The Cincinnati Bengals were the last American Football League expansion team ever created, playing their first season in 1968. Unfortunately for Cincinnati fans, the team has subsequently all too often performed like an expansion team over its first 50 seasons: At the end of 2017, year 50 for Cincy, the Bengals were ranked just 25th in all-time winning percentage, a mere 10 and 15 games ahead of the New York Jets and Houston Texans, respectively.
Things haven’t always been so bleak in Bengal Nation, that small country comprising the greater Cincinnati area, Western Ohio and Eastern Kentucky. The team’s first-ever coach was über-legend Paul Brown. By 1970, the team’s third year of existence and the first of the six-division format, the Bengals took the AFC Central. They’d twice more get into the playoffs in the 70s, but ’81 represented a true dream year for the club.
For 1981, second-year head coach/NFL Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg combined an offense featuring a battery of QB Kenny Anderson and WR Chris Collinsworth and the three-pronged running attack of backs Archie Griffin, Pete Johnson and Charles Alexander with a defense starring Ross Browner and Reggie Williams to get to Super Bowl XVI. By the end of the 80s, Sam Wyche was the head coach of a Bengals side armed with Boomer Esiason running the offense, all-time great and utter badass Antony Munoz leading the defense and Ickey Woods all over the place; this team made Super Bowl XXIII.
As the humblest of Bengals knows, though, both times did their team run into the buzzsaw that was the unstoppable San Francisco. Said fan is also well aware that these Super Bowl appearances were mere oases amidst lots of losing. Heck, until 2011, the Bengals had made just one repeat appearance in the playoffs: That came in the strike year of 1983 and was based in part on the replacement players’ 3-0 record; the end result was a 44-17 thumping by the Jets I the wild-card game.
So what happened in the 2010s? Marvin Lewis. Signed on as Bengals head coach in 2003, Lewis’s stint with Cincinnati will ultimately be nearly as long as Bill Belichick’s with the Patriots. But while the Dark Emperor can boast five Super Bowl titles, Lewis will only have seven wild-card game losses to his credit.
In fact, as this is written prior to the 2018 season, NFLbets will put out our first NFL betting tip for the year right here: The Cincinnati Bengals will be the worst team in the league in ’18. Take the under on however many wins are offered in the over/under wins prop, and figure both the Jets and the Texans to leapfrog the Bengals on the all-time winning percentage chart.
But hey, you know what they say about expansion teams: The first 50 seasons are usually pretty rocky…