Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Ken Anderson. 2. player. 56. . QB. (1971-86)

  • NFL MVP (1981)
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1981)
  • NFL Man of the Year (1975)
  • 4x Pro Bowl (1975-76, 1981-82)
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro (1981), 2x Second-Team All-Pro (1974-75)
  • 4x NFL passer rating leader (1974-75, 1981-82)
  • 2x NFL passing yards leader (1974-75)

To date, only one former Bengals great has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That would be stalwart offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz, and he did so on the first ballot in 1998. If any Bengals fan should have any beef about a former great being excluded from Canton, former NFL MVP quarterback Ken Anderson would have to be that guy.

Cincinnati drafted the signal caller out of Augustana College in Illinois in the third round of the 1971 NFL Draft. Anderson spent his entire 16-year NFL career with the Bengals. After spot starting as a rookie, Anderson would take over the Bengals quarterback reigns in 1972 and do so for the next decade plus.

Known for his accuracy, Anderson would be the perfect quarterback for offensive-minded coach Bill Walsh to experiment with his West Coast offense. Walsh would later refine the offensive system when he was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. But let’s not forget how Anderson benefitted from playing in this innovate offensive system.

Four times did Anderson lead the NFL in passer rating. He led the NFL in completion percentage on three separate occasions. Twice was Anderson the league leader in passing yards in 1974 and 1975. He would be named NFL Man of the Year in 1975 as well.

While the Bengals would ebb and flow in the wins department, Anderson did make four trips to the Pro Bowl in his hall of fame worthy career. Anderson’s best year would coincide with the franchise’s best season up to that point.

He won NFL MVP, made the Pro Bowl and made the All-Pro first team in 1981. Anderson went 12-4 as a starter, completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,754 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Cincinnati made its first-ever trip to the Super Bowl that season, but fell to Walsh’s 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, 26-21.

Anderson would remain the Bengals through the 1984 NFL season, but eventually gave way to his successor Boomer Esiason the following season. His last year with the team would be in 1986 before he hung up the spikes for good.

In 16 seasons with the Bengals, Anderson went 91-81 as a starter. He completed 59.3 percent of his passes, setting franchise records in passing yards (32,838) and touchdown passes (197). Anderson would then carve out a successful second NFL career as an offensive coach, mostly with the Bengals. He did win a Super Bowl ring as member of the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Anderson’s body of work remains one of the most impressive without a Canton bust. Though he has been retired for more than 30 years, maybe one day he will earn his rightful bust in Canton? Cincinnati, and Anderson, would certainly appreciate it.