Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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56. . WR. (1981-88). Cris Collinsworth. 13. player

  • 3x Pro Bowl (1981-83)
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro (1983)
  • 3x Second-Team All-Pro (1981-82, 1985)
  • 4x 1,000-yard receiver (1981, 1983, 1985-86)
  • Career 417 receptions for 6,698 yards and 36 touchdowns

Long before he was the lead football analyst on Sunday Night Football for NBC opposite Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth was an outstanding wide receiver. Initially he played somewhat of a run-first, dual-threat quarterback in high school in his native Florida.

He would go on to play for the Florida Gators as a quarterback, but quickly switched to receiver to make better use of his speed. Playing for both Doug Dickey and Charley Pell, Collinsworth would be named All-SEC at wide receiver three straight years from 1978 to 1980, earning All-American honors as a senior in 1980.

Collinsworth would first come to the Bengals as a second-round draft pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. He would be productive right away in the Bengals’ offense. Collinsworth made his first of three straight trips to the Pro Bowl in 1981. He had 67 receptions for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns in Ken Anderson’s MVP season, as the Bengals made it all the way to the Super Bowl that winter.

Collinsworth’s sophomore campaign saw him make his second straight All-Pro second team, as he had 49 grabs for 700 yards and a touchdown in the strike-shortened season. It might have only been a nine-game campaign, but Collinsworth would go on to have his best season as a professional in year three in 1983.

In his third season with the Bengals, Collinsworth had 66 catches for a career-high 1,130 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He made his third and final trip to the Pro Bowl and made his only All-Pro first team that season. Despite not making a Pro Bowl in 1985, he did garner his third All-Pro second team nod that season.

Overall, Collinsworth had four seasons where he went over 1,000 yards receiving with the Bengals. While he never matched his rookie total of catches in a year with 67, Collinsworth amassed 417 receptions for 6,698 yards and 36 touchdowns in his eight-year career with the Bengals. This includes a 10-touchdown campaign in 1986 where he had 62 catches for 1,024. How was that not good enough for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod?

Collinsworth’s last NFL game was the heartbreaking Super Bowl XXIII loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the final minute. While his playing career ended at age 29, Collinsworth’s second life in football might have been more impactful.

He began doing guest spots on Bob Trumpy’s radio show, ultimately getting to NBC in 1990 to help in NFL coverage. Collinsworth would then spend the late 1990s to early 2000s doing the same thing for FOX.

Since 2009, Collinsworth and Michaels have been bringing us Sunday Night Football on NBC. Even beyond calling games, Collinsworth is a major investor in Pro Football Focus, helping usher in the analytics movement in the NFL. While many are more likely to know Collinsworth from the NBC booth, let’s not forget for a second how great a receiver he was for the Bengals in the 1980s.