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Thursday, January 16, 2014
NFLN Survey/franchise player: Bengals

By Coley Harvey

Maybe it's their overwhelming youth.

Or maybe it's the fact their franchise hasn't won a playoff game since many of them were just coming out of diapers.

It also could be the comparatively small media market they call home. Regardless what it's chalked up to, the Cincinnati Bengals were virtually shut out of an anonymous, league-wide player's-only poll that asked the following question: "If you could start an NFL franchise with one player, who would it be?"

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the top choice  in the survey that was conducted during the regular season by ESPN NFL Nation's 32 team beat reporters.

Perhaps it comes as little surprise that Manning, a future Hall of Fame quarterback who this weekend will try to win only the third AFC championship of his 16-year career, was among the most selected players by his peers. It's also little surprise that Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New England's Tom Brady ended up atop the list, too.

What was a little surprising? Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck was the third-leading vote-getter.

Maybe youth isn't a factor at all.

Only two Bengals received a small scattering of votes, and their third-year quarterback wasn't one of them. Andy Dalton, who has been to the postseason three consecutive seasons, and passed for 3,000 yards in each of his three seasons, wasn't among a list of young, vote-receiving quarterbacks that included Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton.

Receiver A.J. Green was voted for, as was defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Drafted the same year as Dalton, Green has been the Bengals' top passing target since arriving to Cincinnati. He's earned his respect by continually ranking as one of the NFL's top receivers throughout his career. One of his closest friends in the league, Detroit's Calvin Johnson, walked away with the fifth-most votes in the survey, and the most votes of any non-quarterback.

Maybe a team's success isn't much of a factor, either. After all, the Lions haven't been to the playoffs since most of the Bengals were playing T-ball.