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The Bengals First Season Was A Rollercoaster

Bill Rinehart

There will be a lot of reminiscing this weekend as the first of two groups of former players are honored by the Cincinnati Bengals. Thirteen of the 24 legends played on the first Bengals team in 1968.

The Beginning

It was after the 1962 Cleveland Browns season that owner Art Modell fired Coach Paul Brown, who immediately began plotting a comeback. With the permission of the NFL Commissioner, Ohio's Governor, and ultimately Modell, the Cincinnati Bengals were born.

Credit provided
iHeart Media Talk Show Host and former Dayton Daily News Bengals Beat Writer Chick Ludwig

But iHeart Media talk show host and former Dayton Daily News Bengals beat writer Chick Ludwig says that 1968 season was a "rollercoaster" and it was a "revolving door of players."

The Bengals struggled their first year, posting a 3-11 record in the American Football League.  Things didn't get much better the second year when they went 4-9-1.  But Ludwig says the year the AFL merged with the National Football League, 1970, the Bengals "shocked the world, finishing 8-6 and won their division."

The Cattle Call of Players

It was difficult getting good players. Ludwig calls the expansion draft "just awful." Teams were allowed to protect their best players and of the 40 players the Bengals drafted only 16 ended up making the team. John Stofa was the first player the Bengals ever drafted.

Ludwig interviewed Stofa. "He said players were flown in to the Greater Cincinnati Airport, put on a bus to Wilmington College (the original home of Bengals training camp), you ran the 40 yard dash. If they didn't make it they were handed a bus ticket back out of town."

According to Ludwig, the biggest Bengals draft was UC quarterback Greg Cook in 1969. But eventually a shoulder injury sidelined him. Fellow players were sure they would have hands littered with Super Bowl rings if he had remained healthy. Cook's injury led to the team signing Ken Anderson, who was the longest Bengals tenured player with 16 seasons. Anderson led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in 1982, a close game lost the San Francisco 49ers 26-21.  

Anderson and others will be honored this Sunday at halftime.