The Bengals started up in 1966 as part of the American Football League, and then became part of the AFC when the American Football League merged with the NFL in 1970.
The founder and first coach was legendary Paul Brown, the first coach of rival and namesake Cleveland Browns. They named the Cleveland Browns after Paul Brown! I can assure you that despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on NFL games, jerseys, concessions and other junk, no one has asked to name a team after me.
“Well, who are you?” an angry fan asked me. “Are you just a fan? What town would want to name their team after you, anyway? You mean something like the Des Moines Ditzels? Would that be your team name.? The Des Moines Ditzels? It sounds like something you would say at a Ditzel family reunion. ‘Hey, the Des Moines Ditzels are here! Where are the Rockford Ditzels? Are they going to make it?'”
One reason Paul Brown chose Cincinnati was the Reds baseball team were looking to build a new stadium and they could combine forces to finance a new facility for both teams. The Reds had been playing at their current home, Crosley Field, since 1912, so clearly they needed a new stadium.
Here is one indicator of how old Crosley Field was–it was the first major league baseball stadium to have lights for night games. They invited coal miners from the Kentucky coal fields across the Ohio river to attend games wearing their coal miner hats. With seating for over 20,000 fans, there was plenty of lights from the miner hats to play at night. One problem they experienced was if they served too much beer, the games had to be delayed when several thousand miners went to the loo at the same time, knocking out lighting all over the stadium.
The Bengals name was chosen because it was the name of another team that played in Cincinnati from 1937 to 1941. As Paul Brown said, it was a link to the city’s football history. Heck, if they wanted to link to the city’s past, why not go all the way back to the beginning? The first surveyor of the town was also the creator of “Daniel Boone.” That would be interesting.
“So you are saying they should have called the team the the Cincinnati Daniel Boones?” a fan asked me. “What, and wear those dang raccoon hats instead of helmets? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Here’s an idea–Cincinnati was a huge hog packing town in the 1830s, and in 1835 they had the nickname “Porkopolis.” That would have a great team name. And it fit well. In those days, they had even herds of pigs roaming through the streets day and night.