Posted: 2:15 p.m.
It has long been known as a quarterback's franchise, so there can really be no surprise that the leaders of the club's two Super Bowl teams finished 1-2 in the first phase of voting for the inaugural Bengals,com Virtual Hall of Fame class.
And don't forget Sam Wyche, head coach of the 1988 AFC Conference champions who led five of his players in fan voting that cut a ballot of 32 to 10 finalists during the month of February.
Wyche, a backup quarterback on the original 1968 Bengals who scored the first Riverfront Stadium touchdown, finished eighth with 51 percent of the vote.
Bengals all-time passer Ken Anderson and the man who chases him in the club record book and duplicated his feat as NFL MVP, Boomer Esiason, led the way in 10,492 online ballots.
|**Player**||**Votes**||**Percent of Ballots**|
Anderson appeared on 9,785 ballots for 93.3 percent and a 1,436-vote margin over Esiason and 1,716 over his favorite receiver, third-place finisher Isaac Curtis.
Esiason and Wyche have two-decade long coat tails with their Super Bowl team still having a deep hold on the fan base. Five of Esiason's teammates and his head coach made a top 10 that will face voters some time in April for the final selection to three.
"I see I've got some campaigning to do," Wyche said Monday with his customary wit. "The head coach of that team held it all together. He shouldn't be in eighth place. He should be in fourth."
Two of Esiason's weapons, running back James Brooks and wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, finished sixth and seventh, respectively, and were followed by Wyche, the guru that unleashed them in the no-huddle that led the NFL in yards that season.
Nose tackle Tim Krumrie, who scrapped like a safety, and David Fulcher, who roamed safety like a nose tackle, made the cut from a defense that held Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Joe Montana to a combined three touchdowns in the AFC title game and Super Bowl XXIII following that 12-4 season in 1988.
Six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lemar Parrish made the 10th spot, 54 votes in front of two-time Super Bowl guard Max Montoya and 100 votes ahead of all-time scorer Jim Breech.
Cornerback Ken Riley, who played the most seasons of any Bengals defender with 15 while compiling the fifth-most interceptions in NFL history, finished fifth with 6,844 votes by appearing on 65.2 percent of the ballots.
Wyche can joke, but he can get some serious votes. Last November in South Carolina he won a seat on the Pickens County Council as a Republican and then in one of his vintage anti-establishment moves that marked his eight years as Bengals head coach he switched to an Independent.
The no-huddle rattled the foundation of the sport and tweaked the party traditionalists while vaulting the Bengals to a top five finish in NFL offense during Wyche's first six seasons as head coach.
"The no-huddle gave us an advantage because no one else was doing it," Wyche said. "And we had the personnel, let's face it. We had a smart, talented quarterback."
The Bengals plucked Esiason in the second round in the 1984 draft, Wyche's first as coach, when then assistant general manager Mike Brown identified Esiason as Anderson's replacement after the USFL blew up his deal with Steve Young.
"Nobody said they didn't want Boomer," Wyche said. "But Mike was adamant about getting him. I remember him writing down on a sheet of paper that after it was all over this is the guy we had to get."
And there was Brooks, who arrived a month later in a trade for Pete Johnson with San Diego.
"And you had the perfect West Coast offense back in James Brooks. That's why you could go no-huddle on third down because J.B. could play running back or wide receiver and Rodney Holman could line up as a tight end or wide receiver," Wyche said. "Then we started saying, 'Why should we just do it on third down?' And we started doing it every snap."
And Wyche agrees it is fitting that the man that anchored it all, Munoz at left tackle, is already in.
"In the eight years I was there, we had the best offensive line over that period of time," Wyche said. "We were big, we were smart, we could move, and we were coached by Jim McNally, the patriarch of offensive line coaches."
Wyche has always graciously said if the offensive coaching staff was on the cutting edge, so was the staff of the much-maligned defense. They played more than well enough to win the Super Bowl under coordinator Dick LeBeau after a season they finished 15th in the league.
"Timmy never should have been able to run sideline to sideline. But he did, and he did it on pure heart," Wyche said. "David was the first of the big safeties and yeah, that made us strong up the middle, but we had clever linebackers and we were able to do things with all those guys by lining guys up in two-point stances and dropping them and rushing other guys."
Wyche spoke of the zone blitz, which LeBeau has used to help the Steelers win two of the last four Super Bowls. It sounds like LeBeau had the same rope then that he has 20 years later under Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
"I'd listen in, of course, and knew what was going on," Wyche said. "But Dick did the game plan and would call the plays during the game.
"I don't think they ever got as much credit because the offense was ranked so high and people would rather write about scoring touchdowns than making game-saving tackles."
While the voting honors one of the greatest Bengals teams of all-time, it also reflects the difficulty several of the older players face when it comes to getting recognition so long after they played. Only four of the top 10 played before the '80s and while Wyche was a member of the Baby Bengals he made the ballot because of his coaching.
(His greatest day on the field, no doubt, came at the dawn of the '70s when Wyche engineered an upset of the Raiders of Daryle Lamonica and John Madden in Riverfront's first game on Sept. 20, 1970.)
Look what happened to the men considered to be the Bengals' greatest defensive lineman and linebacker of all time. Tackle Mike Reid received 10.8 percent of the vote in 23rd place, barely ahead of linebacker Bill Bergey's 10.6.
Of the 14 players receiving 15 percent of the vote or less, 10 had Bengals careers that started in the '60s or '70s.
But Wyche, 63, is keeping it all very current. One of the reasons he's so popular in Cincinnati is that he immersed himself in the community and became identified with helping the homeless during his tenure.
He's on the Pickens County Meals on Wheels Board and Monday found him dropping off 80 some blankets to be delivered with that day's meals. Then he made a quick stop to meet visiting South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer before going home to get ready to host for dinner his center with the Bengals, Bob Johnson, one of those pre-80s candidates that got 15.1 percent of the vote.
In between, Wyche will discuss his stimulus package he presented to the council last week. He has come up with a debit card-like plan in which consumers put $200 in a checking account and the county puts up $100 so that they can spend $300 within the county.
"The money probably stays one more cycle in the county before it leaves, but it can make it grow," Wyche said.
Which means he just may come up with something to break into the top three.