Snakebit NFL Franchises: Cincinnati Bengals

It’s certain teams in the NFL that fans collectively assume it just isn’t meant for them to prosper. To be snakebit is to have some amazingly awful luck. Let’s a look at some of the NFL franchises with bad luck (over the Super Bowl era).

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Zero Super Bowl Titles (Last Appearance 1988)
  • Two AFC Championships (Last Appearance 1988)
  • Eight Division Titles (Last: 2013)
  • Thirteen Playoff Appearances (Last Win: 1990)

The first stroke of bad luck occurred following the 1975 season when head coach Paul Brown retired and instead of hiring his assistant Bill Walsh, he opted to instead hire Bill “Tiger” Johnson” prompting Walsh to resign and take an assistant coaching job in San Diego. After a short stint at Stanford, Walsh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers in 1979. Two of his three Super Bowl championships came against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI and XXIII. The Super Bowl XXIII came against Walsh’s former assistant Sam Wyche, who was on the staff from 1979-1982 (including Super Bowl XVI).

Former Bengals head coach and founder Paul Brown died in 1991 and his son Mike Brown officially had complete control of the franchise from that point on. His first big move was to fire head coach Sam Wyche and hire Dave Shula, son of Don Shula. This ushered the Bengals franchise into dark period. The Bengals next three head coaches – Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet & Dick LeBeau – combined to win 52 games and lose 124 games. From 1991 to 2004 the Bengals never posted a winning season. Three of those seasons (1996, 2003 and 2004) were eight win seasons while the other eleven were flat out losing seasons.

Throughout the 1990s, the Bengals struggled to draft and develop players along with finding a franchise quarterback. They drafted two of the biggest QB bust of the last 30 years in David Klingler and Akili Smith. The Bengals twice had the number one overall pick in 1994 and 1995. In 1994 they drafted Dan Wilkinson and he was a solid contributor his years in Cincinnati until he was abruptly traded to the Redskins after clashing with management in 1997. In 1995 they drafted Ki-Jana Carter and his career was ruined from injuries. He tore a ligament in his knee during a preseason game his rookie season and was never able to recover from that. He would go on to suffer season ending injuries in 97, 98 and 99.

Marvin Lewis was hired in 2003 and the first two seasons under him he led the Bengals to back to back 8-8 seasons. That same year the franchise drafted Carson Palmer #1 overall and by 2005 it seemed like the Bengals luck had finally taken a turn for the better. In 2005 the Bengals were 11-5, AFC North Champions and hosting a home playoff game for the first time in forever, then this happened:

Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have been consistent playoff contenders but they just haven’t been able to win a game. Is it Andy Dalton’s fault? Is it Marvin Lewis? Mike Brown still deserves some blame in this as well. You really have to wonder how the Bengals luck would’ve been if they hired Bill Walsh originally.

Check out this article I wrote a about why the Bengals are stuck in football purgatory 

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