Ah, the 1980s. For those of us who came of age as Cincinnati Bengals' fans in that decade, it was indeed a "Golden Age." The Bengals posted an 81-71 record for the decade, won three AFC Central Division titles and appeared in two Super Bowls. It began with the birth of "Who-Dey" and ended with the Icky Shuffle being performed in "The Jungle."
Let's take a look back at the best players of that era as Bengals 101 names its all decade team for the 1980s.
Offense: There weren't many better than the Bengals during the 1980s. Cincinnati could keep up with the best of the aerial circuses of the decade as evidenced by their duels with San Diego and San Francisco, but could also play smash mouth football when needed.
QB Boomer Esiason: When the Bengals took Norman Julius Esiason with the 38th overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, few would have dreamed Esiason would pick up Ken Anderson's legacy and take it to a new level. The 1984 draft was perceived as being weak at quarterback. The year before had produced John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino among others, so Esiason became the first quarterback selected in the second round. Ironically, Esiason, Jay Schroeder and Jeff Hostetler would have good NFL careers out of that draft.
Esiason's numbers during the 1980s speak for themselves. He was 42-35 as a starter and threw 126 touchdown passes from 1984 to 1989. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times in the decade and was the 1988 NFL Most Valuable Player.
RB James Brooks: When the Bengals acquired James Brooks from the San Diego Chargers in 1984, they knew they were getting an explosive all-purpose back. Brooks exceeded even those lofty expectations. From 1984 to 1989, Brooks rushed for 4,872 yards with an astounding average of 4.9 yards per carry. In his six seasons with the Bengals in the 1980s, Brooks also caught 231 passes. All told, he scored 51 touchdowns during that time. Brooks earned a Pro Bowl Berth three times as a Bengals during the decade.
RB Larry Kinnebrew: Ickey Woods was lightning in a bottle, but Larry Kinnebrew was a short yardage battering ram who was almost automatic in goal line situations from 1983 to 1987. Kinnebrew rushed for 2582 yards during that period as a Bengal and scored 37 touchdowns, usually punishing some defender in the process. Whereas James Brooks execeled at making defenders miss, Kinnebrew simply ran over the opposition. More often than not, if there was a critical yard to be gained, Kinnebrew would get it.
WR Eddie Brown: The Bengals selected Eddie Brown with the 13th overall selection in 1985, infamously passing on another wide receiver out of Mississippi Valley State named Jerry Rice. Although the Bengals missed on Rice, Brown was hardly a bust. Between 1985 and 1989, Brown caught passes for 4601 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was named the 1985 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and appeared in the 1988 Pro Bowl.
WR Cris Collinsworth: Cris Collinsworth became a Sports Illustrated cover boy his rookie season, helping the Bengals to their first ever Super Bowl appearance. The skinny second round pick out of Florida had the speed to beat defenders deep, the hands to make the tough third down grabs and the toughness to go over the middle.
Collinsworth played with the Bengals from 1981 to 1989 and made the Pro Bowl on three occasions. He gained 6,698 yards through the air and caught 36 touchdown passes, bridging the Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason eras.
TE Rodney Holman: Rodney Holman continued the Bengal tradition of strong tight end play established by Bob Trumpy and Dan Ross. Holman was also a three time Pro Bowler, catching 221 passes for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns from 1982 to 1989. Holman was often the target on one of Boomer Esiason's textbook play action fakes, taking some poor mismatched linebacker on a post route.
OT Anthony Munoz: Was there any doubt? Naming Munoz to an all-decade team almost minimizes his presence to the Bengals and the NFL. Munoz is the greatest Bengal to ever play and arguably the great offensive lineman ever.
It almost wasn't that way. Munoz scared off some teams with his history of knee injuries at USC. He was available and the Bengals selected him with the third pick of the 1980 NFL Draft. Munoz played the entire decade at left tackle for the Bengals, making 164 starts, missing only five games in 10 years. Eleven of his 13 years in the NFL, Munoz was named to the Pro Bowl, missing only in his rookie year and his final year.
Not only did he keep Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason upright against the league's best pass rushers, Munoz also caught four touchdown passes on tackle eligible plays. He is still the only Cincinnati Bengals player enshrined in Canton, OH.
OT Mike W. Wilson: Munoz anchored the left side of the Bengals' offensive line for a decade, but Mike W. Wilson played as consistently at the other tackle from 1980 to 1985. Wilson started 115 of 116 games during that time frame. Not bad for a fourth round draft choice.
OG Max Montoya: Max Montoya was perhaps the greatest pulling guard in NFL history outside of Jerry Kramer, and deserves a bust in Canton alongside Kramer if the NFL can ever figure out the importance of guards in the game. Montoya, a seventh round draft pick out of UCLA, started 143 games in the decade, leading the way for James Brooks, Larry Kinnebrew and Icky Woods.
OG Brian Blados/Bruce Kozerski: These two versatile linemen were impossible to pick between. Both manned two positions during their Bengals' careers and both did so with great strenght and skill. Blados made 53 starts at guard and tackle while Kozerski made 51 starts at guard and center.
C Dave Rimington: The Outland Trophy winner out of Nebraska was a force at center. Before departing to Philadelphia, Rimington made 63 starts for the Bengals. Ironically, he along with Larry Kinnebrew, are the only players on our list not to have appeared in either Super Bowl in the decade.
Defense: As Bill Walsh cut his offensive teeth and formulated the West Coast offense while with the Bengals in the 1970s, Dick LeBeau built his famous "zone blitz" scheme while the defensive coordinator with the Bengals under Sam Wyche. As such, our all defensive team will have a decidedly 3-4 look to it.
DE Ross Browner: The former Fighting Irish star made 112 starts at defensive end and had 29.5 sacks.
DE Eddie Edwards: Browner's linemate, Edwards was also a durable speed rusher. He started 116 games as a Bengal and recorded 47.5 sacks. He and Browner were perhaps the best tandem of defensive ends in the early part of the decade.
NT Tim Krumrie: Who else could it be? A 10th round draft pick out of Wisconsin-Eu Claire, Krumrie anchored the middle of the Bengals' defensive line, making 94 starts and recording an astounding 20.5 sacks as a nose tackle. He was selected twice to the Pro Bowl. Of course, he will always be remembered for the gruesome broken leg he suffered early on in Super Bowl XXIII. He refused to be taken to the hospital, insisting on watching the rest of the game in the locker room, despite the compound fracture. Had Krumrie not been injured, many believe the Bengals would have won the game.
LB Reggie Williams: The Dartmouth product was a mainstay at linebacker for over a decade. During the 1980s, Williams made 148 starts, had 41 sacks, 16 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries and recorded two safeties. He was always around the ball. Later a Cincinnati City Councilman, Williams is the only defensive player on our list to play in both Super Bowls.
LB Glen Cameron: "Cam" was a tough as nails inside linebacker for defensive coordinator Hank Bullough. He started 84 games in the 1980s with five picks and three fumble recoveries.
LB Carl Zander: Carl Zander was another of those Dick LeBeau defensive players who was always were the ball was. Zander started 67 games for the Bengals, recording three interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
LB Joe Kelly: Kelly never quite became the disruptive force the Bengals hoped he would be when they took him in the first round of the 1986 draft. Still, he made 48 starts for Cincinnati during his stay with two interceptions and four fumble recoveries. What was disappointing about Kelly is that he never really became the Lawrence Taylor style pass rusher the Bengals thought he could be.
CB Louis Breeden: Breeden started his career opposite Ken Riley and carried on as the Bengals' main shut down corner. Breeden started 89 times for Cincinnati in the 1980s and picked off 33 passes, taking two of them in for scores.
CB Ray Horton: Horton gets the nod over Lewis Billups here because of his production, and the fact that I'll never forgive Billups for dropping that interception in the end zone in Super Bowl XXIII. Horton made 42 starts in the decade, picking off 19 balls with two touchdowns.
S David Fulcher: Along with Ronnie Lott, David Fulcher was the preeminent big hitting safety of his time. Fulcher picked off 20 passes in his 59 starts, one for a touchdown. He also recovered six fumbles. Fulcher was a three time Pro Bowl selection.
S Robert Jackson: Jackson gets the call over Bobby Kemp due to his production. In 55 starts at safety for Cincinnati, Jackson picked off 15 balls and returned two for touchdowns. He had seven fumble recoveries.
Special Teams: We inadvertently left special teams off our 1970s all decade team so a special mention here to K Horst Muhlman and Chris Barr. Our punter of the 1970s is also our punter of the 1980s…
P Pat McInally: McInally punted 700 times as a Bengal and averaged 41.9 yards per kick. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1981. For more on Pat McInally's post-NFL career, check out the piece Bengals 101 did on him last season here.
K Jim Breech: Who remember Sandro Vitiello and Ian Sunter? If you do, you probably just shuddered remembering their shanks during the Bengals 1980 campaign. Jim Breech was brought in after being let go by the Oakland Raiders for the season's final four games. Breech would handle the kicking duties for the next 12 seasons.
The diminutive Breech didn't have a big leg, but he was accurate and clutch. If there was a big kick to be made, Breech was as good as there was in the game.
That wraps up our 1980s all-decade team? Did we miss anyone? Be sure to let us know in the comments or on Twitter. Let us know your suggestions for the 1990s and 2000s teams as well.
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