September 7, 2022.

2021 NFL Draft: April 29-May 1

Table inside Article
Round Player Position College Selection Number
1 Ja'Marr Chase WR Louisiana State 5
2 sent to New England in trade on 4-30-21 38
2 Jackson Carman (acquired from New England in trade on 4-30-21) G Clemson 46
3 Joseph Ossai DE Texas 69
4a Cam Sample DE Tulane 111
4b Tyler Shelvin (acquired from New England in trade on 4-30-21) DT Louisiana State 122
4c D'Ante Smith (acquired from New England in trade on 4-30-21) OT East Carolina 139
5 Evan McPherson K Florida 149
6a Trey Hill C/G Georgia 190
6b Chris Evans (acquired from Houston in trade on 3-19-21) HB Michigan 202
7 (sent to Houston in trade on 3-19-21) 233
7 Wyatt Hubert (acquired from Seattle in trade on 10-28-20) DE Kansas State 235
LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase walks down the runway after he was chosen with fifth pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase walks down the runway after he was chosen with fifth pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)