The Bengals made Ohioans proud and shocked the NFL world in 2021-22 by winning the AFC North and plowing their way to Super Bowl 56. They ultimately fell to the Rams, 23-20, but restored faith in the franchise in the process. Prior to last season, the Bengals’ most recent trip to the Super Bowl was in 1988, and their most recent playoff victory was in 1990.
The team received sparkling contributions from obvious sources such as second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and first-year wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. However, the defense stepped up in big ways throughout the postseason run as well. It might not be long before several of today’s Bengals are considered among the franchise’s best.
The top 5 Bengals of all time is a list that will be tough to crack, but Burrow and Chase, in particular, are on their way to adding their names.
Top 5 Cincinnati Bengals Players of All Time
5. Ken Riley, CB, 1969-1983
Riley spent his entire 15-year NFL career in Cincinnati, earning an All-Pro nod in his final season at the age of 36. He also earned a pair of second-team All-Pro inclusions. Riley played in a total of 207 games — starting 202 of them — and finished his career with a franchise-leading 65 interceptions, including eight in 1983, and five touchdowns. Riley played a big role during the Bengals’ 1981 run to the Super Bowl, starting all 16 regular season games and three postseason contests.
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4. Tim Krumrie, NT, 1983-1994
Krumrie anchored the Bengals defensive line during an era that required teams to contend with more committed ground attacks. Krumrie’s presence on the Bengals’ defensive front went a long way to their success in the 1980’s, particularly 1988 when the Bengals reached the Super Bowl and Krumrie was named an All-Pro. He played 12 seasons, all in Cincinnati, and finished with 34.5 sacks, 1,017 tackles, and 13 fumble recoveries.
3. Boomer Esiason, QB, 1984-1992
A pair of quarterbacks earned a spot on this list and Esiason is the first. Esiason’s best season in Cincinnati came in 1988. He led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl in eight years, earning MVP and All-Pro honors in the process. He tossed for 3,572 yards that season along with 28 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. And if Joe Montana hadn’t conducted what is arguably the most famous drive in NFL history, Esiason would’ve been credited with leading the Bengals to the franchise’s only Super Bowl.
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2. Ken Anderson, QB, 1971-1986
It’s Anderson, not Andy Dalton, who receives the nod here. Though Dalton’s raw passing numbers outpace both Anderson and Esiason, it’s necessary to adjust for the modern game’s increased reliance on passing. Anderson spent his entire career in Cincinnati and made 172 starts in total. Anderson enjoyed his best season in 1981 when he won MVP, earned a spot on the All-Pro team, and led the franchise to its first Super Bowl.
1. Anthony Munoz, LT, 1980-1992
The offensive line is where NFL glamor goes to die, yet that unit is arguably the most important on a football team, and Munoz anchored Cincinnati’s. He may not have a lot of easily citable statistics or viral highlight reels, but his play earned a bust in the NFL Hall of Fame. Munoz protected both Anderson and Esiason, playing a key role in the Bengals’ two Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s. If anyone knows what a poor offensive line can do to a team and quarterback, look no further than Bengals fans, who watched Burrow suffer a torn ACL in 2020 and endure 83 sacks across 26 regular-season starts since coming into the league.
Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire