Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Rodney Holman, Cincinnati Bengals
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56. . TE. (1982-92). Rodney Holman. 25. player

  • 3x Pro Bowl (1988-90)
  • 3x Second-Team All-Pro (1988-90)
  • 318 career receptions for 4,329 yards and 34 touchdowns
  • Most career receptions by a Bengals tight end

When it came to being both a great blocking and pass-catching tight end, few were as complete as Rodney Holman was for the Bengals in his prime in the late 1980s. Holman was an excellent college player for the Tulane Green Wave, setting multiple team records, before being a third-round pick by the Bengals in 1982.

Initially, Holman was used primarily as a blocking tight end during his first three years in the league. This time also coincided with a transition in terms of offensive philosophy in Cincinnati. The Bengals thrived with quarterback Ken Anderson running Bill Walsh’s prototype of the West Coast offense in the late 1970s.

Anderson took the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI at the end of the 1981 NFL season under then head coach Forrest Gregg, falling to Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers led by Joe Montana under center. It would take a few years, but the Bengals would be back to the Super Bowl at the end of the 1988 NFL season. Sam Wyche was in charge, and he ran the no-huddle offense magnificently with Boomer Esiason at quarterback.

So how does Holman fit into all of this? He was essentially a safety valve for Esiason’s entire first stint with the Bengals. Esiason took over for Anderson full-time in 1985 and Holman’s production as a receiver skyrocketed.

From 1985 to 1992, Holman was a lock to have over 400 yards receiving from the tight end position for the Bengals. While he never went over 1,000 yards receiving in a season, his best professional season came in Cincinnati in 1989. That year saw Holman set career highs in catches (50), receiving yards (736) and touchdown receptions (9).

Holman’s peak with the Bengals would coincide with Esiason’s peak as a quarterback from 1988 to 1990. The Bengals’ tight end made the Pro Bowl all three seasons, garnering All-Pro second-team nods all three years in the process.

After 11 years with the team, Holman would spend his final three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions before retiring after the 1995 campaign at age 35. Holman played 212 career games, 165 of them came with the Bengals. At the time of his retirement, only Pete Metzelaars had played more games at the tight end position in NFL history.

Overall, Holman ended up with 318 receptions for 4,239 yards and 34 touchdowns in 11 years with the Bengals. His 318 receptions remain a team record for most in a career by a Cincinnati tight end.