“There’s three things in life that’s certain: Death, taxes, and 85 will always be open.” -Chad Johnson
The Cincinnati Bengals have a problem when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Established as a franchise 52 years ago, the Queen City’s professional football team only has three representatives in the Hall of Fame. One of those three representatives is Terrell Owens, who only played one season with the franchise.
The Bengals certainly have players worthy of being inducted. So why have they been mostly omitted from the recognition they deserve? Many Cincy fans will tell you that there is a strong anti-Bengals bias holding players back from getting their due credit. While that could have some truth to it, one player who should not be neglected is former wide receiver Chad Johnson (also known as Chad Ochocinco).
Johnson is not only the most iconic player in Bengals’ history but one of the most iconic at his position in the league’s history. His antics on a week to week basis made him one of the most exciting players to ever appear on national television. Whether it came to touchdown dances, trash-talking, or making big plays, Number 85 was in a league of his own.
Drafted at one of the darkest times in Bengals’ history, Ochocinco changed the entire direction of the franchise. A team that had been the laughing stock of the league for a decade was finally exciting again, thanks in large part to him being drafted by the team in 2001.
Touchdown celebrations are a big part of the league today and Johnson blazed that trail. When it comes to celebrating in the end zone, he may be the best of all time. He made every game fun with his creative celebrations. Whether it was the iconic river dance, proposing to a cheerleader, putting on a sombrero, or even donning a fake Hall of Fame jacket, the Bengals’ wide receiver was one of the most exciting players to watch in NFL history.
The now-retired wide receiver was also one of the best trash talkers in the history of the NFL. Johnson even went as far as telling opposing cornerbacks his routes before he ran them. He knew his footwork was so good that he could beat coverage even if the other player knew his route.
Perhaps his best trait of all was his footwork. Johnson was not a big guy, but his feet were unmatched in the National Football League. The 6-time Pro Bowler beat defenders with quick footwork that left them dazed, confused, and struggling to keep up with him.
While all of these things reasons show he was clearly an iconic player, to get into the Hall of Fame you have to have the stats to back it up. Johnson had 766 receptions, 11,059 yards, and 67 touchdowns over his 11 season career. To put that into perspective, that’s more receptions and touchdowns than Michael Irvin, and more receptions and yards than Lance Alworth, Raymond Berry, Paul Warfield, and Charley Taylor. Johnson also has multiple other Hall of Fame inductees beaten at one stat or another.
There is no clear amount of receptions, yards, or touchdowns that make a player “deserving” of getting into the Hall of Fame. However, Johnson’s stat line is favorable when compared to some of the receivers currently enshrined in Canton.
During his time in the league, Johnson was one of the best (if not THE best) to play the game. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro, a one-time second-team All-Pro, and as previously mentioned, was a six-time Pro Bowler. In addition to these accolades, he was the NFL’s leader in receiving yards for the 2006 season.
Many question whether or not Johnson deserves his name in the Hall of Fame, but the choice is clear. He is one of the most iconic wide receivers in NFL history thanks to his elaborate touchdown celebrations and hilarious trash talk. He not only talked the talk but he walked the walk with explosive footwork and big playmaking ability. Of course he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, he is the most iconic Bengal ever. His Hall of Fame speech would be one for the ages too.