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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cincinnati Bengals Uniform and Team History



Please click on the evolution of the Falcons uniform poster above for a close-up version of the poster. The descriptions below give you some insight and background about the uniforms and/or eras depicted in the poster.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1968 uniform
1968

Paul Brown, who coached the Cleveland Browns to 115 victories in 13 seasons (1950-1962) left the Browns in 1962. In 1965 he discovered his football passions had not been extinguished and looked into bringing pro football back to southern Ohio after 26 years. The Cincinnati Reds played in the NFL in 1933 and 1934.

In 1967, after convincing state Governor James Rhodes that Ohio could accommodate two professional football teams, Brown was awarded an AFL expansion franchise. He named the team the Bengals because there had once been a pro football team in Cincinnati named the Bengals and adopting that name “would provide a link with past professional football in Cincinnati."

The team began play in 1968 and finished fifth in the AFL Western Division with a 3-11 record. Coach Brown, a living legend, Pro Bowl TE Bob Trumpy and Rookie of the year RB Paul Robinson were the brightest stars on the team.

This black home jersey features white numerals, long sleeves and simple white and orange striping on the sleeves above the elbow. The lace-up pants with the opposite color scheme - white with black and orange stripes - are fastened at the waist by a black belt.

The helmet, orange in color, has the team name “BENGALS” spelled out in an arch in block letters instead of a designed logo. This is a helmet logo style that would remain in use until the 1981 season.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1970 uniform
1970

Though the Bengals did not come into existence until 1968, the period of time between 1966 and 1969 warrants a bit of explanation. The 8 team AFL began in 1960 as a rival league to the NFL - both leagues competed head to head for players, fans and TV revenue. And thus it was for 5 years - two separate leagues, two separate champions (although few people would have honestly believed that the AFL champion could have beaten the NFL champs). Then in 1965 the two leagues agreed to merge. It was decided that beginning in 1970 there would be only one league, the NFL, and that between 1966 and 1969 the AFL Champion would play the NFL Champion for the “World Championship”. It was only after the first World Championship had been played in 1966 that the name “Super Bowl” came into being.

Thus the 1966 season saw the first meeting of the AFL and NFL champions, with the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers humbling the AFL’s KC Chiefs 33-10. (Even though the game was played in 1967, most football historians refer to this as the 1966 Super Bowl because it was the culmination of the 1966 season.)

The NFL superiority was on display again in 1967, when the NFL’s Packers pounded the AFL’s Raiders 33-14. Then came 1968 and the stunning upset - the AFL’s NY Jets shocked the football world by beating the NFL’s heavily favored Baltimore Colts 16-7.
Thus the stage was set for the Super Bowl IV, the last meeting between the AFL and NFL Champions.

In 1970 the Bengals were first winners of the NFL’s newly formed American Football Conference Central Division and were the first third-year expansion team to win their division. They won the title on the strength of an 8-6 record, beating out division rivals Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston, capturing the clubs’ first playoff berth.

The Bengals went on the road to Baltimore to play in the AFC Divisional playoff game. They lost their first postseason match to the AFC’s best team, the Colts, 17-0.

This white road jersey is almost the exact opposite of the 1968 jersey shown in this poster. The long sleeves have orange and black stripes just above the elbow and black numerals on the chest and back.

The pants are lace-up and are secured by a belt at the waist. And again they feature orange and black stripes running down the side of each leg.

The helmet, orange in color, has the team name “BENGALS” spelled out in an arch in block letters instead of a designed logo. This is a helmet logo style that would remain in use until the 1981 season.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1973 uniform
1973

The 1973 Bengals achieved the best regular season record in franchise history with 10 wins and 4 losses. And they were a true force to be reckoned with at home - posting a 7-0 record at Riverfront Stadium.

Legendary coach Paul Brown was still at the helm. On field, the team was led by a trio of Pro Bowlers: TE Bob Trumpy, WR Isaac Curtis and DL Mike Reid. Another notable team leader was QB Ken Anderson who was ranked as one of the top 10 pivots in the NFL in 1973. That year, Anderson completed 179 passes for 2428 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Unfortunately for the Bengals, their regular season success did not spill over to the post season. In the AFC Divisional playoff game the Bengals lost 34-16 to the powerhouse Miami Dolphins who went on to win their second consecutive Super Bowl at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

This white road jersey nicely illustrates a look that all future Bengals jerseys will have – by now the long sleeves have been replaced by wider fitting short sleeves. The 1973 uniform sleeves feature black and orange striping, but now two thin white bands separate the black stripes from the orange. There are large black numerals on the chest and back of the jersey although the “TV” numbers on the sleeves have yet to make an appearance.

The pants are lace-up and are secured by a belt at the waist. And again they feature orange and black stripes running down the side of each leg.

The helmet, orange in color, continues to have the team name “BENGALS” spelled out in an arch in block letters instead of a designed logo. This is a helmet logo style that would remain in use until the 1981 season.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1975 uniform
1975

The Bengals burst out of the gate in 1975, opening the season with a 6-game winning streak. In his final season as head coach Brown led the Bengals to an 11-3 record and a Wild Card Playoff berth. Their only losses that year came from division rivals Pittsburgh (twice) and Cleveland. The Steelers finished ahead of the Bengals with a 12-2 record, while the Browns finished dead last in the AFC Central at 3-11.

QB Ken Anderson once again was a force for Cincinnati, completing 228 passes for 3169 yards. This performance was good enough to earn him his first Pro Bowl selection. That year he would be joined in Hawaii by two teammates: WR Isaac Curtis and DB Lemar Parrish.

In the post season, it was “one-and-done” for the Bengals. Playing on the road in Oakland, they lost in a close game 31-28.

The following year, Paul Brown announced his retirement after 41 years of coaching. He named his long-time assistant Bill Johnson his successor. Brown served as team president until his death in 1991, when his son Mike succeeded him

This black home jersey has sleeves that feature white and orange stripes, two thin black bands separate the white stripes from the orange. There are large white numerals on the chest and back of the jersey, and still no “TV” numbers on the sleeves.

The pants are lace-up and are secured by a belt at the waist. And again they feature orange and black stripes running down the side of each leg.

The helmet, orange in color, has the team name “BENGALS” spelled out in an arch in block letters instead of a designed logo. This is a helmet logo style that would remain in use until the 1981 season.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1981 uniform
1981

In 1976, under their new head coach Bill Johnson, the Bengals set a face pace winning 9 of their first 11 games. Unfortunately, losses to the Steelers and Raiders, late in the season, cost them the division title and a playoff berth.

The next four seasons would not be any kinder to the Bengals. In 1977 they won 8 games, in 1978 and 1979 they won only 4 games; then 6 games in 1980.

In 1981 the Bengals unveiled new uniforms and a new attitude. Under second year head coach Forrest Gregg, Cincinnati became the class of the AFC. They won their division on the strength of a 12-4 record and secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

They beat the Bills 28-21 in an AFC Divisional game, this win would represent the club’s first playoff win ever. One week later the Chargers came to town, and were soundly whipped by the Bengals 27-7 in mind bogglingly cold –59 degree weather, thus giving the Bengals their first AFC championship and their first trip to the Super Bowl.

Their postseason roll ended in a truly great Super Bowl game when they met up with Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI on January 24, 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. The Bengals fell behind early, but fought back in the second half narrowing the 49ers lead to 6 points, but ultimately lost the game 26-21.

In 1981 the Bengals adopted a look that would be considered among the most distinctive in football for years to come. Their new home uniform featured orange tiger stripes on the shoulders of a black jersey, replacing the orange, back and white striping found on Bengals’ jerseys since 1968. This home jersey also features large white numerals accented by orange trim on the front and back. New to the jersey are “TV” numbers - the smaller numbers on the sleeve below the shoulder, so named because TV coverage demanded an easier way for viewers to identify players.

The pants remained white, but an orange and black tiger stripe design ran down the side of each leg, replacing the former “straight” orange and black stripes. The belt is now orange – quite a departure from the traditional black.

Orange helmets with black tiger stripes were now in – a style unique in all the NFL. Out were the old orange helmets with BENGALS spelled out in block letters.

Note: People often wonder how the newly designed Bengals uniform and helmet came about - the answer is Bruce Claypool. For a first hand account of the story, please see this great June 2010 Uniwatch interview with Bruce Claypool.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1986 uniform
1986

Sam Wyche took over as head coach of the Bengals in 1984. He led the team to an 8-8 record in his first year and a 7-9 record in year-two. In 1986 the Bengals improved to 10-6 but fell short of making the playoffs.

Second-year QB Boomer Esiason was emerging as a star in the league. In ’86 Boomer completed 273 passes for 3959 yards and 24 TD’s. In his best performance he threw for 425 yards against the NY Jets.

His outstanding year also earned Boomer Esiason his first Pro Bowl selection. Joining him in Hawaii that year were RB James Brooks and O-Linemen Max Montoya and Anthony Munoz.

The new look that had been established in 1981 continued. This white road uniform features orange and black tiger stripes on the shoulder. On the sleeves are small black TV numbers accented with orange trim. Large black numerals with orange trim adorn the front and back.

White pants with a lace-up fly and wavy orange and black tiger stripes down the side continue as well. As you may notice, white pants were worn with both home and road jerseys throughout the history of the Bengals. They would remain an element of the uniform until 2004 when black pants were introduced.

The orange helmets with black tiger stripes, first used in 1981, would remain the official helmet design.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1988 uniform
1988

After a 4-11 1987 season, the Bengals stormed back in 1988 with a 12-4 record, their best record under head coach Sam Wyche. They won the Central Division title and finished as the top seed in the AFC playoffs, securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

They defeated Seattle 21-13 in the divisional playoff game, and then Buffalo 21-10 in the AFC championship game. And just like in 1981, they earned a date against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, this time in Miami at Joe Robbie Stadium.

After holding the lead going into the 4th quarter, Cincinnati lost Super Bowl XXIII, 20-16, in heartbreaking fashion when 49ers QB Joe Montana hit WR John Taylor on a touchdown pass with just 34 seconds left in the game.

Despite the loss in the big game, the 1988 Bengals were loaded with nine Pro Bowl players. RB James Brooks, WR Eddie Brown, QB Boomer Esiason, DB David Fulcher, TE Rodney Holman, DL Tim Krumrie , OL Max Montoya , OL Anthony Munoz, DB Eric Thomas were all selected to the AFC All-Star team.

This white road uniform features orange and black tiger stripes on the shoulder. On the sleeves are the now customary TV numbers accented with orange trim. Large black numerals with orange trim adorn the front and back.

White pants with a lace-up fly and wavy orange and black tiger stripes down the side remain a constant. (This 1988 version is fastened at the waist with a black belt.) As you may notice, white pants were worn with both home and road jerseys throughout the history of the Bengals. They would remain an element of the uniform until 2004 when black pants were introduced.

The orange helmets with black tiger stripes, first used in 1981, continue to be worn.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1990 uniform
1990

In 1990 the Bengals won their 5th AFC Central division title on the strength of a 9-7 record. The team was led by Sam Wyche, now in his seventh year as head coach, and QB Boomer Esiason. Esiason, now an established NFL superstar. Esiason notched his sixth consecutive 3,000-yard season, a club record. The team ranked 7th in the league in offence and 19th on the defensive side of the ball.

Once in the playoffs, the Wyche and his men were hoping for some of the same magic they had in 1988 when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t to be. In 1990 they opened the playoffs with a 41-14 win over the Houston Oilers in the AFC Wildcard game, but the following week their playoff dreams were dashed by a 20-10-road loss to the Los Angeles Raiders.

The Bengals sent four players to the Pro Bowl in 1990: RB James Brooks, DB David Fulcher, TE Rodney Hamilton and OL Anthony Munoz.

The uniform featured here is a black home jersey. It features the characteristics of the look that was established in 1981. Orange tiger stripes adorn the shoulders, just above the TV numbers on the sleeve. Large “block letter” white numerals outlined in orange are on the front and back of the jersey.

White pants with a lace-up fly and orange and black tiger stripes down the side remain a constant. (This 1990 version is fastened at the waist with a black belt.) As you may notice, white pants were worn with both home and road jerseys throughout the history of the Bengals. They would remain an element of the uniform until 2004 when black pants were introduced.

The orange helmets with black tiger stripes, first used in 1981, would remain the official look.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1994 uniform
1994

After finishing 3-13 in 1991 the Bengals made a bold move, hiring 32 year old David Shula, son of legendary coach Don Shula, as head coach. In 1993 the team got off to an abysmal start losing their first 11 games.

The early 1990’s were pretty lean times for Cincinnati. David Shula coached the team from 1992-1996 and posted a 19-52 record before being replaced by Bruce Coslet part-way through the 1996 season.

In 1994 the NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary (1920 - 1994). As part of the 75th anniversary celebrations, during selected games during the 1994 season, teams wore uniforms and helmets designed to resemble those from an earlier season in the team's history. While some teams wore the "throwback" uniforms for only a few games, others used them for most of the season - for instance the San Francisco 49ers wore them for almost the entire season, including the Super Bowl.

On this 1994 Bengals “throwback” jersey you see a return to the style worn in 1968 during the team’s first season. There is at least one small difference; the jersey is cut to contemporary ‘specs’, using short sleeves instead of long.

About the 1994 and 1996 uniforms: If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll notice a small NFL shield patch on the jersey’s neckline. Most NFL uniforms added the NFL logo patch to the neck, and to the upper left thigh of the pants, beginning in 1991. The only major exception to this practice was in 1994 when the teams wore their throwback uniforms – in these cases, as is the case here, most teams did not wear the NFL shield patch on their jersey or pants.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1996 uniform
1996

The 1996 white road uniform features orange and black tiger stripes on the shoulder. On the sleeves are small black TV numbers accented with orange trim. Large black numerals with orange trim adorn the front and back.

White pants with a lace-up fly and wavy orange and black tiger stripes down the side remain a constant. (This 1996 version is fastened at the waist with a white belt.) As you may notice, white pants were worn with both home and road jerseys throughout the history of the Bengals. They would remain an element of the uniform until 2004 when black pants were introduced.

The orange helmets with black tiger stripes, first used in 1981, would remain the official look.


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Cincinnati Bengals 1997 uniform
1997
In 1997 the Bengals, with head coach Bruce Coslet in his first full year, finished fourth in the AFC Central with a 7-9 record. Sadly, 7-9 would be the best record the team would achieve for several years to come.

After winning the first game of the season, the Bengals fell into a slump losing their next seven games, ending their playoff hopes.

The team struggles cost QB Jeff Blake his starting job, as Boomer Esiason, who was reacquired as a free agent from Arizona in the off-season, came back to lead the Bengals. With Boomer back at the helm, the Bengals started to win. The old pro showed he still had some gas in the tank as he connected for 13 TD passes while giving up just 2 picks. Under Boomer the Bengals would win 6 of their final 8 games.

The uniform featured here is a white road jersey. It features many of the same characteristics of the look that was established in 1981 – wavy shoulder and pants stripes.

But this 1997 jersey has at least three new features. Just below the orange and black tiger stripes on the shoulder is a leaping tiger logo. This positioning has forced the TV numbers to move onto the top of each shoulder. The other significant change is the addition of a black collar.


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Cincinnati Bengals 2001 uniform
2001

The Bengals acquired QB John Kitna from the Seattle Seahawks as an upgrade to the ineffective Akili Smith. They would win their first 2 games with Kitna, and were 4-3 after their first 7 games of the season.

Sadly, the Bengals would lose their next seven games as QB Kitna struggled, throwing 22 interceptions while connecting for only 12 TD passes. The Bengals would win their final 2 games to close the season with a 6-10 record, making it 11 straight seasons without a winning record.

RB Corey Dillon was the brightest star on the team, rushing for 1,315 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The uniform featured here is a black home jersey. It features many of the same characteristics introduced in 1981.

Please note just like the 1997 jersey, Just below the orange and black tiger stripes on the shoulder, this jersey features a leaping tiger logo replacing the smaller TV numbers formerly on the sleeves. Large “block letter” black numerals outlined in orange are on the front and back of the jersey.

White pants with a lace-up fly and wavy orange and black tiger stripes down the side remain a constant, although this 2001 version is fastened at the waist with a black belt. As you may notice, white pants were worn with both home and road jerseys throughout the history of the Bengals. They would remain an element of the uniform until 2004 when black pants were introduced.

The orange helmets with black tiger stripes, first used in 1981, would remain the official look.


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Cincinnati Bengals 2004 uniform
2004

After bottoming-out with a 2-14 record in 2002 under the tutelage of head coach Dick Le Beau, the 2003 Bengals looked for change and respectability and enlisted Marvin Lewis as the team’s new sideline boss.

2003 also saw them release QB Akili Smith (who had been with the squad since 1999) and draft Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer with the first overall pick. And with third-year WR Chad Johnson rounding into form, the Bengals were able to go 8-8 in 2003. They didn’t make the playoffs, but at least they were in the hunt for a spot.

In 2004 the trio of Lewis, Palmer and Johnson again led the team to a respectable record of 8-8, finishing 3rd in the new four-team AFC North division Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Again the team failed to make the postseason, but this team, now playing in the state-of the-art Paul Brown Stadium which opened in 2000, managed to bring back big-time excitement to Cincinnati football fans.

In 2004 the Bengals uniform underwent some radical changes. The most noticeable of which was the addition of a “third” orange jersey to accompany their home black and road white jerseys.

A third jersey is a concept that became commonplace in baseball and hockey in the 1990’s, and in the 2000’s in the NFL. Most 3rd jerseys are worn occasionally at home as well as on the road, giving a team a third option as to what uniform to wear. And of course, the addition of a third jersey adds to the options fans can buy, thereby increasing apparel revenues and ultimately benefiting the team. More recently, baseball and hockey teams have begun adding 4th and even 5th jerseys to their roster of uniform possibilities, but this trend has not started in the NFL, nor is it likely to if for no other reason than the fact that the NFL season consists of only 16 regular season games vs baseball’s 162 and hockey’s 82.

This “third” jersey displays a new tiger-stripe pattern on the shoulders, has black sleeves, with black sleeve and collar trim. The sleeves have white undersides with a band of white going down to the waist.

More rounded style numerals replace the “block letter” style numeral adopted in 1981. On this jersey the numbers are outlined in black trim. And for the first time in franchise history black pants are officially adopted as part of the Bengal uniform. And once again, the orange helmets with black tiger stripes; first used in 1981, remain a part of the official team look.

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Celebrate the Bengals' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Cincinnati Bengals and the history of the Bengals franchise, you might really love to own an original piece of artwork celebrating the team's historic uniforms as seen in the poster at the top of this blog - you can actually own one of those original pieces of art! There are only 13 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 13 are sold, that's it, they're all sold out.

These original watercolor paintings would make a great gift (birthday gift, anniversary gift, retirement gift, Christmas gift, etc.) for someone you love or even a great gift for yourself (one of these framed pieces would look fantastic in your home or office). Each piece can be bought one of three ways:
1. As unframed art that you could have framed or mounted yourself (the one on the left)
2. Framed in our "Classic" framed version (the middle version)
3. Framed in our "Deluxe" framed version (the version on the right)



If you would like more information about this great artwork including the three ways you could purchase each piece, please visit our Cincinnati Bengals YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF7_bgefytA or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Cincinnati-Bengals-c110/ where you can see and purchase the artwork.

And if someone you know loves the history of sports uniforms (but maybe another team) and loves great art, please let them know that we have over 1500 pieces of great original artwork for sale at www.heritagesportsart.com (all NFL teams, all MLB teams, all NHL teams, all CFL teams, select NCAA football teams) or check out each team's video at the Heritage Sports Art YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/user/ssillcox

And please search my blog archive http://heritagejerseys.blogspot.com/ for other blogs on the history of the Bengals.

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This blog was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 16, 2010. I have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information, but I am human and can make mistakes. If you believe I have made a mistake, please let me know by email at ssillcox@rogers.com !

Many thanks!!!
Scott

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