Bengals.com Virtual Hall of Fame
By GEOFF HOBSON
January 30, 2009
Fans will vote three new members to the brand new Bengals.com Hall of Fame. Voting begins Monday, February 2. Check back to bengals.com to cast your vote.
Sick of watching Ken Anderson get sacked in obscurity?
Tired of Isaac Curtis bumped and runned into anonymity?
Enraged that Ken "The Rattler" Riley remains snakebit despite the stats?
Then the Bengals.com Virtual Hall of Fame is for you.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee holds its annual meeting in Tampa Saturday, but two of the greatest names in Bengaldom are officially shut out and have to rely on the senior committee.
Riley, the 15-year cornerback who has the fifth most interceptions in NFL history with 65, ran out of elections last year in his 25th year of retirement. Curtis, the man Anderson once called "Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice," saw his eligibility end this year.
Now Anderson, the Bengals all-time leading passer who retired in 1986, has just two more years before he too gets filed into the senior category.
It has long been a sore point in and outside of Paul Brown Stadium.
Anderson is the only quarterback eligible who has at least three NFL passing titles not in the Hall. Everyone ahead of Riley on the all-time interception list is in the Hall with Rod Woodson and his 71 picks expected to be voted in Saturday. Curtis caught more balls than Lynn Swann while averaging more yards per catch than John Stallworth, and yet that Steelers tandem is in the Hall.
But Bengaldom now has a haven where its greatest players can get honored. While supporters of Riley and Curtis try to make inroads with the senior committee members and the Anderson contingent can keep working on the 40-member selection committee, now there is a place where every Bengal gets a fair hearing and where every fan gets a vote.
It is the cyberspace cross streets of PB Place and Munoz Way. It is the Bengals.com Virtual Hall of Fame and we're beginning the process on Monday that culminates in the induction of the inaugural class in June.
It will be a class of five with franchise founder Paul Brown and left tackle Anthony Munoz already in because of their Pro Football Hall exemptions. The remaining three Hall of Famers are going to come out of two separate fan votes on the web site.
Starting on Monday and ending Feb. 28, fans can vote for 10 of 32 names that are multiple Pro Bowl players, career record-holders or Super Bowl head coaches, or five at-large selections.
The 10 finalists advance to another fan vote to be held for a month starting in April. The three finalists from that group join Brown and Munoz in the inaugural class to be unveiled after the Bengals' last June camp.
To be eligible, a player must have been with the Bengals for at least a season and been retired from the NFL for five years. Coaches may be active but can no longer be with the team.
Once the class is introduced, fans can click on each player's Cooperstown-like plaque for his induction speech, highlights, and career stats. Three new members will be inducted each year.
If Canton won't call, Bengaldom will.
In the last year, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason has been banging the drum for Anderson and he's discouraged that the Bengals' great players get no love on the national stage. Not only is it a byproduct of their two Super Bowl losses, he believes, but also a direct result of the Bengals' struggles the past two decades.
Take Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
Since he's in Sunday's Super Bowl, Warner is all the rage. He's considered a Hall lock if Arizona wins and some say he's in either way.
And he does have the resume.
According to USA Today, Warner's career completion percentage of 65.4 is second all-time. His career passer rating of 93.8 is bettered by Hall of Famer Steve Young, Peyton Manning (a sure-shot first-ballot Hall of Famer) and Tony Romo. Warner's 48 300-yard passing games is the fifth most after Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Dan Fouts and Warren Moon. Marino, Fouts and Moon are in and Favre will be.
But what about a guy like Anderson that has waited 23 years?
No, he didn't win a ring. But he has the best completion percentage in the postseason of any passer with at least 150 throws.
Plus, of the 25 quarterbacks in the Hall, only 13 have career passer ratings greater than 80. Only eight of them have a better one than Anderson's 81.9 rating. Of the 25, he has thrown more touchdowns than 14 of them and his completion percentage of 59.3 is better than 17 of them.
And of the nine men that have won three NFL passing titles or more, Anderson is the only one not in the Hall. Manning has three and is a lock. Young and Sammy Baugh have six while Anderson, Len Dawson and Roger Staubach have four. Manning, Bart Starr, Norm Van Brocklin and Arnie Herber have three.
Earlier this week, Anderson shrugged off the Hall questions. After 23 years, he has moved on. But Bengals president Mike Brown is in his corner.
"Kenny always had top statistics, year in and year out. They are better than most of the quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame and I don't know why he should be left out," Brown said.
Certainly not because of the fraudulent dinker-and-dunker tag. His 7.34 yards per throw is the same as Marino's.
But there is refuge. The first Bengals.com Virtual Hall ballot ranges from the club's record book giants such as Anderson, Riley, Curtis, and six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lemar Parrish, to Esiason, a NFL MVP and symbol of the second Super Bowl team, to the first player the Bengals drafted in Bob Johnson, to cult hero Tim Krumrie.
Brown has seen them all. He scouted and recommended Anderson. He couldn't find a guy to replace Riley until he had played in a club-record 207 games. He watched Curtis make one-handed touchdown grabs on sideline bombs with each hand in the same game.
Ask Brown about another player on the ballot, guard Max Montoya, and he would say he compares with another guard on this year's Pro Football ballot, Miami's Bob Kuechenberg.
"It really depends on the era you're in," Brown says.
But Curtis, with an average of 17.1 yards per his 416 catches, runs through any era with speed that nearly qualified him for the 1972 U.S. Olympic team.
"Isaac had unique talents as a wide receiver," Brown says. "He was as fast as any wide receiver we ever had here and he was an amazing catch of the ball. In my mind, if I was picking a team, I would take him ahead of (Swann and Stallworth). The Steelers had wonderful players and their teams had great success, but I would challenge that they were better than Isaac as a player.
"Look at what Kenny Riley did and he has more interceptions than just about anybody that played NFL football. And he was a reliable player. You put him on one side and you never had to worry."
Brown isn't the only guy scratching his head two years ago when old-time Cardinals cornerback Roger Wehrli was elected on his last try. Like Riley, Wehrli came into the NFL in 1969 but he played one fewer season, picked off 25 fewer passes and returned three fewer touchdowns.
"I really can't believe that he's up for a vote," Riley told Bengals.com back in 2007. "This is nothing against Roger Wehrli because he was a very good player. But his stats and my stats aren't even close. It makes no sense."
Brown thinks the voting is too heavily slanted to Super Bowl winners.
"I do acknowledge that Pittsburgh, for example, was a wonderfully successful team and that's part of the charm for their guys. That boosts them in their path to the Hall of Fame," Brown says.
"(But) the selection process is biased toward the top teams. And maybe it should be. But there is that bias. You have a hard time convincing me that there are some teams no matter how successful that have six to 10 Hall of Fame players and we have only one (Munoz)."
But beginning Monday we take you to a Hall where everyone is a Bengal.