Now the radio booth at Paul Brown Stadium matches the helmets and is full-blown Orange, too.
Legendary analyst Dave Lapham, who has manned the mike for 26 seasons, joins fellow Syracuse product Dan Hoard to call the games this upcoming season as the Bengals take their radio production in-house.
When Lapham started working the Bengals games with Phil Samp in 1986, Hoard was just a year out of Syracuse and the voice of the Triple A Syracuse Chiefs. Now the voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball for the past 10 years joins Lapham as his sixth sidekick.
"There's nobody better at analyzing an NFL game than Dave," Hoard said. "How many years for him now? 26? Amazing. He's passionate. He knows the game. He makes my job easy. I'm just going to dot the I's and cross the T's and let him weave his magic."
While revamping their radio marketing and production, the Bengals have yet to announce which radio station is their partner for the upcoming season. The club now has control of the sales and operations of the broadcasts as well as the production and location of special shows that remain on Monday and Wednesday nights and Friday afternoons.
The in-house move opens up more opportunities for Lapham and Hoard to be involved in programming on Bengals TV, Bengals.com, Bengals Facebook, and Bengals Twitter.
Hoard replaces Brad Johansen, the long-time Cincinnati Local 12 anchor who called the games for 11 years for the second-longest play-by-play stint in club history next to the man that called the first 23 seasons, Phil Samp. Johansen's high-energy style was a good match for the passion of Lapham, but if there are other changes in wake of the in-house move they have yet to be announced.
In a classy move Wednesday just before he went on camera for his 6 p.m. sportscast Johansen tweeted, "My sincere thanks for the kind words from fans. I will be forever grateful to Mike Brown and the Bengals for the opportunity of a lifetime."
Then after he delivered the sports, he reflected.
"This is what I wanted to do since I was in third grade," Johansen said. "It's a job not many people get to do and it was the thrill of a lifetime."
There was the TD call when Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell beat the Steelers with 22 seconds left in 2009. And the Jon Kitna-to-Matt Schobel down-the-seam strike that won in Pittsburgh with 13 seconds left in 2003. But he can't remember them. Or any others.
"Whenever I went back through my tapes, it wasn't so I could say, 'Oh, that's good,' " Johansen said. "I was going back to listen to see how I could make the call better."
Lapham, 58, who has built tremendous rapport with Bengals fans using the riveting brew of a journalist's candor wrapped in the knowledge a 10-year man that played every spot on the Cincinnati offensive line, says the listeners won't notice much of a change at all on Sunday even though the club is producing the radio network. He said he hasn't been told to change his style and neither has Hoard.
"Nothing has been mentioned anything about that," Hoard said. "I'm going to do what I always do and when there is criticism I'll be professional about it. I have great admiration for people that play the game at that level. I'll be critical but I'm not going to belittle anyone."
Lapham's relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown goes way back and deep. They knocked heads over contracts at training camp, Lapham was a pallbearer at Paul Brown's funeral, and Mike Brown has continually backed him in the booth.
"You strive to have credibility and Mike and the people down there have been good about that," Lapham said. "They realize there is going to be some criticism and I think they're fine with that as long as it isn't half-baked or just thrown out of left field."
Lapham has heard Hoard for years around town and is confident he'll click with him like he did with the previous five.
"You can tell he does his homework; there's no question about that," Lapham said. "He's a pro's pro."
Hoard has already used arid wit and succinct calls to become not only a popular Cincinnati figure as the voice of UC sports, but also the play-by-play man for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox. He showed Wednesday that both will be on display this season.
"Now do you think Carson will come back?" Hoard deadpanned.
No one seems to know if Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is going to be back, but Hoard knows he'll be living a dream that began when he was 13 years old talking into the microphone of a cassette tape recorder in front of his TV in Jamestown, N.Y. One of Hoard's heroes was long-time Bills play-by-man Van Miller, a voice he lived and died with from O.J. to the K-Gun.
But for the longest time, Hoard thought he was going to be a baseball guy.
"A lot of close calls; I was Susan Lucci," Hoard said. "In baseball, there is kind of a path to follow. You get a Triple A job and then you hope. There's not really a path for an NFL job. You can do a lot of a college games around the country, or you can work in the same town and do the same team every year. I know this: When the National Football League calls, you go. It's a tremendous honor. When I was 13 years old talking into a tape recorder, I would have been happy working at a local station. To grow up and be one of 32 NFL announcers is a great thrill."
Hoard may be popular, but he may not even be the most popular media personality in his family. Wife Peg Rusconi was a TV reporter for Cincinnati's WKRC-TV before the couple moved to Boston and she became one of WBZ-TV's leading general assignment reporters. Hoard will finish out the season with the PawSox while calling the Bengals preseason games before starting his 11th season with UC. If there is a conflict, he'll do the Bengals game first.
"I started the season with them. I feel like I have to finish the season with them," said Hoard, enjoying his first day off from the PawSox since the April 7 opener. "It will be a tough month or so, but I love it. I doesn't bother me."
Lapham's role working with the Bengals marketing department selling air time hasn't changed, either. After 26 years and Boomer Esiason, David Klinger, Jeff Blake, Akili Smith, Jon Kitna and Palmer, he sounds as vibrant and as fresh as ever for Andy Dalton. That and A.J. Green at the top of the draft.
"The toughest offseason to sell was after the 2-14, but then Marvin (Lewis) came," Lapham said of 2003. "This was pretty tough, too, but then came this draft. That's the great thing about the NFL. Everything goes in cycles. I thought it was a very good draft for them. I saw where Mel Kiper gave it an A and I haven't seen anything lower than a solid B. They put the bat on the ball in what looks like nearly every round."
Although Lapham thinks the Bengals have to get a veteran in here to back up Dalton, he likes the pick.
"Because Dalton's a five-year guy and he's played in 49 games, I think they're right," Lapham said. "I think he's the most ready of these quarterbacks to come in and play.
"This has been an unbelievable offseason (with the lockout). You can't talk to your draft picks. You can't talk to your players. You can't sign anybody. We're in unchartered waters."
But Lapham is still diving. Twenty-six years. Eight Opening Day quarterbacks. Maybe nine with young Mr. Dalton. Six play-by-play guys. The only thing we really know is who's in the radio booth.
"It's been quite a run," said Lapham, starting another.