The hold that 1988 team still grips on Bengaldom is stronger than any record and proof is in the first returns of the fans' vote for this year's Bengals.com Hall of Fame.
Balloting continues into the week of the first preseason game, which is Aug. 10 at home against the Jets, as fans sift through the ballot of 30 to narrow the field to 10 finalists.
The current top five vote-getters are all key figures on those AFC champions that led the NFL in offense while the defense gave up just 43 points in three playoff games.
Running back James Brooks appears on 70.1 percent of the first 4,500 ballots and the man who used him with such devastating run-pass versatility, head coach Sam Wyche, is right behind at 69.1.
Three-time Pro Bowl right guard Max Montoya, who helped the Bengals lead the NFL in rushing, is third at 66.9, and revolutionary safety David Fulcher checked in at 61.5. Jim Breech, the club's all-time leading scorer who kicked three field goals in Super Bowl XXII and was the game's MVP until 34 seconds left, is in fifth place at 58.1.
They finished ahead of cornerback Lemar Parrish, who has a team-record six defensive Pro Bowls, and all-time leading rusher Corey Dillon. Parrish, who last played for the Bengals 35 years ago, is sixth on 51 percent of the ballots. Dillon, who never played in a playoff game while gaining 4.3 yards per carry from 1997-2003, is seventh at 49.7.
The top 10 is rounded out by the other Super Bowl head coach, Forrest Gregg (48.7), four-time Pro Bowl tight end Bob Trumpy, a member of the inaugural Bengals of 1968 (47.5) and two-time Super Bowl linebacker Reggie Williams (41.9).
In his first appearance on the Hall ballot, center Rich Braham pulled 33.5 percent for a strong 12th-place finish behind running back Pete Johnson's 37.5 and ahead of wide receiver Carl Pickens's 32.3.
The other first-timer, Brian Simmons, appeared on 14.5 percent of the ballots in a group with two of his linebacker ancestors, Bill Bergey at 16.7 and Jim LeClair at 15.4.
Fans must vote for 10 in the cut to the 10 finalists. When the voting moves into the finals for the month leading up to the Sept. 16 Paul Brown Stadium opener against the Browns, the vote is for three to select the three new Hall of Famers.
Brooks, who went to four Pro Bowls in his eight seasons with the Bengals following the 1984 trade with San Diego for Pete Johnson, was the most versatile player on that '88 offense that was known for versatility in Wyche's relentless no-huddle scheme.
In that season Brooks rushed for 931 yards and eight TDs on 5.1 yards per carry while catching 29 balls for six TDs. He's not only the club's second all-time rushing leader, but he's 11th on the all-time receiving list with 297 catches and ahead of such wide receivers as Tim McGee, Peter Warrick and Chip Myers.
The '88 team already has half of the eight-member Bengals.com Hall: Left tackle Anthony Muñoz, quarterback Boomer Esiason, wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, and nose tackle Tim Krumrie.
MAYS WATCHING: Head coach Marvin Lewis has been saying the safety spot opposite Reggie Nelson is up for grabs but third-year player Taylor Mays figures to be No. 1 on the depth chart when camp starts in seven days.
At 231 pounds Mays is the biggest and fastest safety the Bengals have had since, well, Fulcher. Long time ago. Mays was born in '88 and ever since, it seems, people have been waiting for him to weave his enormous God-given physical skills with football.
And it sounds like he's sick of waiting for it, too. After a workout earlier this week at the Ignition gym, he admitted he's just not impressed with the numbers he keeps putting up. He set the gym standard on the self-propelled treadmill at 15 miles per hour and he shrugged after he led an NFL group of players on Tuesday at 14.1.
"I know physically I'll be OK," he said. "I'm just looking forward to the chance to make some plays. Yeah, I'm trying to mesh the physical and the mental."
Even though the DBs have had to adjust to two new coaches in secondary coach Mark Carrier and assistant Hue Jackson during the spring, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer made his name coaching defensive backs and he brings the constant. With the trade that brought him from San Francisco in late August last year, Mays is the defensive version of tight end Jermaine Gresham in dealing with a truncated training camp that was his second system in his second year in the league.
"I'm taking the things I learned from Mark, Hue and Zim and put them all together mentally and physically," Mays said. "That's a lot of technique. The consistency of the technique is the biggest thing for me. The technique hasn't changed, but Coach Zimmer is very detailed in what he wants. Having that consistency and being able to repeat it all the time, that's really what I'm trying to do going into training camp."
The Bengals have been trying to match the Pro Bowl playmaking safeties of their biggest rivals for the past decade. Baltimore's Ed Reed arrived in 2002 and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu came the next year. Mays went to USC a few years after Polamalu and has had an occasion to talk to him about the position, but it's not as easy as it sounds.
"Troy's very quiet and humble, but he's got a lot of fire at the same time. His way is not to vocalize it but show you," Mays said. "He's one of the best examples to watch just because of the way he prepares. It's kind of hard to watch (tape of him) because you never know what he's really thinking in his head before he makes the play or what defense they're playing.
"But in terms of understanding their knowledge of the game, the Ed Reeds, those are the guys you want to watch to see what they see and apply it to my game."
Before they left for the summer, Mays and another USC product, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, were inseparable during the spring, particularly in the weight room.
"I like that team; they push each other," said strength coach Chip Morton. "They're the same kind of guy. They're good-natured, they like to laugh and they're personable, but at the same time they're both very serious-minded about their craft. And they came out of a very serious and intense environment in college."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» One of Lewis's strengths is knowing what makes each player tick. He should give a course in assigning roommates.
As he broke down where to put guys at the Millennium Hotel for camp, he's got two simple criteria: Don't room together guys that are vying for the same position or that are going against each other physically every day.
While he watched wide receiver A.J. Green emerge as a position leader during the spring, Lewis saw quarterback Andy Dalton do much of the same thing while doing the same things.
"Andy has continued to be Andy, which is a good thing," Lewis said. "Which means he's always moving forward because I think that's the greatest quality he has. He's always moving forward. He's not a very complacent person. He's always trying to get better. He's always getting better."
» After three years of what you would have to say he hasn't been able to impress the coaches enough to get more playing time to match his abilities, running back Bernard Scott came back this year vowing to be more of a student of the game and he impressed Lewis the way he responded to the veteran acquisitions of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Aaron Brown.
"When BenJarvus and Aaron came in, you saw our backfield guys that were already here pick it up," Lewis said. "Particularly Bernard. Brian Leonard is always going to be a great pro in how he goes about things and that's how Bernard approached his job day-to-day. That's a critical point."
» With the single-game tickets for Pittsburgh and Dallas exhausted, here's a hunch that the next game likely to sell out is Nov. 25 against the Raiders and old friend Carson Palmer.