|Established May 23, 1967|
First season: 1968
Play in and headquartered in Paul Brown Stadium
|Team colors||Black, orange, white|
|Fight song||Bengals Growl|
|Mascot||Bengal tiger (Who Dey)|
|Head coach||Zac Taylor|
|General manager||Mike Brown|
|League championships (0)|
|Conference championships (2)|
|Division championships (9)|
|Playoff appearances (14)|
The Cincinnati Bengals are a professional American football franchise based in Cincinnati. The Bengals compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) North division. The club's home stadium is Paul Brown Stadium, located in downtown Cincinnati. Cincinnati's main divisional opponents are the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals were founded in 1966 as a member of the American Football League (AFL) by former Cleveland Browns head coach Paul Brown, and began play in the 1968 season. Brown was the Bengals' head coach from their inception to 1975. After being dismissed as the Browns' head coach by Art Modell (who had purchased majority interest in the team in 1961) in January 1963, Brown had shown interest in establishing another NFL franchise in Ohio and looked at both Cincinnati and Columbus. He ultimately chose the former when a deal between the city, Hamilton County, and Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds (who were seeking a replacement for the obsolete Crosley Field) was struck that resulted in an agreement to build a multipurpose stadium which could host both baseball and football games.
Due to the impending merger of the AFL and the NFL, which was scheduled to take full effect in the 1970 season, Brown agreed to join the AFL as its tenth and final franchise. The Bengals, like the other former AFL teams, were assigned to the AFC following the merger. Cincinnati was also selected because, like their neighbors the Reds, they could draw from several large neighboring cities (Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield, Ohio) that are all no more than 110 miles (180 km) away from downtown Cincinnati, along with Indianapolis, until the Baltimore Colts relocated there prior to the 1984 NFL season.
The Bengals won the AFC championship in 1981 and 1988, but lost Super Bowls XVI and XXIII to the San Francisco 49ers. After Paul Brown's death in 1991, controlling interest in the team was inherited by his son, Mike Brown. In 2011, Brown purchased shares of the team owned by the estate of co-founder Austin Knowlton and is now the majority owner of the Bengals franchise.
The 1990s and the 2000s were a period of great struggle. Following the 1990 season, the team went 14 years without posting a winning record, nor qualifying to play in the NFL playoffs. The Bengals had several head coaches and several of their top draft picks did not pan out. Mike Brown, the team's de facto general manager, was rated as among the worst team owners in American professional sports. The team's fortunes improved in the mid-2000s, which saw them become more consistent postseason contenders, but they have continued to struggle past the regular season and have not won a playoff game since 1990, which is the longest active drought in the NFL.
The Bengals are one of 12 NFL teams to not have won a Super Bowl and one of five to have not won a championship, pre or post-Super Bowl era. They are also the only AFL franchise to have not won a championship in the AFL or NFL.
History of the Cincinnati Bengals
In 1967, an ownership group led by Paul Brown was granted a franchise in the American Football League. Brown named the team the Bengals in order "to give it a link with past professional football in Cincinnati". Another Cincinnati Bengals team had existed in the city and played in three previous American Football Leagues from 1937 to 1942. The city's world-renowned zoo was also home to a rare white Bengal tiger. However, possibly as an insult to Art Modell, or possibly as a homage to his own start as a head coach to the Massillon Tigers, Brown chose the exact shade of orange used by his former team. He added black as the secondary color. Brown chose a very simple logo: the word "BENGALS" in black lettering. One of the potential helmet designs Brown rejected was a striped motif that was similar to the helmets adopted by the team in 1981 and which is still in use; however, that design featured yellow stripes on a turquoise helmet which were more uniform in width. The Bengals would begin play in the 1968 season.
In 1966, the American Football League agreed to a merger with its older and more established rival, the National Football League. Among the terms of the merger was that the AFL was permitted to add one additional franchise. One of the reasons the NFL agreed to this was that they wanted an even number of clubs in the merged league, so a team needed to be added that brought the combined total number clubs in the merged league to twenty-six teams. The NFL was content for that team to be in the American Football League because it meant that the existing nine AFL clubs were the ones that had to provide players in the ensuing expansion draft and the NFL owners preferred for the ensuing dilution of talent to occur in what they had always considered to be an inferior league. For the AFL, a key motive behind their agreement to accept a new team was that the guarantee of an eventual place in the NFL meant the league could charge a steep expansion fee of $10 million–400 times the $25,000 the original eight owners paid when they founded the league in 1960. The cash from the new team provided the American Football League with the funds needed to pay the indemnities required to be paid by the AFL to the NFL, as stipulated by the merger agreement.
Prior to the merger's announcement, Brown had not seriously considered joining the American Football League, and was not a supporter of what he openly regarded to be an inferior competition, once famously stating that "I didn't pay ten million dollars to be in the AFL." However, with the announcement of the merger, Brown realized that the AFL expansion franchise would likely be his only realistic path back into the NFL in the short to medium term, and ultimately acquiesced to joining the AFL after learning that the team was guaranteed to become an NFL franchise after the merger was completed in 1970.
There was also a complication: Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds were in need of a facility to replace the antiquated, obsolete Crosley Field, which they had used since 1912. Parking nightmares had plagued the city as far back as the 1950s, the little park lacked modern amenities, and New York City, which in 1957 had lost both its National League teams (the Dodgers and the Giants) to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, was actively courting Reds owner Powel Crosley. However, Crosley was adamant that the Reds remain in Cincinnati and tolerated worsening problems with the Crosley Field location, which were exacerbated by the Mill Creek Expressway (I-75) project that ran alongside the park. With assistance from Ohio governor James A. Rhodes, Hamilton County and the Cincinnati city council agreed to build a single multi-purpose facility on the dilapidated riverfront section of the city. The new facility had to be ready by the opening of the 1970 NFL season and was officially named Riverfront Stadium. With the completion of the merger in 1970, the Cleveland Browns were one of three NFL teams that voluntarily moved to the AFL-based American Football Conference to give both conferences an equal number of teams and placed in the AFC Central, the same division as the Bengals. An instant rivalry was born, fueled initially by Paul Brown's rivalry with Art Modell.
For their first two seasons, the Bengals played at Nippert Stadium which is the current home of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. The team held training camp at Wilmington College in Wilmington, through the 1968 preseason. The team finished its first season with a 3–11 record and running back Paul Robinson, who rushed for 1,023 yards, and was named the AFL Rookie of the Year.
Founder Paul Brown coached the team for its first eight seasons. One of Brown's college draft strategies was to draft players with above-average intelligence. Punter/wide receiver Pat McInally attended Harvard University and linebacker Reggie Williams attended Dartmouth College and served on Cincinnati city council while on the Bengals' roster. Because of this policy, many former players were highly articulate and went on to have successful careers in commentary and broadcasting as well as the arts. In addition, Brown had a knack for locating and recognizing pro football talent in unusual places.
In 1970, the Bengals moved to play at Riverfront Stadium, a home they shared with the Cincinnati Reds until the team moved to Paul Brown Stadium in 2000. The team reached the playoffs three times during that decade, but could not win any of those postseason games. In 1975, the team posted an 11–3 record, giving them what is to this day the highest winning percentage (.786) in franchise history. But it only earned them a wild card spot in the playoffs, behind the 12–2 Pittsburgh Steelers, who went on to win the Super Bowl. The Bengals lost to the Oakland Raiders 31–28 in the divisional playoffs.
The Bengals reached the Super Bowl twice during the 1980s, in Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXIII, but lost both times to the San Francisco 49ers. The team appeared in the playoffs in 1990, making it to the second round before losing to the Los Angeles Raiders. Before the following season got underway, Paul Brown died at age 82. He had already transferred control to his son, Mike Brown, but was reported to still influence the daily operations of the team. The Bengals' fortunes changed for the worse as the team posted 14 consecutive non-winning seasons and were saddled with numerous draft busts. They began to emerge from that dismal period into a new era of increased consistency, however, after the team finished with its worst record in history, 2–14, which led to the hiring of Marvin Lewis as head coach in 2003. Carson Palmer, the future star quarterback, was drafted in 2003, but did not play a snap that whole season, as Jon Kitna had a comeback year (voted NFL Comeback Player of the Year). Despite Kitna's success, Palmer was promoted to starting quarterback the following season. Under Palmer, the team advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1990 in the 2005 season, which also was the first time the team had a winning percentage above .500 since 1990.
The Bengals returned to the playoffs again in 2009 in a season that included the franchise's first ever division sweep. This was especially impressive since two of the teams swept by the Bengals (the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens) had both made it to the AFC Championship Game the previous season. Marvin Lewis was rewarded for the accomplishment with the NFL Coach of the Year Award. In the 2010 season, the Bengals posted a 4–12 record.
Following the disappointing 2010 season, quarterback Carson Palmer demanded to be traded. When the Bengals refused to do so, Palmer announced his retirement from the NFL. He later was moved at the NFL trade deadline to the Oakland Raiders. In the 2011 NFL draft, the Bengals selected wide receiver AJ Green in the first round, and quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round. The Bengals improved to 9–7 in the 2011 season, and clinched a playoff spot. Dalton and Green became the most prolific rookie WR-QB duo in history, connecting 65 times for 1,057 yards. However, they lost to the Houston Texans 31–10 in the Wild Card Round. In the 2012 season, the Bengals clinched a playoff spot once more with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, going to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1982. However, the Bengals faced the Texans in the first round yet again and took another early exit, losing 19–13.
In the 2013 season, for the third straight year, the Bengals clinched a playoff berth and also won the AFC North, finishing with an 11–5 record. But once again, the Bengals were defeated in the wild card round, this time by the San Diego Chargers, 27–10. Most of the blame was put on Andy Dalton, who threw 2 interceptions and fumbled on a forward dive. This made the Bengals 0–5 in playoff games since Mike Brown took over as owner. The 2014 season started well with the Bengals winning their first three contests against the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Tennessee Titans. However, they lost their week 5 matchup at the New England Patriots, 43–17. An overtime tie to the Carolina Panthers and shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts followed the primetime loss to the Patriots. Finishing the season 10–5–1 as the 5th seed, they lost to the Colts, 26–10, in the first round of the playoffs. This was the first time the franchise made the playoffs four straight seasons.
In 2015, the Bengals got out to a franchise-best 8–0 start with a 31–10 win over the Cleveland Browns, but they then lost multiple consecutive games yet clinched a playoff berth. However, they lost to the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, 18–16, in the Wild Card round in the final minute, making them the first franchise in NFL history to lose five straight opening round playoff games. This frustration continued in 2016 for the Bengals. The Bengals finished the 2016 campaign with a 6–9–1 record, losing several key players to injury including AJ Green, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, marking the first time Andy Dalton missed the playoffs as the Bengals' starting quarterback. One notable game was a 27–27 tie against the Washington Redskins which was played in London in 2016.
Following a rough 2016 season, the Bengals looked forward into 2017. However, after starting 0–3, the Bengals never found their footing. At one point in the season, the Bengals were 5–9. There were rumors that Marvin Lewis would not return for the next season as the Bengals' head coach. However, after two come-from-behind victories over the Lions and Ravens, that eliminated both teams from the playoffs, the Bengals finished 7–9. The final two games were convincing enough for owner Mike Brown to give Lewis a new two-year contract.
The 2018 campaign began with promise for the Bengals under Lewis. Cincinnati began the season with a 4–1 record with impressive wins over the Colts, Ravens, Falcons, and the Dolphins. However, the Bengals suffered many setbacks after the hot start. Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin was fired mid-season because of defensive woes, AJ Green was injured and officially out for the last 4 games, and Andy Dalton injured his thumb in the Bengals' first game against the Browns and replaced by Jeff Driskel for the rest of the season. The Bengals ended 2018 with a final record of 6-10 and last place in the AFC North. On December 31, 2018, with one year to go on his contract, Lewis and the Bengals mutually parted ways after three straight losing seasons under his watch.
With Zac Taylor assuming the head coaching mantle, the 2019 campaign started off with reasonable success, barely losing to Seattle 21–20 in CenturyLink Field, but what started with promise, ended in disaster. The Bengals then lost 10 more games and were 0-11 heading into December 2019. To open the month of December, they got their first win against the Jets 22–6 in Cincinnati. They eventually lost to the Patriots and lost to the Dolphins 38–35 in OT after Dalton led the team back from 23 points down in the fourth quarter. With the loss to the Dolphins, the Bengals officially clinched the #1 Overall Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They'd cap off the season with a win against the underperforming Cleveland Browns, finishing 2-14, equaling the 2002 season as the team's worst record in history.
Logos and uniforms
When the team debuted in 1968, the Bengals' uniforms were modeled after the Cleveland Browns. When Paul Brown was fired by Art Modell, Brown still owned the equipment used by Cleveland so, after the firing, Paul Brown packed up all his equipment which he then used for his new team in Cincinnati. The Cleveland Browns' team colors were brown, orange, and white, and their helmets were solid orange with a white dorsal stripe over the crest.
The Bengals' team colors were orange, black, and white, and their helmets were a similar shade of orange, with the only variations being the word "Bengals" in black block letters (with a white outline) on either side of the helmet and no stripe on the helmet. The Cincinnati Bengals were unique in the NFL as they did not have secondary uniform numbers on the jerseys (called TV numbers) until they appeared on the sleeves in the 1980 season; they were the only NFL team that did not have TV numbers prior to that point. That same year, the team changed their helmet facemask color from gray to black. The team did not discard their Cleveland-like uniforms until 1981. During that year, a then-unique uniform design was introduced. Although the team kept black jerseys, white jerseys, and white pants, they were now trimmed with orange and black tiger stripes. The team also introduced the orange helmets with black tiger stripes that are still in use today.
In 1997, the Bengals designed a logo consisting of a leaping tiger, and it was added to the uniform sleeves (with this, the TV numbers moved to the shoulder). Another alternate logo consisted of a Bengal's head facing to the left. However, the orange helmet with black tiger stripes continued to be the trademark. In 2004, a new tiger stripe pattern and more accents were added to the uniforms. The black jerseys now featured orange tiger-striped sleeves and white side panels, while the white jerseys began to use black tiger-striped sleeves and orange shoulders. A new logo consisting of an orange "B" covered with black tiger stripes was introduced. The team also started rotating black pants and debuted an alternate orange jersey, with white side panels and black tiger-striped sleeves. The Bengals have worn their black uniforms at home throughout their history, with some exceptions such as the 1970 season when the Bengals wore white at home for the entire season, and most of the 1971 season. Since 2005, the Bengals wear white for September home games where the heat could become a factor.
In 2016, the Bengals unveiled their all-white Color Rush alternate uniform, featuring black tiger stripes along the sleeves and pants. Orange was only used on the Nike mark, on the team logo, and as an outline color on the player's name.
The team's official mascot is a Bengal tiger named Who Dey. Aside from Who Dey, the team also has the Cincinnati Ben–Gals, the team's cheerleading squad, which included Laura Vikmanis, the oldest cheerleader in league history.
Contributions to NFL culture
A no-huddle offense was commonly used by all teams when time in the game was running low. However, Sam Wyche, the head coach of the Bengals in 1988, along with offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet, made the high-paced offense the standard modality for the ball club regardless of time remaining. By quickly substituting and setting up for the next play—often within 5–10 seconds after the last play despite being afforded 45 seconds—the Bengals hindered the other team's defense from substituting situational players, regrouping for tactical purpose, and resting. In response the NFL instituted rules allowing the defense ample time for substitutions when offensive substitutions were made. The hurry-up tactic was used by the franchise during the late 1980s while Sam Wyche was the coach. A rival for AFC supremacy during this time was the Buffalo Bills, coached by Marv Levy, who also used a version of the no-huddle offense starting with the 1989 season. The Bengals had beaten the Bills three times in 1988 (pre-season, regular season, and the AFC Championship Game). Marv Levy threatened to fake injuries if the Bengals used the "no-huddle" in the AFC Championship. Wyche was notified that the commissioner had ordered the "no-huddle" illegal for the game. The official notified Wyche and the Bengals' team just two hours before the game kickoff. Wyche asked to talk directly to the commissioner and word immediately came back that the "no-huddle" would not be penalized. Levy did not have his players fake injuries in the game, but installed his version the next year, 1989. The Bengals first used the "no-huddle" in 1984. Most of the high-profile games (the various games for AFC titles and regular season games) between the two led to these changes in NFL rules. Wyche also first used the timeout periods as an opportunity to bring his entire team to the sideline to talk to all eleven players, plus substitutes, at one time. This allowed trainers time to treat a cut or bruise and equipment managers time to repair an equipment defect.
West Coast offense
The West Coast offense is the popular name for the high-percentage passing scheme designed by former Bengals assistant Bill Walsh. Walsh formulated what has become popularly known as the West Coast offense during his tenure as assistant coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975, while working under the tutelage of Brown (and before embarking on his legendary coaching tenure with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s). Bengals quarterback Virgil Carter was the first player to successfully implement Walsh's system, leading the NFL in pass completion percentage in 1971. Ken Anderson replaced Carter as Cincinnati's starting quarterback in 1972 and was even more successful. In 1975 he would bring widespread recognition to the West Coast offense as well as to the Cincinnati team and its quarterback in a nationally televised Monday night contest between the Bengals and a Buffalo Bills team built around the running game of star player O.J. Simpson. Anderson's 447 passing yards were enough to overcome Simpson's 197 yards on the ground in a game that proved a milestone, providing a striking contrast between the "old" game of defense-minded football and the new game of higher scores and more action through a sophisticated aerial attack. The game, in effect, offered its viewers a glimpse of the future of professional football. Anderson, who was drafted by Paul Brown in 1971 and installed as starting quarterback in 1972, made four trips to the Pro Bowl, won four passing titles, was named NFL MVP in 1981, and set the record for completion percentage in a single season in 1982 with 70.66%. Defeated frequently during the 1970s by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that won four Super Bowls with 9 future Hall of Fame players, the Bengals under Anderson and head coach Forrest Gregg would finally break through the Steel Curtain, defeating the Steelers during both of their meetings in 1980 and again in 1981. Anderson, who had been named the "team franchise" by Bengal tight end Bob Trumpy, would ultimately prove his worth with a career record of 91 wins and 81 losses.
The defense created to combat the West Coast offense also came from Cincinnati. Then-Bengals defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (who later served as the team's head coach from 2000 to 2002) created the zone blitz in the 1980s in response to the West Coast offense.
Players of note
|Cincinnati Bengals retired numbers|
|54||Bob Johnson||C||1968–79||December 17, 1978|
Pro Football Hall of Fame members
Three members of the Hall of Fame have spent some portion of their career with the Bengals, but only Anthony Muñoz spent his entire career with the Bengals. Bengals founder and former coach Paul Brown is also in the Hall of Fame, but he was inducted before founding the Bengals and therefore is not recognized as a Bengals Hall of Famer.
|Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Famers|
Cincinnati Bengals individual awards
40th anniversary team
In 2007, in celebration of their 40th anniversary the Bengals named an all-time team voted on by the fans. Bold indicates those elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
|Carson Palmer||QB||Justin Smith||DE|
|James Brooks||RB||Ross Browner||DE|
|Ickey Woods||FB||Tim Krumrie||DT|
|Chad Johnson||WR||Mike Reid||DT|
|T. J. Houshmandzadeh||WR||Reggie Williams||LB|
|Dan Ross||TE||Takeo Spikes||LB|
|Anthony Muñoz||T||Brian Simmons||LB|
|Willie Anderson||T||Ken Riley||CB|
|Max Montoya||G||Lemar Parrish||CB|
|Dave Lapham||G||David Fulcher||S|
|Rich Braham||C||Solomon Wilcots||S|
|Shayne Graham (K), Lee Johnson (P)|
50th anniversary team
|Forrest Gregg, Sam Wyche|
|Boomer Esiason/Ken Anderson||QB||Eddie Edwards||DE|
|Corey Dillon||RB||Coy Bacon||DE|
|Pete Johnson||FB||Tim Krumrie||DT|
|Chad Johnson||WR||Mike Reid||DT|
|Isaac Curtis/Cris Collinsworth||WR||Reggie Williams||LB|
|Bob Trumpy||TE||Bill Bergey||LB|
|Anthony Muñoz||T||Jim LeClair||LB|
|Willie Anderson||T||Ken Riley||CB|
|Max Montoya||G||Lemar Parrish||CB|
|Dave Lapham||G||David Fulcher||S|
|Bob Johnson||C||Tommy Casanova||S|
|Jim Breech (K), Pat McInally (P)|
Ring of Honor
The Bengals announced they would begin a Ring of Honor on April 8, 2021. The inaugural class included Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Muñoz and founder/first coach Paul Brown, with more names to be added at a later date.
|Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame|
|Bengals Ring of Honor|
Radio and television
The Bengals contract with iHeartMedia as their radio partner, with their flagship radio stations being WCKY (1530) and WEBN (102.7 FM), along with WLW (700) if not in conflict with the Reds. Most preseason and regular season games, are telecast on CBS affiliate WKRC-TV (channel 12). The current TV announcers for preseason games are Dan Hoard on play-by-play, and Dave Lapham as analyst.
"Who Dey?!" is the name of a chant of support by fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, in use since the 1980s. The entire chant is: "Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?" The answer screamed in unison, "Nobody." Sometimes fans will instead shout "Who Dey?" to represent the entire cheer. "Who Dey" is also the name of the team's mascot, a Bengal tiger.
The Who Dey chant was first known to be used by fans of the 1980 Cincinnati Bengals. While the origins of the chant is disputed, one possible source for the chant is a 1980 commercial for (the now-defunct) Red Frazier Ford of Cincinnati, which used this tagline: "Who's going to give you a better deal than Red Frazier?...Nobody!" Cincinnati fans who had seen the commercial many times may have just copied it when cheering.
The Who Dey chant is also steeped in local beer lore. Hudy, a leading product of Hudepohl Brewing Company through the late 1980s, bears a phonetic similarity to the "Who Dey" chant. Beer vendors who carried full cases of bottled local beer up and down the steep upper stairs of what was then Riverfront Stadium would call out "If Hudy", "Berger" and other local beer names. Raucous fans would often chant back and forth with them as the vendors called out. During the 1980 season the banter with the Hudepohl vendors grew organically into the now famous (Hu-Dey) -Who They?- chant.
The chant bears some similarities to the phrase "Who Dat?", which was officially adopted by the New Orleans Saints in 1983 but had been used by Louisiana's high school team fans for some time. The saying "Who Dat?" originated in minstrel shows and vaudeville acts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, then it was taken up by New Orleans Jazz and various Big band folks in the 1920s and 1930s. In the late 1960s, local Louisiana High Schools, St. Augustine High School and Patterson High School reportedly have been using the cheer and Gulf Coast fans of Alcorn State University and Louisiana State University picked up the cheer in the 1970s. Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana claims to have originated the cheer in the late 1960s in their version: "Who dat talking 'bout beating dem Jags?"
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