Bengals Mythical Ring of Honor: Six legends become first class of inductees

James Rapien

The Bengals need a Ring of Honor. Ken Riley's passing is just the latest example of a player that should've been celebrated by the organization. Instead, most of the fan base didn't know who he was until he died. That has to change. 

The Bengals have had plenty of great players and coaches throughout the years. 

Last week when I wrote about the need for a Ring of Honor, many of you asked about the players and coaches that could potentially be included. 

This is the first of a two-part series that addresses who the Bengals should put in their mythical Ring of Honor. 

The first year would be all about honoring the legends. Which members of the organization had the biggest impact on the franchise? 

These are the first six figures that I would put in the Bengals' nonexistent Ring of Honor. Let's start with the man that brought professional football to Cincinnati. 

Paul Brown (1968-90 — coach/general manager/owner)

Brown not only founded the organization, but he also coached the team for eight seasons and constructed two teams that made Super Bowl runs as a general manager.

“He’s the greatest coach in the history of professional football, clear and simple," Bill Belichick said on NFL Network last year. "Everything I do today, Paul Brown did. It all started with Paul Brown. He took football from being a sport to a profession."

Brown helped the Bengals reach the playoffs in three of his eight seasons as head coach, which is an accomplishment considering they were an expansion team. He was the general manager when the Bengals picked multiple legends that are also on this list. 

Two Super Bowl appearances as a general manager would be enough to get into the Ring of Honor. Brown did so much more than that, bringing professional football to Cincinnati. No one is more deserving of this honor than him. 

Anthony Munoz (1980-92)

Munoz is the greatest player in the Bengals' history. He's the reason the organization should have a Ring of Honor. 

Munoz is a great representative of the Bengals' franchise. He was a nine-time All-Pro and is considered the best left tackle in NFL history. 

He was named to the NFL's all-decade team in the '80s. Cincinnati wouldn't have made two Super Bowl appearances without Munoz. He's the only Bengals player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Munoz was an 11-time Pro Bowler. He also had seven receptions and four touchdowns during his career. 

Ken Anderson (1971-1986)

The best quarterback in Bengals' history has to be in the Ring of Honor. Anderson should be in the Hall of Fame. He helped Cincinnati reach Super Bowl XVI and was named the 1981 NFL MVP. 

He spent all 16 seasons of his career in Cincinnati. Anderson led the NFL in passer rating four times. 

In 1982, he became the first quarterback in league history complete more than 70 percent (70.6) of his passes. It was an NFL record until 2009 and is still third in league history. 

Anderson may have been snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he gets his due by being part of the Bengals' first Ring of Honor class. 

Ken Riley (1969-1983)

Riley is arguably the greatest cornerback in team history. He played in the NFL for 15 seasons and finished with the fifth-most (65) interceptions in league history. 

Riley was a three-time All-Pro. He was named to the first-team All-Pro team in his final NFL season.

The Bengals took Riley in the sixth round (135th overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft. He was a college quarterback. Brown converted him to corner and the rest was history. 

Riley is another top candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He should get in, but if he doesn't — the Bengals could do their part by inducting him into their Ring of Honor. 

Boomer Esiason (1984-92, 1997)

If Anderson is the best quarterback in franchise history, then Esiason is second. The four-time Pro Bowler was named NFL MVP in 1988. He helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl XXIII. 

He didn't have the sustained success in Cincinnati that Anderson had, but it's more than enough to get into the Ring of Honor. 

He appeared in 134 games for the Bengals, posting a 62-61 record as a starter. He went 4-1 in 1997 — his final season in the NFL. 

Esiason posted a 3-2 record in the postseason, which is noteworthy considering the Bengals have a 5-14 record in the playoffs. 

Chad Johnson (2001-10)

Johnson made the Bengals cool again. He's arguably the greatest wide receiver in franchise history. 

Ochocinco was known for his unique touchdown celebrations. One time it was a Riverdance. Other times it was a simple bow to the crowd. 

Johnson talked the talk and he walked the walk during his 10 seasons with the Bengals. He has multiple franchise records including receptions (751), receiving yards (10,789) and touchdowns (66). 

Johnson gets the nod over Isaac Curtis. Some may not like his antics, but 'Ocho' helped the Bengals get out of the lost decade of the 90s. He made football in Cincinnati fun again.

Johnson led the AFC in receiving four straight times, joining Jerry Rice as the only two receivers in NFL history to lead a conference in receiving at least four consecutive times. He was also a two-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler.

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