Cincinnati Bengals: 1988 team considered best in franchise history

Leigh Oleszczak
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 9: Quarterback Boomer Esiason #7 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass against the New York Jets during a game at Riverfront Stadium on October 9, 1988 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Jets 36-19. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 9: Quarterback Boomer Esiason #7 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass against the New York Jets during a game at Riverfront Stadium on October 9, 1988 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Jets 36-19. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /
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When looking at every team in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals, the 1988 team stands above the rest. That year’s squad went 14-5 (including a 12-4 record in the regular season) and led the league in scoring. Boomer Esiason was also named league MVP, remaining the last Bengal to win the prestigious award.

The 1988 team would be most people’s pick as the Bengals’ best team ever (well, that or the 1981 Bengals team that also was firing on all cylinders) and it’s exactly who Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports went with in his recent column on every teams’ best squad in franchise history.

DeArdo wrote:

"The ’88 Bengals and ’81 Bengals had nearly identical resumes. Both teams featured league MVPs at quarterback in Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason. Both teams also won 12 regular season games before falling just short against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. But the nod for the Bengals’ best team goes to the ’88 squad, which came up just short in its Super Bowl showdown with San Francisco. In fact, the Bengals held a 16-13 before Joe Montana fired the game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left."

As DeArdo notes, the ’81 and ’88 Bengals teams both made it to the Super Bowl and either would have made sense for this particular achievement. As he mentioned, he went with the 1988 Bengals because they were more competitive in their Super Bowl loss to the Niners.

The 1988 team is the best in Cincinnati Bengals history.

The ’81 and ’88 teams were the only Bengals squads to make it to the Super Bowl, which means they had to be the pick here. As fun as the 2011-2015 teams were at times, the Bengals were never able to get past the Wild Card round in any of those five seasons.

Going back to the ’88 team, Esiason threw for 3,572 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions that season (the league sure has evolved, hasn’t it?) while Ickey Woods rushed for 1,066 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns as a rookie. It was the only true star season for the former second-round pick. Eddie Brown was the Bengals’ leading receiver in 1988, totaling 1,273 receiving yards and nine touchdowns off of 53 receptions.

Defensively, the team was right in the middle of the pack. It typically didn’t matter though, as the offense was the highlight of that 1988 team.

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The Bengals haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since the ’88 team did so but fans are hoping that Joe Burrow and company are the right guys to get the team back to the big game.

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