Cincinnati Bengals Logo. Copyright by the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League.
The first professional football team to be called the Cincinnati Bengals began playing in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1937. This team was part of the American Football League, which folded following the 1937 season. This Bengals team had a combined record of two wins, four losses, and two ties. The team continued to play during 1938 as an independent team, and then, in 1939, it joined a new American Football League, which folded that same year. In 1940, a third American Football League formed, and the Cincinnati Bengals joined it. Unfortunately, World War II began the following year, causing manpower shortages as men joined the armed forces. This prompted this newer AFL to cease playing after the 1941 season.
Professional football returned to Cincinnati in 1967. Paul Brown, former coach of the Cleveland Browns, received authorization from a modern American Football League to create a team in Cincinnati. Brown chose the name Bengals to memorialize the teams of the same name that had represented Cincinnati in the past. The team's first season was in 1968. The Bengals played their home games at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. With Brown as coach, the Bengals languished to a 3-11-0 season. The next season did not go much better, with the Bengals attaining a record of 4-9-1.
The 1970s proved to be much more fortunate for the Bengals. Over the course of this decade, the Bengals won seventy-four games and lost seventy more. In 1970, 1973, and 1975, the Bengals participated in the playoffs, although they lost in the first round each of those years. In 1970, the Bengals also began playing in a new stadium, Riverfront Stadium, on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. Following the playoffs in 1975, Brown retired from coaching. Bill Johnson replaced him. After two successful seasons, Johnson experienced a dismal start to his third campaign, not winning any of the first five games in the 1978 season. Homer Rice quickly replaced Johnson, but he experienced only slightly more success.
In 1980, Forrest Gregg became head coach. The 1980s proved to be the most prosperous decade for the Bengals. Under Gregg and Sam Wyche, who replaced Gregg in 1984, the Bengals won eighty-one games and lost seventy-one games. The team made the playoffs in 1981, 1982, 1988, and 1990, including reaching the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988. In both Super Bowls, the Bengals faced the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals lost both games.
Since the Super Bowl loss at the end of the 1988 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have struggled. Dave Shula replaced Sam Wyche in 1992. Shula did not have a winning record while he coached the team. Bruce Coslet replaced Shula during the 1996 season, but with the exception of his first season, Coslet never won more than seven games (less than one-half of them) in a single season. Dick LeBeau, who replaced Coslet in the middle of the 200o season, also endured losing records for his two and one half seasons with the Bengals. Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003. Under Lewis's guidance, the Bengals have experienced more success, returning to the NFL playoffs in 2005. The Bengals now play their games in Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati.