Posted: 7:30 a.m.
There wasn't enough room for Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones in the Chicago backfield of 2005 and 2006. But there is plenty of room at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday for them in the Wild Card game with Benson running the ball for the Bengals and Jones bell-cowing it for the Jets. Jones made first alternate Pro Bowl and Benson second alternate and Benson has to smile when he sees the alternative for the Bears is that they'll be watching at 7-9.
"He's good on his feet, good in the open field," Benson said this week. "I'm a lot downhill. We'd complement each other really (well). I'm sure a few people saw that in Chicago."
The Bears didn't help either guy by taking Benson with the fourth pick in the '05 draft. Jones had moved from the Cardinals with the idea he had found a home as the man and Benson arrived believing the Bears saw him as the man by spending such a high pick. Benson admits there was bad blood, but like he said before last week's game, it's all in the past, and he went up to Jones before Sunday night's game and congratulated him on his season. They could, he said, get together in the offseason.
"There was some disagreement, I think, largely for him," Benson said. "He had been on different teams and I think on those teams in a situation similar where a guy came in. In Chicago I guess he saw the same situation recurring. I don't think so much it was toward me, it was toward the situation. It indirectly (spurred) a bad situation, a controversy between us. Now that we're both not on their team and in different places and he's doing great in New York and I'm doing well here, we were able to put all of that behind us and be cool."
Benson said it all made him "a better person," and he hopes he'll react differently if the Bengals drafted a back.
"It wouldn't be necessarily why, but it would be just because I've been in the situation before and I remember what it was like when I was a rookie and I definitely wouldn't want to be the same," he said.
Benson, along with defensive tackle Tank Johnson and middle linebacker Dhani Jones, is one of three Bengals that has played in a Super Bowl. With 38 carries for 104 yards and a 12-yard touchdown in the 2006 postseason, he knows what's ahead.
"You have to lock in and forget about the regular season. Lock in on each day and focus on each day at a time and get the best work you can get," he said. "Because everything is going to matter. You have to make your mind up regardless that whatever the weather is going to be like or whatever the situation is you're going to be put in, you're going to sell out."
RETRO LOOK: Ken Anderson, the last Bengals quarterback to play the Jets in the playoffs, remembers a little bit too much about one of the worst games in franchise history. Anderson, the NFL MVP the year before, had just set the all-time single season record with a 70.55 completion percentage in the nine-game, strike-shortened year of 1982.
"We were coming in as the first seed in the AFC at 7-2," Anderson said, "and we were down (13 points) and I threw a touchdown pass and we were called for holding. We overcame that and I threw another one and we were called for holding again. Then I threw one and it got intercepted (98) yards the other way for a touchdown. So instead of being down six, we were down 20 just like that."
Darrol Ray gave the Jets the 37-17 lead in what would be a 44-17 final of a game Anderson got intercepted three times despite setting the Bengals postseason record with 354 yards passing. Anderson was in the news again 27 years to the week of that one when he announced his retirement as the quarterbacks coach of the Steelers.
Anderson, who turns 61 in February, felt it was time after 16 years as a player and 17 as a coach to spend more time with wife Christy at their Hilton Head, S.C., home as well as travel to see his three children in Connecticut and Cincinnati. Of those 33 NFL seasons, 26 were with the Bengals and so on Saturday he's pulling for another Bengals quarterback against the Jets in the playoffs.
He was also in the news last week because Drew Brees of the Saints broke that completion percentage record with 70.6 on 363 completions out of 514 passes. Brees got the record when he didn't play in the finale last week, but it didn't bother Anderson to see the record go.
"It stood for 27 years," Anderson said. "And when I broke Sammy Baugh's record, that had been around a long time and so will this one. I know I did it in just nine games, but I threw more passes than Sammy so I didn't feel bad about it."
Anderson hit 218 of 309 passes compared to what Baugh did in 1945 with Washington when he went for 70.33 on 128 of 182.
"(Brees) has tremendous command of that offense," Anderson said and there is a little bit of irony there.
When Brees came out of Purdue in 2001, Anderson was still the quarterbacks coach with the Bengals and while Anderson had given him some good reports, nobody had Brees rated higher than Bengals president Mike Brown.
"You've got to give Mike credit," Anderson said. "He wanted to take him with our first pick. But a lot of guys didn't have him rated that high."
The Bengals had the fourth pick that year, but Brown also knew the Bengals were just two years removed from taking a franchise quarterback in Akili Smith, a month removed from signing Jon Kitna as a free agent, and they had plenty of holes to fill elsewhere and so they went with Missouri defensive end Justin Smith after a season they had just 26 sacks.
But there was no doubt that Brees would have been a Bengal if he kept falling. And he fell all the way to the 32nd pick with San Diego. At 36th, the Bengals ended up debating a pair of receivers, Oregon State's Chad Johnson and Wisconsin's Chris Chambers.