Each year, the NFL inducts a handful of worthy former players into its illustrious Hall of Fame. To this point, there is only one former Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame honoree: Anthony Muñoz. Despite the fact that this franchise lacks a super bowl win, there have been plenty of talented players to suit up in the black and orange. Let’s take a look at five Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame worthy players.
Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame Snubs
Offensive Tackle, 1996-2007
Honors: 3X All-Pro, 4X Pro Bowl, All-Rookie Team (1996)
Right tackles are severely undervalued in the NFL. When you think of all of the Hall of Fame tackles, you’ll likely name off all left tackles. Even if he isn’t protecting the quarterback’s “blindside”, the right tackle position is crucial.
A fantastic follow on Twitter (@BigWillie7179), Anderson has become a voice for the big guys. As a player, Anderson was the best right tackle in the league for the entirety of his career. He helped plow the way for nine running backs’ 1,000-yard seasons. He protected guys like Jeff Blake, Jon Kitna, and Carson Palmer.
Anderson faced phenomenal pass rushers in his time. In his time, he faced nine of the top ten pass rushers of the era. He allowed one sack to the group.
Over a three-year period (1999-2001), he didn’t allow a single sack. In his final year (with the Baltimore Ravens), Anderson posted a 32.9 overall PFF grade, good for the 11th-best single-season for a tackle since PFF began grading. His 21.1 run-blocking grade is good for sixth-best.
Big Willie was a semi-finalist for the 2021 class but was passed over again. Despite being the best at his position for over a decade, he is overlooked because his team was atrocious. He deserves to be the second Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame inductee.
Honors: 1X All-Pro, 4X Pro Bowl, 1981 MVP, 1975 Walter Payton Man of the Year
#PutKenIn! Kenny Anderson was the face of the Cincinnati Bengals through the ’70s and most of the ’80s. If the team had a way of honoring former players like a Ring of Honor, Anderson would have been the first name honored.
Anderson led the league in completion percentage (64.9%), yards (2667 yards), and rating (95.7) in 1974 despite a 7-6 record. He led the Bengals to its first super bowl appearance in 1981. Anderson should have earned a ring in that game, but his comeback bid fell just short.
He is likely overlooked because, in his 16 years, the team finished with 10 wins only four times. After that magical super bowl run, Anderson never suited up for a full season of football.
In terms of Cincinnati, Anderson remains head and shoulders above all others. He won the most games (91), passed for most yards (32,828), most pass attempts (4,475), second in completions (2,654), and second in touchdowns (197).
Honors: 1X All-Pro
How many corners can boast that they recorded an interception every year for 15 years? Ken Riley can. Of all of the Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame snubs, this one is a bit of a head-scratcher. In an era that was not nearly as pass-happy as it is today, finishing with 65 interceptions is quite an accomplishment. He was a sixth-round pick in 1969, so he always had that chip on his shoulder.
Those 65 interceptions are good for fifth all-time and best in Bengals history. The next closest? Louis Breeden with 33. He also leads the way with five pick-sixes. The four players above and the two below him in the all-time mark are included in the Hall of Fame.
Riley went out with a bang. In his final season in 1986, he intercepted eight passes (career-high) and scored two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Riley passed away in 2020. He was a quiet, modest player and never really fought for inclusion. Former rivals and teammates were the ones beating the table for him. Perhaps this was the reason for him getting glanced over.
“Let your work speak for itself and be humble.”
R.I.P. to a Bengals great. Hopefully, the NFL will get its act together and posthumously honor him.
Nose Tackle, 1983-1994
Honors: 1X All-Pro, 2X Pro Bowl
Selected in the 10th round of the 1983 NFL Draft, nobody expected Tim Krumrie to be as good as he was. The nose tackle position is not the most glamorous. If you search the NFL Hall of Fame, the position isn’t even listed.
A true iron man, once Krumrie earned the starting job late in 1983, he never missed time until his final year. He actually suffered a gruesome broken leg during Super Bowl XXIII which required a steel rod to be inserted into his leg. He didn’t miss any time the following year.
During his All-Pro year in 1988, Krumrie amassed a ludicrous 153 tackles and three fumble recoveries. If it weren’t for a strike-shortened 1987 (he still got 88 tackles in 12 games), Krumrie would have posted three consecutive seasons with at least 100 tackles. After that year, he never hit the 100-tackle mark, but remained a force on the inside until 1994 when the defense switched schemes from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
His 1,008 tackles in his career are good for best in Bengals history. Like Riley, it’s not even close. The next-closest is middle linebacker Brian Simmons and his 512.
Running back, 1997-2003
Honors: 4X Pro Bowl
Of the Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame candidates, Corey Dillon would be considered a bit of a longshot. Despite being in the top-20 in rushing, ahead of actual Hall of Famers, Dillon has yet to even sniff the Hall.
He truly burst onto the scene his rookie year, rushing for 1,129 yards and 10 touchdowns. For the next five seasons, he didn’t let up and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each. Unfortunately for him, he was on some terrible Bengals teams, so he is often overlooked.
He broke the single-game rushing record on October 22, 2000, with 278 yards on the ground. That mark has since been broken, but he smashed a record that had been standing for 23 years. His final year in Cincinnati was 2003 and it was not near his usual level of productivity due to the fact he was playing through injury.
Eventually, he essentially talked his way out of Cincinnati. In 2004, he was traded to the New England Patriots and went back to doing Corey Dillon things. He broke the Patriots’ mark for rushing and led them to a super bowl victory.
Look Closer; Bad Teams Can Have Great Players
The Bengals have had their share of terrible seasons, considering they are experiencing their own playoff win drought today. Unfortunately, if you play for a bad team (or a poorly-run franchise), Hall of Fame voters pass you over in favor of others on great teams.
Willie Anderson and Corey Dillon were great on bad teams. Ken Anderson, Ken Riley, and Time Krumrie were great on good teams and great on bad teams. It’s not their fault the organization is known for prioritizing saving money over wins. Despite the franchise’s ineptitude, these players proved it on the field.
Here’s to hoping the worst is behind them. They’ve got a quarterback of the future, so the ball is in their court. Prioritize winning or else we are going to be mentioning guys like Geno Atkins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Burrow on a list like this in 20 years.