Looking back, some of the largest icons in NFL history are often the ones that can be overlooked. All franchises have had their fair share of historic players, but who were the best of the best? Here, we discuss the four most iconic players to step on the field. We begin our series with the Cincinnati Bengals:
Honorable Mentions: Geno Atkins, AJ Green, Chad Johnson
QB Ken Anderson (1971-86)
In 1971, the Cincinnati Bengals gambled on Anderson, who played out of Augustana, in the third round. He winded up representing the franchise for 16 seasons, and holds multiple franchise records. His totals include 32,838 passing yards and 170 touchdowns.
Anderson was nominated to four Pro Bowls and named to one All-Pro team throughout his tenure. During the 1981 season, he was honored as NFL MVP after maintaining a league-high 70.6% completion percentage. That year, the Bengals found themselves in the Super Bowl.
QB Boomer Esiason (1984-97)
Having spent 10 seasons with the Bengals, Esiason was the eventual heir to the quarterback position following Ken Anderson. Through the 1984-86 seasons, he compiled a starting record of 20-14 while 54 touchdowns.
Esiason was responsible for three Pro Bowl nominations while also being named the 1988 NFL MVP. In that season, he led the league in yards per attempt (9.2) and quarterback rating (97.4). For a team that struggled in this particular era of play, the Bengals had a bright spot at the quarterback position.
DB Ken Riley (1969-83)
To date, Riley is only one of 11 players in NFL history to have recorded 60+ interceptions. While Riley finished with a grand total of 65, he finished his career as one of the most dangerous defensive backs. In addition, he finished with 18 fumble recoveries.
As a sixth-round selection, Riley was an example of why late-round picks were crucial to a team’s success. Drafted out of Florida A&M, he made a total of 201 NFL starts. In his final season, he earned All-Pro honors.
OT Anthony Munoz (1980-92)
With the third overall selection in the 1980 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Anthony Munoz; perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the league. As an 11-time Pro Bowl talent, Munoz was additionally named to the 1980’s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary Team, and the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
Munoz was with Cincinnati during the team’s Super Bowl runs in both 1981 and 1988. In 1998, he was permitted into the NFL Hall of Fame. His impact with the Bengals was remarkable, as he is considered a legend.