A walk through the gallery of Bengals starting quarterbacks reveals they do pretty well when they come back to haunt their old team as Michael Johnson readies to take on former backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Bills at Paul Brown Stadium.
From what can be gathered it has happened only six times before and the former QB won five times with Jeff Blake leading the way at 3-0.
Blake beat the Bengals twice in three weeks during 2002 when he quarterbacked the Ravens by throwing for only a combined 298 yards. But the Ravens scored off two interception returns, a punt return, and a blocked punt. He was also the last former starting Bengals quarterback to start against Cincinnati when he led the Cardinals 17-14 win in Arizona on Nov. 2, 2003.
The first time it happened, Sept. 25, 1983 in Tampa Bay, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson beat the man that was supposed to replace him, Jack Thompson, 23-17. Thompson, the Throwing Samoan traded by the Bengals when he didn't live up to the third pick in the 1979 draft, lived up to his nickname this day with a 316-yard effort on 30-of-40 passing with a touchdown.
But he threw three interceptions while Anderson was typically efficient in a 168-yard game on 15-of-20 passing that was buttressed by four yards per carry from running back Charles Alexander and a stable of backs. Anderson, who threw for one touchdown and one interception, also ran for 42 yards and sprinted for 29 yards on one play.
The next and last time a Bengals quarterback played the man he backed up came 17 years to the day Palmer and Fitzpatrick tee it up when the Jets' Boomer Esiason beat David Klingler, 17-12, in the Meadowlands on Nov. 21, 1993. Klingler was supposed to replace Esiason as the franchise quarterback, but he only held the job for 24 starts. This was one of them and he actually out-passed Esiason, 196-192, and had a touchdown pass while Esiason didn't throw for a score. But Klingler threw two picks and only got 32 yards rushing from Harold Green.
It didn't take the Bengals long to meet up with another. Jay Schroeder, who backed up Klingler in '93 and made three starts, ended up starting against the Bengals late the next season for Arizona. By that time Blake had supplanted Klingler and the two didn't exactly produce a masterpiece out there in the desert on Dec. 18, 1994. Schroeder threw as many touchdown passes as running back Garrison Hearst (one) and scrounged for 120 yards until he was pulled for Steve Beuerlein during the Cards 28-7 victory. Blake could only complete 10 of 28 passes for 149 yards, more than half of them on a pair of passes to tight end Tony McGee and wide receiver Carl Pickens.
It is believed that Blake is the only former starting Bengals quarterback to get the nod in a game in Cincinnati. With Jon Kitna throwing for 308 yards in a game the Bengals led Baltimore, 13-0 at PBS on Dec. 1, 2002, Blake led a comeback in which two of his 10 completions went for touchdowns in a 27-23 win. He finished with 115 yards passing while the Ravens got 120 yards on touchdowns from an interception return (98) and blocked punt (22).
Blake was also there the last time it happened and he beat Kitna again, this time as the Cardinals starter nine years after he lost to Schroeder in the desert.
It would be the only game the Bengals would lose in a seven-game stretch that saw them storm to first place in the AFC North in head coach Marvin Lewis' first season. Kitna out-passed Blake for the third time in two years (218-166), but he threw two interceptions while Blake threw two touchdown passes and his seven-yard touchdown pass to rookie Anquan Boldin in the third quarter turned out to be the last score of the game.