Big Willie most underrated Bengal ever

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on June 23, 2010 – 5:54 pm

Tracked down Willie Anderson this week after Lenny Pasquarelli’s story about him on detailed his desire to get back into the NFL as a player as well as a mentor.

Anderson has harbored the desire ever since he retired last spring, but has said he needed to take the year off to address some things and now at 338 pounds and less than three weeks shy of his 35th birthday he says he’s ready for a comeback. He’s still on the Ravens reserve/retired list, so he’s their property until they release him. But the Ravens are probably the first team that would take a look at him, anyway. He says he’s had some feelers, but won’t get specific.

The Bengals and Anderson don’t look headed for a reunion despite the question marks hovering over Andre Smith’s right foot, but that’s not what was on my mind. I always go to Big Will whenever I want to talk NBA, which is not often. But with the Celtics getting beat by the Lakers in seven games, I had a lot of things I wanted to get off my chest.

Will knows how I feel about William Felton Russell. He is the greatest team player in the history of team sports. The bottom line is 11 NBA championships in 13 years. And the last two as a PLAYER-COACH.

 To put Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, or anyone else in the same breath with Bill Russell is simply a travesty. If they do it as a PLAYER-COACH with at least 11 titles, then we can begin the discussion. Until then, it’s an embarrassment. A failure of institutional memory. The triumph of the banality of Madison Avenue and the homogenization of everything from drugstores to Hall of Fame plaques.

And that got us going on the theme from Mike and Mike’s radio show on ESPN Tuesday morning. Russell has to be the most underrated player of all-time in any sport. Baseball’s Frank Robinson, another player-manager, is a distant second.  How good was F. Robby? He brought the National League’s hard-lard style to the American League and the Orioles won four pennants in his first six seasons with them.

And then I told Big Will I thought he was the most underrated Bengal of all time.

It was like Columbus discovering America when the Bengals went 8-8 in 2003. Hey look, Paul Brown Stadium isn’t a flying saucer and there’s the most dominant right tackle in the NFL. Except he’d already been there for seven years.  Anderson ended up going to the next four Pro Bowls, but it should have been at least seven and maybe eight.

“You have to win,” Anderson said. “I think the guys I went against and my teammates knew, but there was this perception out there that all of a sudden I got better. I mean, I did get better, but not that much. That’s just the way it was.”

Bengals president Mike Brown has always said that after Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz on the left side, Anderson is the best tackle in Bengals history. That has to make him the most underrated Bengal ever, although you could certainly make an argument for cornerback Ken Riley. Riley never made a Pro Bowl despite finishing with 65 career interceptions, fifth most of all-time. Maybe Ken Anderson, too, since he’s the only eligible quarterback that has at least four passing titles not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But at least Anderson and wide receiver Isaac Curtis got their dues in a Super Bowl and Pro Bowls.  So did running back James Brooks, although he never truly got the national attention he deserved.

Anderson thinks that there are two guys he played with that also deserve to be in the discussion: Running back Corey Dillon and linebacker Takeo Spikes.

“First would be Corey and second would be Takeo,” Anderson said. “He didn’t have a passing game and he didn’t have a defense to stop anybody so that we could get the ball back and give it to him 30 times a game. He rarely got 30 carries and that’s a guy you would run to death if you could. But we couldn’t and he was still great even though everybody knew we couldn’t pass. Look at how long Takeo has played and he’s still good playing on good defenses.”

Spikes has been to two Pro Bowls, when he went with the Bills during his first two seasons in Buffalo in ’03 and ’04. Dillon did go to three Pro Bowls as a Bengal and he did get accolades for breaking two of the game’s biggest rushing records, single-game marks for a rookie and all-time. So he wasn’t as anonymous as his best lineman.

“It probably hurt me, too,” Anderson said, “that we couldn’t get him 30 carries a game.”

So I think I’d go top five underrated Bengals of all time:

Willie Anderson.

Ken Riley.

Rodney Holman. (Tight end that could do it all and that included stretching the field. Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome averaged 12.1 yards per catch and had 47 TDs. Holman had 13.6 yards per catch and 34 TDs. Of course, Newsome had 662 career catches, more than double Rodney’s 318, and that’s why he was a Hall of Famer. Holman made three Pro Bowls, but while Sam and Boomer and Eddie Brown and Tim McGee and the O-line got all the ink and sound bites, Holman quietly gave that offense its versatility and explosiveness.)

Rich Braham. (Center played hurt more than Ozzy Osbourne and in a couple of different eras. Blocked for Dillon’s record-setters and snapped for Carson Palmer’s triple-digit passer rating season. Took the Bengals three seasons to replace him.)

Jim Breech. (Yes, a kicker. Never went to a Pro Bowl. Only had two 50-yarders in a season once.  In 13 seasons as a Bengal he broke 80 percent on field goals in just three seasons. But he was nine-for-nine in OT. Case closed.)

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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Big Willie most underrated Bengal ever”

  1. By bengalsroar on Jun 23, 2010 | Reply

    I think Big Willie is one of the NFL’s most underrated Offensive Linemen period.

  2. By theredbengal on Jun 23, 2010 | Reply

    I’d agree. Willie is one of the most underrated bengals. I personally think Rich Braham was the most underrated, or at least the most under appreciated. He never got the big payday like Willie did, but he was a bengal from 1994 to 2006, just as long as Willie was a bengal (96-07). He was as solid as a rock. A blue collar kind of player.

    Like Hobson said, it took the Bengals three seasons to replace him. I feel if he didn’t get hurt in the browns game of ’06, the Bengals would have made the playoffs easily. Braham’s one of my favorites of all time.

  3. By mwindle1973 on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    I totally agree that Big Willie is the most underrated Bengal ever. I just mentioned in one of these blogs that we have never replaced him with a competent heir. And a large part of our success this year depends on how far we can go to do just that.

    I agree Bill Russell is a bit underrated himself. Way better than Wilt the Stilt, because Russell had the complete game. And Wilt spent too much time walking to the other end of the court 🙂 But I don’t think he can compare with Magic, Bird, and especially MJ. I really believe that if MJ hadn’t taken 2 years off basketball that he would have won 8 straight championships. In a much more competitive era than the Celtics dynasty. Plus you really have to consider that the Celtics were a championship team with and without Russell. The Bulls were untouchable with MJ, complete floor mats of the league before and after him.

    Both Magic & Bird could command a game like MJ and take it over in the clutch like him as well. But where MJ separates himself from all other greats is his defense. Quite arguably the best D player of all time. Russell may be #2 but he couldn’t compare. Actually those Bulls teams had all time great defenders in Rodman & Pippen too. Probably the best D of all time. They existed in the most defensive era of the NBA. Chicago, Detroit, Orlando, Knicks, Heat, Rockets, Jazz, Spurs all had crushing Ds through the late 80’s-late 90’s. I think in another era he would’ve averaged close to 40 pts or more a game.

    Plus MJ owns the record books. Including highest scoring average, highest playoff scoring average, second in all time steals to name a few. And he is 6-0 in championship series. And average 22 ppg at the age of 40 with a really bad team in 2003.

  4. By carson9 on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    So many good Bengals players that have been over looked. Big Willie was the best. PERIOD. Rich was a strong case for number 2. Highly underrated also.

  5. By hobsonschoice1 on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    Great text from Big Whit. He played with both Willie and Richie and he agrees both guys in their own ways are the most underrated. Richie for just flat out what he meant to the offense and Willie for how great he really was. And Whit played just two games with Richie.

    And to my man from ’73, I just don’t see the MJ stuff. Russell is the greatest defensive player of all time because he changed the way they played the game. Wilt walked down the floor because Russell just wore him out. Wilt is the greatest offensive force in league history and Russell beat him nearly every time.

    Russell made the Celtics champions not in one era, but three. He just wasn’t a part of it. The guards (Cousy, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones) came and went. So did the forwards (Heinsohn to Havlicek). So did presidents (Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon)but Russell was the anchor. If he’d been with the Sixers or Lakers, or the Cincinnati Royals (a good club that could just never beat Boston), they would have been the dynasty.

    Look at William Felton Russell’s last tite, the one where the Celts beat the Lakers of Baylor, West, and Wilt in Game Seven in L.A. For goodness sake’s, the Celtics beat them with people like Emmette Bryant, Bailey, Howell, Don Nelson and a young defensive guard named Don Chaney. Not exactly the 50 greatest players of all-time.

    But Russell shut down Wilt and he willed them and coached them. MJ just can’t compete with that.

    But, hey, I’m biased and I know it, ’73. I think we’re married to our eras and there is nothing wrong with that. Jordan was fun to watch, no question.

  6. By overthroensamoan on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    No question it’s Ken (The Rattler) Riley. The guy should be in the HOF for crying out loud. Roger Wehrli gets in, just a travesty. Someone thats been overlooked is Reggie Williams. Really solid LB for a long time. I think Willie should no better than third. I see him definately behind Riley and Braham.

  7. By hobsonschoice1 on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    I went with Anderson No. 1 because he never got the exposure of a Super Bowl. The Rattler, at least, did get to play in a Super Bowl. So did Williams. Williams is exactly what he is. A solid player. And he did get a good run at attention with his myriad of off-field activities. And deservedly so. But his election to city council brought him more national exposure than Anderson got in his first seven seasons combined.

  8. By coachwine on Jun 24, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks Geoff, another great topic and lead in. I haven’t paid more than token attention to the NBA since the Royals left town despite being an avid fan while they were here. I still have this vivid memory of Philadelphia attempting an alley-oop to Wilt on an in-bounds pass and Russell blocking the dunk attempt–incredible. Wilt was a strong man and Russell snuffed him. He was indeed the glue of the Celtics dynasty.

    All great choices for most under-rated. Willie was a great player and is a fine human being. We saw what happened to the Bengals O when Richie left, he was the glue. I’m old enough to remember all that Ken Riley did here. Ken Anderson is getting a raw deal not yet being in the Hall. James Brooks in my estimation is the best running back in Bengals history despite numbers. But the bottom line is that Bengals successes have been too infrequent over the years, so there will always be those not getting recognition until success becomes a habit. I can’t tell you five players for the Cardinals of old or give any respect to the Browns since Moddell bailed on Cleveland. Thanks again for keeping this web site lively and fun to look in on regularly.

  9. By pacomomogoose on Jun 25, 2010 | Reply

    All of these guys mentioned above were/are great… makes me proud to be a Bengals fan.

  10. By hobsonschoice1 on Jun 25, 2010 | Reply

    COACH: Now that you mention Cleveland and Modell, it makes me think Paul Brown might have to go down as one of the all-time under rated coaches.

    No question he’s seen as a great coach, but his innovations and what they have meant to the game seem to be under the radar. If you look at anything from the NFL when it comes to coaching history, video, magazine covers or otherwise, it always seems to highlight guys like Lombardi, Shula, and Walsh. And rightfully so. All three were brilliant, prolific, and innovative champions.

    But, like them, Brown dominated his era, and with P.B. there is the added credential that he professionalized the game with everything from playbooks to hiring full-time assistants.

    I think Brown’s presence isn’t as towering as it should be because he had his most influence in the black-and-white days. Lombardi came of age at the same time TV did in the technicolor ’60s, about the time Modell exiled Brown to La Jolla.

    By the time Brown came back in 1968, it was with an expansion team in a small market. Meanwhile, guys like Walsh and Shula survived into the cable TV era, when Brown was off the sidlines.

    Plus, time simply marches on. You remember who you remember. You don’t see Harry Truman quoted like he was even 20 years ago.

    Side note: Shula and Chuck Noll played for Brown, Walsh broke into the NFL with Brown’s offense, and Brown urged Green Bay to hire Lombardi.

  11. By coachwine on Jun 25, 2010 | Reply

    I started to expand my comments about Modell and the raw deal Coach Brown got, but I didn’t want to further annoy folks. With you mentioning it I can’t help myself.

    Paul Brown was “the man” in my eyes. Nobody did it better and for anyone not to mention him in any discussion of great NFL coaches is a travesty. As owner, Modell had the right to hire his own people and may have done so because he thought Coach Brown was such an imposing figure he would stand in the way of his own ego being stroked. But nobody’s TOTAL contribution to and innovations for the game matches Paul Brown’s.

  12. By mwindle1973 on Jun 25, 2010 | Reply

    Now Hobs just to prove to you that being born in 73 does not skew or effect my opinions and that MJ just is the greatest BB player of all time! 🙂

    I totally agree about the Paul Brown thing. To me he’s the tops of all time. I know it’s arguable, always is. But when looking at a coach who began in 1932. There were college and even HS teams that could rival Pro teams of the day. And Brown coached at just those kind of schools. Here’s an impressive statistical look at his championships at all levels. He began coaching in 1930 and started for Massillon Washington HS here in Ohio in 1932, where he was born and would spend his life coaching.

    He spent 32-40 at Massillon with 6 straight Ohio HS Championships in 35-40. Keep in mind Massillon’s stadium could hold 20,000, which rivaled a lot of Pro stadiums. Massillon today is the home Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

    Went to OSU from 41-43 winning a National Championship in 42.

    Served in military the next 2 years.

    Coached Cleveland from 46-62, winning 4 AAFC championships (46-49), and 3 NFL Championships (50, 54-55). Including 10 straight appearances in a championship game.

    6 time Coach of the Year (49, 51, 53, 57, 69, 70)

    If you lost count that’s 15 championships in 19 seasons for 4 different teams. And you know without Modell it’s hard to tell what his career stats would look like. Moving to an expansion team in 68 and not coaching for 5 years in between definitely effected them

    Plus nobody has contributed more to the modern game. Brown was always on the edge of the game, whether as coach or owner or both. Even after all the innovations throughout the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s under his reign with the Bengals we seen both the 1st full functioning “West Coast” offense in the 70’s. And also seen the 1st full functioning no huddle offense in the mid 80’s.

    Sid Gill, Chuck Knoll, Bill Walsh, Blanton Collier, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Lou Saban, Don Shula & Sam Wyche are all people that coached or played under him and were heavily influenced by him. That a pretty good coaching tree.

  13. By 2ndboot on Jun 26, 2010 | Reply

    I’m going to go WAYY out on a limb here and say Mike Brown may someday be noted as an under rated owner. The first half was kind of ugly, but he seems to have finally figured out how to put a winning product on the field and he held on to his dads name on the stadium and didn’t sell out to Kroger or Proctor Doctor or whoever..
    He could have moved the team, sold it, turned it into the worse team forever and so on, but look at them roar now..
    Sure, it was a steep learning curve it appears, but there are few complaints now unlike years previous.

  14. By emueller78 on Jun 28, 2010 | Reply

    I believe big Willy is one of Two most underrated players in Bengals history. I think he is a VERY close second behind Rich Braum. Its hard to say which one, but for an offence to function properly the guys in the front line are what makes the offence productive. Just look at Detroit good receivers, and one of the GREATEST running backs of All time (Barry Sanders), If the QB doesn’t have time to throw the ball or nobody Blocks you cant produce.

  15. By 2ndboot on Jun 28, 2010 | Reply

    Thats the way Archie got the Hiesman twice at OSU.. They had bulls on the front line to clear his way. I remember watching those games and defensive lines then went back on their backs half the time. It was almost comical, but when he came to the pro’s he was mediocre, but never lived up to the dazzle of OSU. Archie was OK, but his college days far out shined his pro days. BIG boys on the O line in Columbus.

  16. By let14in on Jul 6, 2010 | Reply

    I guess it’s easy to miss the obvious choice. Anderson was a good lineman, but Ken Anderson is not in the HOF. That makes him the correct choice by a mile.

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