ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — As Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow comes closer to becoming the Bengals' pick at the top of the upcoming NFL draft, don't buy into the theory that Cincinnati is the place where the hopes and dreams of elite quarterbacks go to die, said former Bengals star and Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz.
"I would say, Kenny Anderson should be in the Hall of Fame. Boomer Esiason has credentials to be in the Hall of Fame," said Muñoz, the recipient of the Tropicana Legends Award at the the 83rd Maxwell Football Club National Awards Gala. "Carson (Palmer). Andy Dalton went to the playoffs five straight years until the last couple years, when the (offensive) line was terrible.
"As a quarterback, how can people say, ‘Go to Cincinnati and your career is over.' Believe me, I’ll be the first if there’s something with the organization. I won’t trash ‘em, but I love talking about it. ‘How can we improve this?’ But, I mean, again, I think they have the pieces."
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Muñoz spent 13 seasons with the Bengals after being taken third overall in the 1980 NFL draft, making 11 Pro Bowls and earning a spot on the NFL's 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams. Since retiring, Muñoz has remained close to franchise as part of the Bengals' preseason television broadcasts.
After experiencing a renaissance under former coach Marvin Lewis, who led the Bengals to six playoff appearances in six years from 2009-2015, Cincinnati has fallen back to punchline status across the past four seasons, bottoming out with a 2-14 mark in 2019. But the tumble presents an opportunity: the Bengals can draft a quarterback who they hope can reverse the direction of the franchise, as Burrow did in turning LSU's offense from an annual disappointment into the nation's best.
"You can’t be satisfied with what you did," said Muñoz. "He won the Heisman, he won the national championship. It’s a new day, man. You’ve got to turn up the volume and the preparation. You’ve got to be even more mentally disciplined because of the organization, how tough it’s been the last two or three years."
Burrow would join an offense that includes the projected return of last year's first-round pick, former Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, who missed all of his rookie season following shoulder surgery. The offensive line offers another two reliable starters in Michael Jordan and Trey Hopkins, though the team and second-year coach Zac Taylor need to find an answer at right tackle.
If Burrow is the Bengals' pick after a fabulous final season at LSU — he threw for 60 touchdowns against just six interceptions in leading the Tigers to the national championship — he'll play alongside a cast of skill players that includes running back Joe Mixon, who has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, and perhaps wide receiver A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick and potential unrestricted free agent after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.
A native of Athens, Ohio, where his father, Jimmy, was a longtime assistant at Ohio University, Burrow considered the University of Cincinnati as a graduate transfer leaving Ohio State in the summer of 2018 before settling on LSU. He can "take over the city" of Cincinnati, Muñoz said.
"It’s a great sports town. And it’s your city. He’s from there. Make that home, really engross yourself in the community, use your platform and just be there and get it done. That’s what I would recommend."
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