For the first time in a quarter-of-a-century two Bengals are in the finals of the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting.
Willie Anderson, regarded by many as the best right tackle of the turn-of-the NFL century, joined senior finalist Ken Riley on the Jan. 17 ballot that determines the 2023 induction class when the list of the 15 modern era candidates was revealed Wednesday night.
Anderson made it to his second straight modern era finals among candidates who have played in the last 25 years. Riley, the 15-year cornerback who has the fifth most interceptions of all-time with 65, is one of three seniors from the category of players retired longer than 25 years. He was named a finalist late last year when he joined Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley and Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko.
Both Bengals Ring of Honor members have to receive 80 percent approval from the Hall's Board of Selectors, where Bengals.com has one of the 49 votes as the Cincinnati representative. In 13 days their cases are given during a Jan. 17 virtual meeting with a yes or no vote following each candidate's presentation. Up to five modern candidates can win induction. With the three senior finalists and a coach/contributor finalist in Don Coryell, up to nine new members could get in.
With the Bengals riding a seven-game winning streak and a win away from securing their first ever back-to-back division titles and two from their best record ever, they are also courting their first Hall-of-Fame selections since 1998.
Eleven-time All-Pro left tackle Anthony Munoz, a first-ballot selection, is the only Bengal who played most of his career in Cincinnati enshrined in Canton. He was on the finals ballot with Super Bowl XVI teammate Ken Anderson, a four-time NFL passing champion. Anderson made this year's senior finals of 12.
With All Pro selections from 2004-2006, Willie Anderson became the first right tackle since the 1970s to win three straight All-Pros, joining Hall-of-Famers Dan Dierdorf, Ron Yary and Rayfield Wright. Pro Football Focus rates Anderson the best pass protector of the last 20 years, ahead of Joe Thomas, Andrew Whitworth, Tyron Smith, David Bakhtiari and Trent Williams.
Thomas, the former Browns left tackle, is the only other offensive lineman besides Willie Anderson on the modern era ballot. Thomas, a six-time All-Pro in 11 seasons, is on the ballot for the first time after retiring five years ago after the 2017 season. Same with former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, a four-time All-Pro, and Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, a three-time All-Pro with 125.5 career sacks, 26th all-time.