With Friday's selection of a defensive player whose last season is the rookie year of Ken Anderson, the Bengals all-time passing leader hopes that means he could be nearing his own nomination for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Former Kansas City safety Johnny Robinson, an all-AFL player of the '60s, is the man this year after a panel of five senior committee members nominated him for the 2019 finalist ballot to be cast the day before the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Most senior nominees pass muster by the Hall's full 46-member panel of voters, of which Bengals.com is the Cincinnati representative.
Anderson, the only man with at least three passing titles not in the Hall of Fame, has seen his candidacy grow in the last five years. Senior committee members have long lauded Anderson's credentials, but have also attempted to bridge the gap it sees with defensive players being under represented in Canton. Three of the last four senior nominees have been defenders in Robinson, Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile and Seattle safety Kenny Easley. Brazile and Easley were elected.
"Another defensive player off the list, so that helps," Anderson said after the vote. "Last year it was a defensive player (Brazile) and an offensive lineman (Jerry Kramer). Maybe that's a good sign. Let's see what happens."
The committee has also tries to give the nod to the oldest players, although Brazile and Easley retired in the '80s like Anderson did with Brazile playing through 1984 and Easley 1987.
But Robinson, who spent all 12 seasons with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, retired in 1971 with 57 career interceptions after leading the AFL with 10 in 1966 and the NFL with 10 in 1970. Anderson broke in during Robinson's last season and when he retired in June of 1987 he was the NFL record-holder for the highest completion percentage in a game and a season as well as the all-time completion percentage leader in the postseason.
The always classy Anderson remained as steady as the unflinching technician who became the teacher's model for a generation of West Coast quarterbacks while winning four league passing titles and the 1981 MVP award.
"There's no question that Johnny Robinson is very deserving. To go to seven Pro Bowls and to be a big part of those great Chiefs teams, he certainly belongs," Anderson said. "I'm happy for him."
Robinson's nomination also boosts the argument of another senior Bengal. Cornerback Ken Riley, who played the most games in club history with 207, retired after 15 seasons in 1983 with the third most interceptions of all-time. His 65 career picks are still fifth on the list and everybody ahead of him is in the Hall, as is Ronnie Lott (63) and Dick LeBeau (62). Plus, Charles Woodson (65), eligible in 2021, and Ed Reed (64), eligible this year, are expected to be selected on the first ballot.
The Hall alternates the years for the senior and contributor categories. This year the seniors get one and the contributors get two and in 2020, the NFL's centennial season, the seniors get two and the contributors one.
"Two next year," said Anderson, forever optimistic. "That helps, too."