Remembering the last great Bengals team

by Gary Shelton on February 6, 2022

in general

Sam Wyche did a great coaching job for the old Bengals.

Sunday, 4 a.m.

The last time they were here, the world was young. Sam Wyche was smart, and Miami was on fire, and Joe Montana was on his way to becoming a legend.

It was in January of 1989, and the Bengals-- the Bengals -- were in the Super Bowl. Then, like now, they had come from nowhere. Then, like now, they looked like a team that was going to last for a while.

Boomer Esaison.

Ickey Woods.

Cris Collinsworth.

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It was my third Super Bowl, and frankly, I found the Bengals to be a charming bunch. They played a hurry-up offense that had defenders flopping all over the field to slow down the pace of the game. They trained in a cramped little facility (Spinney Field).

Anthony Munoz.

Tim Krumrie.

James Brooks.

At the time, no one thought they belonged on the same field as the 49ers. Heck, the 49ers had Montana and Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott and the gang. The Bengals found running back Stanley Wilson with his face full of cocaine on the night before the game. Ktumrie broke his leg early in the game.

But darned if the Bengals didn't hang with San Francisco for most of the night in one of the most competitive Super Bowls of them all.

Yeah, I remember.

There were riots in Miami that week. Bengals defensive back Solomon Wilcots had the immortal line: "We went to the movies to see Mississippi Burning" and we came back to see Miami burning."

There is something cool to watching an unexpected success. That was true then, back when they used to play "Welcome to the Jungle" on the loudspeakers at Riverfront Stadium, and it's true now. Joe Burrow might be the quatterback everyone would take if they were thinking about the next decade.

Watching Joe and these Bengals makes you remember Boomer and those Bengals.

One of the keys to that Cincinnati team was that team owner Paul Brown actually made Wyche go home at a decent hour and get rest. With an improved focus, Wyche had a heck of a year coaching. But once he got to Tampa Bay, there was no one to send him home. And the results were miserable.

So, yeah, the Rams are going to be favored in the Super Bowl. Their defensive line should overpower a weak Bengals’ offensive line.

But I'll be pulling for Cincy.

For Boomer and the boys.

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