Bengals all-time leading scorer Jim Breech and their rookie kicking sensation Evan McPherson have never met. But they're fifth cousins once removed from the Bengals record book and are related in the clutch.
"He's going to go by me like I'm standing still," says Breech, who has been known to text McPherson after a big kick with something like, "You're my hero."
"He's got a belief in himself. He's really, really good. He's like the Ja'Marr Chase of kickers. He's just clutch. He reminds me a lot of Justin Tucker."
According to Elias, McPherson, the Bengals' 22-year-old smashing records from the old century, resembles no one. He's the only rookie to have at least three walk-off field goals in the regular season and one in the postseason, thanks to Saturday's 52-yarder at the gun in Tennessee that put them in their first AFC title game in 33 years.
"That's a great kick, but he's had a bunch of great kicks lately," says Breech, who gave the Bengals home-field advantage for that game with a 20-yarder that was one of his record nine-for-nine in overtime. "Any kick in the playoffs is huge. I don't care how long it is. It means so much to the score."
No surprise here. The classy Breech is loving this Bengals season and is cheering on the kid even though he has already twice erased Breech's name from the Bengals postseason record book (and Horst Muhlmann's) kicking four field goals in both postseason games. McPherson now has the record for most points in a Bengals playoff game (14 against the Raiders) and with eight field goals he's already one shy of Breech's career record of nine.
And he's suddenly in second place in all-time Bengals playoff scoring with 27 points, 26 from passing Breech's all-time 53.
"Wait a few years," Breech says.
John Breech, Breech's sportswriter son who works for CBS Sportsline and is the archivist of his dad's career as well as for all kickers everywhere, lives in Nashville and took in Saturday's game with his family at Nissan Stadium. His raspy voice tells you he grew up in Cincinnati's Anderson Township as a diehard Bengals fan.
"Usually you're nervous when you see a guy line up a 52-yarder to win it," John Breech says. "But watching him all day, I wasn't nervous. That has to be a top five kick (in Bengals history).
How about No. 2?
"Yeah," John Breech says. "No. 2."
No. 1 still has to belong to Jim Breech's 40-yard field goal with 3:20 left that gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 left in Super Bowl XXIII.
"Only because it was in a Super Bowl," Jim Breech says. "I think Evan is going to change all that. If you look at this team with Joe Burrow and his weapons and changing their stance in free agency that has allowed them to bring in some phenomenal players and I imagine they'll keep doing some of that. I think this team is going to be very competitive for a long time."
Shayne Graham, McPherson's coach at Florida who also just happens to hold the Bengals career accuracy record in said record book during his seven seasons as a Bengal, is also enjoying the ride.
"Absolutely, absolutely. When his foot hit the ball I jumped up and down a few times and my wife took a picture and I didn't know it," Graham says. "Knowing Evan is a big part of it, but my heart is swelling with pride for the Bengals."
Graham, already tight with Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons as he began his coaching career, began sending him video clips at the beginning of the 2020 season of team periods where McPherson hit 68-yarders. Just a junior, McPherson hadn't said anything about going to the pros after the season.
"I wasn't selling him to Darrin," Graham says. "It was just, 'Look what I've got down here and he's a great kid and this is why I love coaching.'"
Simmons and Graham would talk about him in their many coaching discussions and Graham would tell Simmons how impressed he was with an impenetrable and unflappable personality.
"If he missed, this humble, innocent smile would come across his face," Graham says. "Not that he was happy, but that nothing fazed him and that's what was so impressive about him. The physical talent was evident. I can't say I did one thing with his technique or form to make him better. But we spent a lot of hours talking. You could tell he was a sponge."
By the time McPherson declared, Simmons knew it all and after he saw the Florida pro day he took a vow of silence. He would tell only Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin how much he coveted him.
"I wasn't going to let people know how much I liked him," Simmons says. "That could get teams to jump ahead of you or the agents to start leveraging or whatever it might be. Plus, I didn't know if we would draft a kicker. But there was a momentum for it. We potentially had a need there, I was in his corner and Duke was all for it. Everybody was."
So Simmons never contacted McPherson. He went silent until he called maybe the best fifth-round pick in Bengals history. Al Beauchamp, Pat McInally, Kevin Huber is a formidable list. But like Breech says, "He's going to be around awhile."
Graham had to laugh when he heard quarterback Joe Burrow relate the story post game about how McPherson casually told backup quarterback Brandon Allen as he went out on the field to kick it, "I guess we're going to the AFC championship game."
"Trust me," Graham says. "There's a big difference between a guy being confident saying, 'I guess we're going to the AFC championship game,' and a cocky guy saying something I've heard guys say and I wouldn't repeat because I don't want to say who said it. There's a difference in being confident and having your teammates feed off it."
Graham recalls a game against Texas A&M at the end of the half when McPherson lined up a 42-yarder. A delay of game and false start later it was a 52-yarder.
"It's during a timeout and he says to the head coach and he's joking around, 'Hey, Coach. Can we get another penalty so we can back it up another five?' And he hits it with plenty to spare 15 yards up the net. That's when you say this kid is the real deal."
Breech had a good feeling when he saw McPherson line up a kick that would make them the only two Bengals to kick in an AFC title game.
"I believed he was going to make it. Just by watching what he had done that day," Breech says. "I know he loves the right hash. I felt good about it."
As usual, Breech speaks for Bengaldom. Because of COVID, they have yet to meet. Until then, they'll text.
The Bengals' No. 1 all-time field goal?
"That 52-yarder at the end was pretty big," Breech says.