The 1990s and the 2000s were a period of great struggle. The Bengals had several head coaches and several of their top draft picks did not pan out. Mike Brown, the team's de facto general manager, was rated as among the worst team owners in American professional sports. Compounding matters were off-field problems of several players, notably receiver Chris Henry, who was suspended several times during his short professionalCAREER and was actually released by the Bengals at one point, but was then re-signed for the 2009 season. The Bengals are one of the 13 NFL teams to not have won a Super Bowl as of the 2014 season.
The franchise takes its name from an earlier Cincinnati Bengals team, which played from 1937–1941. It also was a nod to Paul Brown's Massillon, Ohio roots where he coached the high school team known as the Tigers.
In 1967 an ownership group led by Paul Brown was granted a franchise in the American Football League. Brown named the team the Bengals in order "to give it a link with past professional football in Cincinnati." Another Bengals team had existed in the city and played in three previous American Football Leaguesfrom 1937 to 1942. The city's world-renowned zoo was also home to a rare white Bengal Tiger. However, possibly as an insult to Art Modell, or possibly as an homage to his own start as a head coach to theMassillon Tigers, Brown chose the exact shade of orange used by his former team. He added black as the secondary color. Brown chose a very simple logo: the word "BENGALS" in black lettering. One of the potential helmet designs Brown rejected was a striped motif that was similar to the helmets adopted by the team in 1981 and which is still in use to this day; however, that design featured yellow stripes on a turquoise helmet which were more uniform in width.
In 1966, the American Football League agreed to a merger with its older and more established rival, theNational Football League. Among the terms of the merger was that the AFL was permitted to add one additional franchise. One of the reasons the NFL agreed to this was that they wanted an even number of clubs in the merged league, so a team needed to be added that brought the combined total number clubs in the merged league to twenty-six teams. The NFL was content for that team to be in the American Football League because it meant that the existing nine AFL clubs were the ones that had to provide players in the ensuing expansion draft and the NFL owners preferred for the ensuing dilution of talent to occur in what they have always considered to be an inferior league. For the AFL, a key motive behind their agreement to accept a new team was that the guarantee of an eventual place in the NFL meant the league could charge a steep expansion fee of $10 million - 400 times the $25,000 the original eight owners paid when they founded the league in 1960. The cash from the new team provided the American Football League with the funds needed to pay the indemnities required to be paid by the AFL to the NFL, as stipulated by the merger agreement.
Prior to the merger being announced, Brown had not seriously considered joining the American Football League, and was not a supporter of what he openly regarded to be an inferior competition, once famously stating that "I didn't pay ten million dollars to be in the AFL." However, with the announcement of the merger, Brown realized that the AFL expansion franchise would likely be his only realistic path back into the NFL in the short to medium term. He ultimately acquiesced to joining the AFL when after learning that the team was guaranteed to become an NFL franchise after the merger was competed in 1970.
With assistance from Ohio governor James A. Rhodes, Hamilton County and thie Cincinnati city council agreed to build a single multi-purpose facility on the dilapidated riverfront section of the city. The new facility had to be ready by the opening of the 1970 NFL season and was officially named Riverfront Stadium. With the completion of the merger in 1970, the Cleveland Browns were moved to the AFL-based American Football Conference and placed in the AFC Central, the same division as the Bengals. An instant rivalry was born, fueled initially by Paul Brown's rivalry with Art Modell. The teams have since met on Monday Night Football twice, the Bengals winning each time.
Founder Paul Brown coached the team for its first eight seasons. One of Brown's college draft strategies was to draft players with above-average intelligence. Punter/wide receiver Pat McInallyattended Harvard University and linebacker Reggie Williams attended Dartmouth College and served on Cincinnati city council while on the Bengals' roster. Because of this policy, many former players were highly articulate and went on to have successfulCAREERS in commentary andbroadcasting as well as the arts. In addition, Brown had a knack for locating and recognizing pro football talent in unusual places.
In 1970 the Bengals moved to play at Riverfront Stadium, a home theySHARED with theCincinnati Reds until the team moved to Paul Brown Stadium in 2000. The team reached the playoffs three times during that decade, but could not win any of those postseason games. In 1975, the team posted an 11–3 record, giving them what is to this day the highestWINNING PERCENTAGE (.786) in franchise history. But it only earned them a wild card spot in the playoffs, behind the 12–2 Pittsburgh Steelers, who went on to win the Super Bowl. The Bengals lost to the Oakland Raiders 31–28 in the divisional playoffs.
Andy Dalton takes a snap in a game against the Baltimore Ravens on January 1, 2012.
The Bengals reached the Super Bowl twice during the 1980s, but lost both times to the San Francisco 49ers. Then, after the team appeared in the playoffs in 1990, Paul Brown died. He had already transferred control to his son, Mike Brown, but was reported to still influence the daily operations of the team. The Bengals' fortunes changed for the worse as the team posted 14 consecutive non-winning seasons and were saddled with numerous draft busts. They began to emerge from that dismal period into a new era of increased consistency, however, after the hiring of Marvin Lewis as head coach in 2003. Carson Palmer, the future star quarterback, was drafted in2003, but did not play a snap that whole season, as Jon Kitna had a comeback year (voted NFL Comeback Player of the Year). Despite Kitna's success, Palmer was promoted to starting quarterback the following season. Under Palmer, the team advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1990 in the 2005 season, which also was the first time the team had aWINNING PERCENTAGE above .500 since 1990.
The Bengals returned to the playoffs again in 2009 in a season that included the franchise's first ever division sweep. This was especially impressive since two of the teams swept by the Bengals (the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens) had both made it to the AFC Championship Game the previous season. Marvin Lewis wasREWARDED for the accomplishment with the NFL Coach of the Year Award. In the 2010 season, the Bengals posted a 4–12 record. The next season, the Bengals improved to 9–7 and clinched a playoff spot. They lost to the Houston Texans 31–10 in the Wild Card Round. In the 2012 season, the Bengals clinched a playoff spot once more with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, going to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1982. However, the Bengals faced the Texans in the first round yet again and took another early exit losing 19–13.
In the 2013 season, for the third straight year, the Bengals clinched a playoff berth and also won the AFC North, finishing with an 11-5 record. But once again, the Bengals were defeated in the wild card round, this time by the San Diego Chargers, 27-10. Most of the blame was put on Andy Dalton, who threw 2 interceptions and fumbled on a forward dive. This makes the Bengals 0-5 in playoff games since Mike Brown took over as owner. The 2014 season started well with the Bengals winning their first three contests against the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Tennessee Titans. However, they lost their week 5 matchup at the New England Patriots, 43-17. An overtime tie to the Carolina Panthers and shutout loss to the Indianapolis Colts followed the primetime loss to the Patriots. Finishing the season 10-5-1 as the 5th seed, they lost to the Colts 26-10 in the first round of the playoffs. This was the first time the franchise made the playoffs 4 straight seasons.
When the team debuted in 1968, the Bengals' uniforms were modeled after the Cleveland Browns. When Paul Brown was fired by Art Modell, Brown still owned the equipment used by Cleveland. So after the firing, Paul Brown packed up all his equipment, which he then used for his new team in Cincinnati. The Cleveland Browns' team colors were brown, orange, and white, then they changed to white, black, and orange, and their helmets were solid orange with a white dorsal stripe over the crest.
The Bengals' team colors were orange, black, and white, and their helmets were a similar shade of orange, with the only variations being the word "Bengals" in block letters on either side of the helmet and no stripe on the helmet. The Cincinnati Bengals were unique in the NFL as they did not have uniform numbers on the players sleeves until the 1980 season. The team did not discard their Cleveland-like uniforms until 1981. During that year, a then-unique uniform design was introduced. Although the team kept black jerseys, white jerseys, and white pants, they were now trimmed with orange and black tiger stripes. The team also introduced the orange helmets with black tiger stripes that are still in use today.
In 1997, the Bengals designed a logo consisting of a leaping tiger, and it was added to the uniform sleeves. Another alternate logo consisted of a Bengal's head facing to the left. However, the orange helmet with black tiger stripes continued to be the team's primary trademark. In 2004, a new tiger stripe pattern and more accents were added to the uniforms. The black jerseys now featured orange tiger-striped sleeves and white side panels, while the white jerseys began to use black tiger-striped sleeves and orange shoulders. A new logo consisting of an orange "B" covered with black tiger stripes was introduced. The team also started rotating black pants and debuted an alternate orange jersey, with white side panels and black tiger-striped sleeves. The Bengals have worn their black uniforms at home throughout their history, with some exceptions such as the 1970 season when the Bengals wore white at home for the entire season, and most of the 1971 season. Since 2005, the Bengals wear white for September home games where the heat could become a factor.
A No-Huddle Offense was commonly used by all teams when time in the game was running low. However, Sam Wyche, the head coach of the Bengals in 1988, along with offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet, made the high-paced offense the standard modality for the ball club regardless of time remaining. By quickly setting up for the next play (often within 5–10 seconds after the last play despite being afforded 45 seconds) this hindered the other team's defense from substituting situational players, regrouping for tactics, and, some suggest, increased the defense's rate of fatigue (This is attributed to the belief that the offense dictates when a play starts so they tend to be more mentally relaxed and prepared for the start of a play where the defense must remain on a higher level of alert before the play starts). In response the NFL instituted several rules related to this tactic:
Allowing the defense ample time for substitutions (if offensive substitutions are made);
If a player's injury causes the play-clock to stop, the player must sit out at least one play; and
Charging a time-out to a team when a player is injured within a certain time period of the game.
The hurry-up tactic was used by the franchise during the late 1980s while Sam Wyche was the coach. A rival for AFC supremacy during this time was the Buffalo Bills, coached by Marv Levy, who also used a version of the no-huddle offense starting with the 1989 season. The Bengals had beaten the Bills three times in 1988 (pre-season, regular season, and the AFC Championship Game). Marv Levy threatened to fake injuries if the Bengals used the "no-huddle" in the AFC Championship. Coach Wyche was notified that the Commissioner had ordered the "no-huddle" illegal for the game. The official notified Wyche and the Bengals' team just two hours before the game kickoff. Wyche asked to talk directly to the Commissioner and word immediately came back that the "no-huddle" would not be penalized. Coach Levy didn't fake injuries in the game, but installed his version the next year, 1989. The Bengals first used the "no-huddle" in 1984. Most of the high-profile games (the various games for AFC titles and regular season games) between the two led to these changes in NFL rules. Wyche also first used the timeout periods as an opportunity to bring his entire team to the sideline to talk to all eleven players, plus substitutes, at one time. This also allowed trainers time to treat a cut or bruise and equipment managers time to repair an equipment defect.
The West Coast Offense is the popular name for the high-percentage passing scheme designed by former Bengals assistant Bill Walsh. Walsh formulated what has become popularly known as the West Coast Offense during his tenure as assistant coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975, while working under the tutelage of Paul Brown. Bengals quarterback Virgil Carter would be the first player to successfully implement Walsh's system, leading the NFL in pass completion percentage in 1971. Ken Anderson later replaced Carter as Cincinnati's starting QB, and was even more successful. In his 16-yearCAREER in the NFL, Anderson made four trips to the Pro Bowl, won four passing titles, was named NFL MVP in 1981, and set the record for completion percentage in a single season in 1982 (70.66%).
Ironically, the defense created to combat the West Coast Offense also came from Cincinnati. Then-Bengals defensive coordinatorDick LeBeau (who would later become the team's head coach from 2000–2002) created the zone blitz in the 1980s in response to the West Coast Offense.
The Bengals flagship radio stations are WCKY, "ESPN 1530" and WEBN-FM, with WLW AM 700 joining in following the end of the Reds' season through 2013. It was announced on May 4 by the Bengals, that beginning with the 2011 season that Dan Hoard was hired to replace Brad Johansenas the main play-by-play man. Most preseason and regular season games, are telecast on WKRC-TV, Local 12, the CBS affiliate. The current TV announcers for preseason games are Brad Johansen play-by play, Anthony Munoz color commentary and Mike Valpredo sideline reporter. With the addition of Dan Hoard to the radio broadcast crew, Brad Johansen replaced Dan Hoard as the new TV play-by-play for preseason games.Games that feature an NFC opponent played at Paul Brown Stadium are televised on WXIX, Fox 19. Phil Samp was the Bengals original play-by-play announcer from 1968–1990. Ken Broo (1991–1995), Paul Keels (1996) and Pete Arbogast (1997–2000) and Brad Johansen (2001–2010) have also done radio play-by-play for the Bengals.
"Who Dey!" is the name of a chant of support by fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, in use for over 30 years. The entire chant is: "Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?" The answer screamed in unison, "Nobody!" Sometimes fans will instead shout "Who Dey!" to represent the entire cheer. "Who Dey" is also the name of the team's mascot, a Bengal tiger.
The Who Dey chant's first known use was by fans of the 1980 Cincinnati Bengals. While the origin of the chant is unsettled, one possible source for the chant is a 1980 commercial for (the now-defunct) Red Frazier Ford of Cincinnati, which used this tagline: "Who's going to give you a betterDEAL than Red Frazier?...Nobody!" Cincinnati fans who had seen the commercial many times may have just copied it when cheering.
The Who Dey chant is also steeped in local beer lore. Hudy, a leading product of Hudepohl Brewing Company through the late 1980s, bears a phonetic similarity to the "Who Dey" chant. Beer vendors who carried full cases of bottled local beer up and down the steep upper stairs of what was then Riverfront Stadium would call out "Hudy", "Berger" and other local beer names. Raucous fans would often chant back and forth with them as the vendors called out. During the 1980 season the banter with the Hudepohl vendors grew organically into the now famous (Hu-Dey) -Who They?- chant.