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Burrow Takes Bengals QB Torch To Set Fire To History

Joe Burrow leads the Bengals into the playoffs.
Joe Burrow leads the Bengals into the playoffs.

Joe Burrow texts with Ken Anderson. He's broken down tape with Boomer Esiason. The brother of one of his advisers is Carson Palmer. He and Andy Dalton were on the same team for a week.

The Bengals latest playoff quarterback knows plenty about the four that came ahead of him. And that he just got through with a season that broke nearly every single season record they set.

"I grew up around Bengals fans. I know about these guys," Burrow says. "Kenny was little before my time. I know he was a good player and went to a Super Bowl. And, yeah, an MVP. Carson was the first one I remember. I liked how he could really spin it. When Andy came in as a rookie and went to the playoffs right away, I thought that was really impressive."

When Esiason sat down with him in training camp for an NFL Network segment, there were some clips from his own NFL MVP Super Bowl season of 1988. The MVP didn't attract Burrow as much as the Super Bowl.

"That's not why I play the games," Burrow says. "It would be nice to go to Pro Bowls and win MVPs. But all that's icing on the cake. I play for the guys in the locker room and to win games."

But even though No. 9 is not a numbers guy as he prepares to join Cincy's Fab Four on Saturday (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's-Channel 5) and quarterback a home Wild Card Game, this one at Paul Brown Stadium, he does feel something about 34 touchdown passes, 4,611 yards and a 108.3 passer rating, breaking the records set when Dalton broke Palmer's records. Records set by Anderson and Esiason that Palmer broke.

"I don't look at numbers too much during the season. After the season I'll look at some numbers and see what I did and didn't do well," says Burrow, who has heard about the records. "That's important to me. Anytime you can break those records on a NFL team, that's something I should be proud of."

All four that came before, at some point, went into the playoffs with a Pro Bowl. Not yet for Burrow in what is being called in some quarters "a snub."

"I wouldn't say it's driving me. I would say it would have been nice to go to a Pro Bowl. I wouldn't say I'm upset about it," Burrow says. "Some of those awards are what they are. Winning the division. Making the playoffs. That's what matters to me."

Certainly Adam Luehrman knows numbers. No one knows Bengals quarterbacks like one of the twins that Burrow grew up with on The Plains playing catch during the biggest moments in Athens High School football history.

His brother Ryan had a No. 9 jersey when it belonged to Palmer. They both grew up to be tight ends in their hometown at Ohio University and each had a Tyler Eifert No. 85. Around 2006 or so, when they were nine or ten, they each started with a Johnson, Rudi's No. 32 for Adam and Chad's No. 85 for Ryan.

They still keep in touch. Usually on X-Box and usually on Monday nights, the one night Burrow stays up a little later than the rest because of Tuesday's off day. Other than that, he shuts it down. And Luehrman knows he won't be around this week.

"It's still weird. Especially since I grew up a fan of the Bengals," Adam Luehrman says. "To see a name on the back of someone's jerseys of the team you cheered for your whole life and it's your quarterback growing up, it's hard to put into words."

It is two-and-a-half hours from Joe Burrow Stadium to Paul Brown Stadium, a patch of ground that has always had a mix of the AFC North but is undergoing a shift. A burb of Bengals. A belt of Browns. A slice of Steelers.

Adam Luehrman, from a family of Bengals season ticket-holders, said this would happen even as they talked about drafting Burrow. He's finishing up his master's in business and lives in a residential neighborhood off campus.

"There are tons of Bengals flags out in front yards, which is good to see," he says. "There's always been some. But not to this extent. It's slowly, slowly turning. I've definitely picked up on it. It's more than before.

"We have a lot of friends who we grew up with who were Steelers fans who are now Bengals fans. Because of Joe and also because they're winning. So I'm always happy to see that flip."

He says you can see it on campus, too.

"College kids love their jerseys and there are a lot kids wearing his LSU jersey and Bengals jersey," Adam Luehrman says. "They know he's got that connection to the school."

The first game he probably went to is that '06 PBS 90-point duel Palmer lost to the Chargers and Philip Rivers. With his own season done, he's been to the last three games. Steelers. Ravens. Chiefs. Each one better than the one before. Especially the 34-31 win over Kansas City.

"That was the most ecstatic live event I've ever been to with one of my teams," Luehrman says. "And just a great game all around."

It brought back memories of 2014, that senior season the Luehrmans and Trae Williams and Burrow hauled Athens to the Division III state championship game. Along the way was the come-from-behind 34-31 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary when Burrow threw two touchdown passes in the final 6:46 of the state semi.

"We were down two scores early and we kept coming back. Our defense kept making stops and we made some plays late," he says. "I had a similar feeling when we were playing in high school and there would be a third-and-long. There was never any worry. We had a good chance of converting it and that's how I felt in that game. So what? We have a poor down and distance. We can still get it done. I had that similar feeling in high school. He has the tools to make any down and distance."

So the third-and-27 didn't surprise him.

"All him," says Burrow of the shot to Ja'Marr Chase on the winning drive. His buddy senses the same confidence in the fan base as he gets ready to attend his first playoff game.

Adam Luehrman couldn't go to the last one at PBS. He started football at OU the next day and watched it from his dorm room.

"That playoff game gave everyone the idea that it's almost impossible for good things to happen to this franchise," he says. "I think that's completely changed now. Now there's no doubt in the back of anyone's mind, it's all positive."

Certainly his buddy has no doubts. He felt the crowd against Kansas City. If you ask Burrow, that was a Pro Bowl.

"You play for wins like that. In front of these fans to win the division. It was awesome," Burrow says. "You watch film from a couple of years ago and there's nobody in the stands and they didn't have a lot to cheer for. I think we've given the city a team they can feel proud to be a part of."

That again puts him in the Bengals record book, tied with four others.