Kenny Anderson, whose Hall of Fame stat line is dwarfed only by his tangy one-liners, spied Bob Trumpy and Tyler Eifert as they approached him to say hello the other night. Trumpy and Eifert. That's Trumpy, the NFL's first modern tight end straight out of the 1960s' 16mm projector, and Eifert, the classic modern Madden tight end.
"Hey look," says Anderson with one of those sly grins that tells you he's about to zing you like he used to zing those crossing routes on time.
"They're both upright."
Which is one of the many reasons Tuesday's Paul Brown Stadium club lounge fundraiser turns out to be as good as it gets if you care about the Bengals and the town they play for on the river.
The event, bannered as "Legends: Past and Present," comes out of Anderson's math major logic mind. The one that catches the fancy of the Bengals in the third round of the 1971 NFL Draft and computes into one of the league's best quarterbacks of all-time. But he needs help to make it go from his digit descendant, current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, the man with whom he not only shares No. 14 but a passion for those that need help.
By the end of the night, by the time the master of any ceremony, Dave Lapham, the Bengals radio analyst who rooms with Anderson back in the day and rewinds Dalton these Sundays, puts a striped Who Dey bow on a panel discussion of former and current Bengals that is simply a riveting Storytime, the event raises $100,000 for the Ken Anderson Alliance that's committed to creating living opportunities for autistic adults and the Andy & JJ Dalton Foundation that is focused on improving the lives of Cincinnati's needy ill children and their families.
There are some priceless moments, though. Like when Lapham notices left Carlos Dunlap's eyes getting wide as he describes Mike Reid's exploits up front as the best defensive tackle in the game. It is an era no sacks are recorded, but everyone remembers the day Reid has five against the Chiefs.
"Give me a number, Mike," says Dunlap, always looking for a sack goal to hit.
During the intermission, wide receiver A.J. Green, a self-described numbers guy, is shaking his head. He has never heard of Reid (He is told "Geno before Geno,") and has not heard the story of Tennessee center Bob Johnson, the first player the Bengals draft. No. 2 overall in 1968.
"I've learned some things," Green says. "It's great to hear these guys. That's going to be us one day."
Now, Green has sat in on production meetings with NBC Emmy machine Cris Collinsworth, otherwise known as the first 1,000-yard receiver in Bengals history. He also knows about Trumpy. And the numbers guy doesn't need much prodding to remember that Anderson is the first quarterback in history to complete more than 70 percent of his passes in a season.
But he also learned something else about Anderson.
“The thing I appreciate about Andy is that he’s the first quarterback since Boomer to embrace the community. I told Andy to his face and everyone else how proud I am of what he and JJ have done for Cincinnati.” Kenny Anderson on Andy Dalton
"Kenny's hilarious," Green says. "He must have been something else when he was playing."
Dalton is laughing about that, too. He says Anderson, "Has a little bigger personality than me." But Anderson knows Dalton has come up plenty big.
"The thing I appreciate about Andy," Anderson is saying the next day as he already plans for next year's event, is that he's the first quarterback since Boomer to embrace the community. I told Andy to his face and everyone else how proud I am of what he and JJ have done for Cincinnati."
The first thing Dalton knew about Anderson may be the best. When he was drafted in the second round eight seasons ago, Dalton's hope was to wear No. 14. He wore it reviving the Texas Christian program before donning it at Katy High School on the outskirts of Houston because his father wore it in high school. He didn't know that Anderson's number 14 was a Queen City icon, right there with Pete Rose's No. 14 for the Reds and the Big O's No. 14 for the NBA Cincinnati Royals. Anderson famously told Dalton through intermediaries. "He can have it, but he better be good."
Or something like that.
"I knew him as the guy that let me wear No. 14. I really thank him for that," Dalton is saying before the program begins, admitting he's done his research since. "You look at the amount of time he was in the league (16 years) and that's a long time. And how he was a league MVP and won, what? Four (NFL) passing titles? He's always popped his head in and we've talked through the years. He had the idea, but it helps both foundations. I think he has a little different pull than what I have and I probably have a little different pull than he has."
The way Anderson recounts it for the crowd, he told Dalton he could bring Cris Collinsworth and Dalton told him he'd get A.J. Green. Anderson then went to Mike Reid and Dalton countered with Carlos Dunlap. Anderson has Bob Trumpy? Dalton has Tyler Eifert.
"I got Anthony Munoz," Anderson says, "and he was stumped on that one."
No one, of course, no team, no era, no defense, has an answer for Munoz, the greatest left tackle who ever lived. Anthony Michael Munoz. One of the many similarities of Anderson and Dalton are the boos. The Riverfront Stadium booing of his quarterback stunned the rookie Munoz in 1980.
"They booed him in the opener the next year, he got benched and we won and everyone was yelling, 'Keep Turk (Schonert) in there,'" Munoz recalls. "So all Kenny did was start the next week in New York, we win on the road, he wins MVP and we get to the Super Bowl. If the quarterback is getting booed, the offensive line probably isn't playing well."
Kicker Jim Breech, the Bengals' all-time leading scorer, had his catcalls, too. Even though he was 9-for-9 in overtime and the MVP of Super Bowl 22 ¾.
"Outside of maybe Anthony, everyone has gone through it. That's the nature of the NFL. They'll boo you and yet they'll turn them into cheers if it goes well," says Breech, a major fan of all sports who pointed out to the crowd that only Matthew Stafford has more fourth quarter comebacks since Dalton came into the league. "I think sometimes people look at the failures you have more than the success. I mean, (the Bengals) drafted (Washington quarterback) Jack Thompson with the third pick in 1979. That came as a direct result of the offensive line.
"This (event) is awesome. The younger players get to find out who we are. We not only had our successes, we had our failures."
"I don't get it," says Bob Johnson, that first Bengals draft pick who was Jonah Williams before Jonah Williams when a first-year Bengals head coach opted for character on the offensive line with a first-round pick.
Johnson is mystified by the treatment Dalton gets despite his accomplishments.
"As we got better, Kenny's stats got better," says Johnson of the developing Bengals offensive line of the '70s. "If they get (protection), it's a miracle and Andy will get better."
Anderson may be the only quarterback to win back-to-back passing titles in two different decades, but he also heard the boos in two different ones.
"Part of the game. Part of the position," says Anderson, when asked about the timeless cliché. "Yeah. The quarterback gets too much credit when you win and too much credit when you lose."
Anderson is bullish on Dalton's future, though. They also both have this in common: At the age of 31 and each with at least 111 starts, their team and offense both underwent massive overhauls with a new head coach and a new playbook.
In 1980, head man Forrest Gregg arrived and brought play caller Lindy Infante's relatively new but unstoppable flow of option routes. This year, Zac Taylor introduces the Rams' style of attacking and diversified scheme that has dominated the last two seasons. In one of the classier moves of the evening, Anderson was grateful when his fellow quarterback Taylor dropped by to say hello to some of the fans and meet the alumni on his way home.
Anderson has asked to take a look at the playbook when it's done because he's interested to see how it will all be called. When Infante arrived, he remembers everything changed, from how they called routes to formations to protections and Dalton is going through a similar transformation in the sense it's also a drastic change bringing in a different style
"I'm really excited to see it," Anderson says. "It sounds like talking to Zac and reading some things that it suits Andy well. It sounds like they're going to try and run the ball and they're adding to the offensive line.
“I knew him as the guy that let me wear No. 14. I really thank him for that ... You look at the amount of time he was in the league (16 years) and that’s a long time. And how he was a league MVP and won, what? Four (NFL) passing titles? Doing things not many guys did. He’s always popped his head in and we’ve talked through the years. He had the idea, but it helps both foundations. I think he has a little different pull than what I have and I probably have a little different pull than he has.” Andy Dalton on Kenny Anderson
"It can be exciting when there's something new. It can be invigorating when you have to learn a new way of doing different things."
As Anderson and Dalton signed a couple of helmets (one striped and one orange for each of their eras), they talked about the nuances of the West Coast system that is the basis of Taylor's offense as well as what broke Anderson into the league. But like Anderson barked to Lapham when he read the portion of the Bengals record book where Dalton is chasing him, "But we only played 14 games then."
By the time Anderson was 26, he had won two NFL passing titles. But in the three seasons before 1980, he was 15-25 with 43 interceptions against 37 TD passes. When Anderson came into the 1980 season at age 31, he had thrown just 2,785 passes for 20,030 yards with 125 touchdowns and 101 interceptions and needed a revival. Different era. But same concept. Dalton comes into 2019 at age 31 needing a change. He's just 79 passes away from 4,000 attempts. He's got 28,100 yards, 188 TDs and 104 picks, just ten away from breaking Anderson's Bengals record for touchdown passes.
They each have two division titles. Both have winning records with Anderson 59-52 despite that slide from 1977-79 and Dalton 68-50-2 despite going 18-24-1 the last three years. And neither have a play-off victory.
More than $100,000 was raised for the Andy & JJ Dalton Foundation and Ken Anderson Alliance through Legends: Past and Present.
That's a lot in common. And Lapham likes the way the Bengals are attacking the offensive line in the draft, much like the Bengals did when Gregg arrived in 1980.
"That's what both Super Bowl teams had in common at the beginning of the '80s and at the end of the '80s," Lapham says. "Offensive lines that could control the line of scrimmage and be able to beat you both running and passing.
"I'd love to see Andy answer the way Kenny did," Lapham says. "He took off and had a top year and Andy was having that kind of year in 2015 (before he broke his thumb). That's what he was saying last night. And he just shook his head."
Lapham is thinking about those countless nights on the road with Anderson and those string of Sunday post-game de-briefings with Dalton. No. 14s in the mirror.
"One is small-town south and the other small-town Midwest," Lapham says. "Small-town values. Just good people. They both do a great job deflecting credit and taking the blame. If there's an interception, it will be, 'I made a bad decision,' or 'I made the wrong read.' Sometimes when I'm talking to Andy after a game I think I'm listening to Kenny. They're cut from the same cloth I feel like."
This time, the No.14s combined to cut a healthy check from that same cloth to help the people that need it.