(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Geoff Hobson interview, click on the following attachment: Ep 45: Bengals Talk With HOF Voter Geoff Hobson | Spreaker)
The Cincinnati Bengals can’t catch a break from Canton. In 53 years of existence, only one player who spent the bulk of his career with the franchise is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame … and that’s Anthony Munoz, possibly the greatest tackle in league history.
But all that could change soon.
Former cornerback Ken Riley was the runner-up to Drew Pearson as this year’s senior nominee, which makes him the favorite in that category for the Hall’s Class of 2022. There’s also been some talk about senior candidate and former quarterback Ken Anderson, the NFL MVP in 1981. Plus, former tackle Willie Anderson, a modern-era semifinalist this year, could move into the Top 15 in 2022.
So a shift seems forthcoming. The only question is: When?
“I hope this year,” Hall-of-Fame voter Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast. “You hit on a subject that’s become very big here in the last four or five months.”
For good reason. The Bengals earlier this month announced the creation of their own Ring of Honor, with Munoz and Paul Brown – both Hall of Famers – its first two inductees. But they’ll be joined soon by two more former players, with season-ticket holders and suite members choosing from a ballot released next month.
Riley and Ken Anderson are two of the favorites, and neither has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Ken Riley is very deserving of the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame,” said Hobson. “Ken Anderson is very deserving of the Hall of Fame. They paid the price of not being on a Super Bowl champion.”
Of the two, Anderson is the longer shot, mostly because -- unlike Riley -- he's not .on the short list of the Hall's senior committee. But he is, as Hobson pointed out, deserving. He’s a former league MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year (all in 1981). He was a four-time Pro Bowler. He led the league in passing four times. He set a regular-season completion record that stood for 27 years. And he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl.
Need more? Hobson was only too happy to make Anderson’s case for Canton.
“Four NFL passing titles,” he said. “Every man who has won at least three is in (Canton). Won back-to- back passing titles in two different decades when they were two different games -- ’74-‘75, smash-mouth league; ‘81-‘82, the league was just taking off offensively.
“The only man to win a game on two different planets. Remember, he won the “Freezer Bowl,” outdueling (the Chargers’) Dan Fouts, a Hall of Famer. Also, when he retired after 1986, he was the all-time leader in completion percentage for a game, completion percentage for a season and completion percentage for a postseason career.
“Obviously, those records have been eclipsed by a one Drew Brees, but … (Anderson) and Sammy Baugh were the first 70-percent passers before Brees, and Kenny was the only guy to do it since the merger before Brees. And he was not a ‘dinker-and-dunker’, as I like to say. That seems to be a knock on him, and I don’t understand it. He has the same yards per attempt as Dan Marino (7.3).”
What Hobson does understand is why the Bengals have been overlooked. They’re a small-market club. They haven’t won a league championship. And they have a reputation -- deserved or not -- as a league doormat ... which is another was of saying that history has been cruel to them. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991, is 0-7 in the postseason since and had a string of 14 non-winning seasons from 1982-2004, including seven with no more than four victories.
Nevertheless, that shouldn’t tarnish the resumes of star seniors like Riley, Anderson and former cornerback Lemar Parrish, who was named to eight Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams and who is also Hall-of-Fame worthy.
“Who goes in first?” Hobson asked of the three seniors. “Kenny Anderson? Ken Riley? Lemar Parrish? That’s kind of above my pay grade. But I can’t imagine three seniors (on one team) having a better argument than those three guys. Thank God we’re having the discussion. At least get them in the room to talk about them.”