Posted: 4:55 p.m.
Jim Breech, who had a black-and-blue foot after the Freezer Bowl and a golden toe during Super Bowl XXIII, has a leg up on most of the inaugural Bengals.com Virtual Hall of Fame ballot.
Old enough to have 12 grandchildren and young enough to have played for Dave Shula, Breech, a Liberty Township insurance agent, has a portfolio as the club's all-time scorer that has put him in striking distance of the list of 10 finalists in voting that runs through Feb. 28.
At the halfway point, 411 votes separated No. 9 David Fulcher, No. 10 Lemar Parrish, No. 11 Max Montoya and the No. 12 Breech.
Jim Breech (Wireimage)
One of the most knowledgeable sports fans you'll ever meet, Breech chalks up the perfection to misery.
"Why do you ask about the misses?" Breech asked with a laugh, but it is no laughing matter.
He says two late misses, one in college and one in the pros, led to his success in crunch time.
When he was a freshman at California in 1974, he missed a 34-yarder with 10 seconds left in The Coliseum that would have beaten the USC team with coach John McKay and running back Anthony Davis that later beat No. 2 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Then on his only miss as a member of the Raiders in 1979 (he was 1-for-2 for Al Davis), Breech couldn't snap a late fourth-quarter tie against the Chiefs.
"I learned how to handle those kind of situations," said Breech, who came to Cincinnati the next year. "I understood how I had to prepare. Once I learned to only worry about what I could control, I was fine. I didn't have to worry about what my teammates' reaction would be if I missed or what the coaches would do to me or say. When I learned all I could control was the kick itself I got into my routine and you know what they say. You get into a zone? You get into a zone and the ball looks as big as a balloon."
But the biggest one didn't come in overtime. It did almost get him to Disney World as Super Bowl MVP when his 40-yard field goal with 3:20 left gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead with his third one that day against the 49ers at Joe Robbie Stadium.
The heroics came on a field of quicksand, which is exactly where the lead went when San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana came back on the field to make Breech an asterisk in the 20-16 defeat.
"It was windy. One of the problems in pregame was the wind caught the net on one of the uprights and we couldn't get a lot of our footballs back. That was a problem," Breech said. "It had rained the day before and someone forgot to turn off the machine that sucked up the water and it was on for like 14 hours and it was like sand underneath. I really think it hurt our running game.
"It's funny, but we ended up kicking those field goals (40, 34, 43 yards) from almost the exact same spots where we kicked in warmups. I got out there and said, 'I've done this.' "
But Montana did it last and instead of going to Disney World, Breech went back to the Anderson Park District Board. He has since moved from east to north in the suburbs, but with nine children and stepchildren he's always been a staple in the community. He has helped the men who came after him in the kicking game, Doug Pelfrey and Shayne Graham, make Kicks for Kids one of the area's most popular and effective charities.
Breech, 52, sells insurance for the Kenwood-based Hauser Group and he relishes the job because of the people.
"I like finding out what makes people successful," he said. "How did they do it? What did they do? I find that very interesting."
When he retired, he gave no thought to returning to California's Bay Area.
"This is a great community. The people really try to make you a feel a part of it," he said. "You reach a comfort level. And it is a great place to raise a family."
In the long-ago days of Plan B free agency, when the only players eligible to go on the market were left unprotected, Breech had a chance to leave after that Super Bowl season in the spring of 1989. The Bengals didn't protect him and Packers general manager Ron Wolf made an offer that Breech calls "a substantial increase."
"Not in today's market, but for back then," he said. "I didn't take it. I didn't want to move the kids, and we were good and the Packers weren't very good, and I stayed. Then I got cut the next year for four games."
Such is the life of a kicker. Even all-time scorers. Breech came back to finish the '89 season, kicked the Bengals to the 1990 AFC Central title, and finished his career with 1,151 points and two more overtime kicks in 1992 to help give Shula five wins in his first season as coach.
But the biggest OT kick has to be his 20-yarder in the 1988 regular-season finale against the defending Super Bowl champion Redskins that gave the Bengals home-field advantage in the playoffs.
It took one of those painful late misses by the guy on the other side to make it possible. With a "howling" 35 mile-per-hour wind at Riverfront Stadium, Bengaldom glumly watched Washington's Chip Lohmiller line up a 29-yard field goal with five seconds left in a 17-17 game. Lohmiller had made 10 straight and hadn't missed in two months.
But Breech noticed something that caused him to exclaim on the sideline, "He's got a chance to miss it."
"The ball was on the right hash and the wind was blowing that way," Breech said. "If they had run one more play and got it on the left, he would have had a better chance. But it got up in the air and it took a right-hand turn and hit the (right) upright. We were going in the same direction in overtime and we were on the right hash. (Head coach) Sam (Wyche) asked if I wanted to move it, but it was so close it didn't matter. I just kept it inside the left upright. That was big for us because we needed the week off. We had so many guys banged up."
If Breech doesn't get recognized ("At 5-6 you're incognito," he says), his name does, and he says it's nice because people are still talking about the Freezer Bowl and the two Super Bowls. He helped the Bengals get to their first Super Bowl back in the infamous January 1982 when he kicked two field goals in the minus-59 degree wind chill of Riverfront Stadium during the AFC title game.
He started the scoring with a 31-yarder and added a 38-yarder later "both with the wind," and says "it was like kicking a rock." When he woke the next morning, his kicking foot was black and blue.
He's also a recognizable visitor in the Paul Brown Stadium locker room. He'll venture in a couple of times a year and talk shop with Graham and punter Kyle Larson, and if someone asks advice he'll give it. Breech knows Graham has taken heat for two big misses in an otherwise extraordinary career, the latest his first overtime attempt in six seasons with the Bengals back in November.
"When he gets more chances (in OT), he'll make them," Breech said. "I remember talking to Al Del Greco and he was in his 13th or 14th year and he hadn't got a chance yet in overtime. Shayne's made a bunch of big kicks in the fourth quarter and he'll continue to. That's what happens. People remember the last one or the misses."
Breech has another memory, but it came 13 years after his last kick in another stadium on the river. The Wild Card game against the Steelers following the 2005 season in Paul Brown Stadium.
"The place was electric. It was loud. It was unbelievable. I was ready to go to that Super Bowl," he said. "It's too bad that when people think of that game they think of Carson (Palmer) getting hurt. The fans are so great here, I just wish they could have the moments we had."
Even if they had to go OT.