After learning of merger talks between the AFL and NFL, Paul Brown led an ownership group and was rewarded the Cincinnati Bengals on May 23rd, 1967. The team struggled out of the gate, finishing 3-11 and 4-9-1 during its two AFL seasons.
After the merger, the Bengals were put in the AFC Central with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, two NFL teams who agreed to move to the newly created AFC at Browns owner, Art Modell’s request so his Browns could have an in-state rivalry with Paul Brown’s Bengals. Modell invited Steelers’ owner Art Rooney to join him in the AFC so their teams could continue its ongoing rivalry.
The Bengals faced an up and down decade in the 1970s, one that was ruled by their new division rival, the Steelers, however the team did win their first AFC Central Championship in 1973 but were quickly eliminated by the Miami Dolphins. They finished 11-3 in 1975, but lost to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Playoffs by a score of 31-28.
The team failed to reach the playoffs again in the 1970s but in 1981, their fortunes turned. The Bengals finished 12-4, won the AFC Central and made their first of two Super Bowl appearances, both in the 1980s and in losing efforts to the San Francisco 49ers.
Their second Super Bowl appearance and loss came in 1988, after again finishing 12-4 and winning the AFC Central.
Hard times soon followed the Bengals following one final playoff appearance and AFC Central Championship in 1990. In fact, it is the last time the Bengals have won a playoff game to date, defeating the Houston Oilers by a score of 41-14.
The next decade and a half proved futile, and the team wouldn’t finish over .500 again until 2005 when they won what was now the AFC North with a record of 11-5. However, they wouldn’t go far, losing in the Wildcard Playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Starcrossed, which would serve as an accurate term for the Bengals, as they saw three more lean years before another AFC North Title in 2009 and another playoff loss.
From 2011 to 2015, the Bengals saw two more AFC North Championships in 2013 and 2015, along with five straight playoff appearances, all losses, marking an 0-7 playoff record since 1990.
They finished 2016, 2017, and 2018 without a winning record, firing longtime head coach Marvin Lewis in the process as the then-lowly Cleveland Browns burst out of the AFC North cellar for the first time in seven seasons, forcing the Bengals to dwell in the division’s bottomless pit.
Things may change for 2020 and beyond as the team drafted quarterback Joe Burrow with the number one pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Time will tell us whether the Bengals made the right move.
Cincinnati Bengals Quick Hits
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Chad Johnson, Corey Dillon, Anthony Munoz, Boomer Esiason
Owned by Mike Brown, son of the legendary Paul Brown.
Main Article: The Cincinnati Bengals Helmet History
Main Article: History of the Cincinnati Bengals Jersey