CINCINNATI — While he’s not getting ready for Super Bowl LVII in Arizona, the last couple of days have gone pretty well for Joe Burrow.
Thursday night, at NFL Honors in Phoenix, he beat out Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes to win the NFL FedEx Air Player of the Year, given annually to the quarterback deemed by fans in a poll to be the best passer in the game.
He won the weekly award three times this season and led the Bengals to eight straight wins to finish the regular season and two in the postseason. He completed 414 of 606 passes for 4,475 pass yards and a career-best 35 passing touchdowns.
But Burrow got significantly better news Friday morning when the Colts decided to move in a different direction and not pursue offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as their next head coach. The Cardinals also interviewed Callahan and made it known that they also would be moving in a different direction.
This leaves Callahan to return for a fifth season in 2023 to a franchise where his career has blossomed with one of the brightest and most talented quarterbacks in the game.
“Couldn’t ask for a better place to be,” Callahan told me via text Friday morning. “Love it here.”
The feeling is certainly mutual among Burrow, head coach Zac Taylor and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher, all of whom have enjoyed continuity since Burrow was drafted in 2020. Pitcher could be leaving for Tampa Bay as offensive coordinator after his second interview this week with the Bucs.
Callahan, who has already earned a Super Bowl 50 ring from his time working with Peyton Manning in Denver in 2015, is part architect and part game-planner so that Taylor can call the plays confidently on game days.
Callahan’s return enables the Bengals offense to run it back next year and shoot for that elusive Super Bowl title.
Every Green Bay Packers fan must cringe every time they see Tee Higgins on highlights. Higgins was a guest on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio channel live from the Super Bowl LVII Media Center in Phoenix and admitted to host Adam Schein that he thought the Green Bay Packers were going to select him in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Packers ultimately selected quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick in the draft, and the Bengals selected Higgins with the 33rd overall selection.
Schein: “I thought for sure that you were going to be a Green Bay Packer in the [2020 NFL] Draft. Did you think you were going to be a Green Bay Packer?”
Higgins: “I definitely did. I thought they were going to draft me in that spot, but they didn’t. I fell to the second round, which I’m okay with. I fell in a perfect situation with Cincinnati, Joe Burrow. So I was like, ‘Oh, I’m about to go play with Joe Burrow. He just beat me in the national championship. I know what type of quarterback he is, so I don’t mind going out there and play with him.’ And then that very next year we drafted (Ja’Marr) Chase and you know, the rest was history.”
The Packers’ selection of Love with the 26th overall pick raised the eyebrow Aaron Rodgers, who felt he could’ve used the help to bolster a receiver corps that already included Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.
"I thought they were going to draft me in that spot." #Bengals superstar @teehiggins5 tells @AdamSchein he thought the #Packers were going to take him in the 2020 NFL Draft.
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) February 10, 2023
As Higgins said, the rest was history.
It had been far too long of a wait. But on Thursday night, 40 years after announcing his retirement from the NFL, the family of the late Ken Riley finally got the call they’d been waiting over two decades to receive. Ken Riley will be the 368th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted in Canton, joining Anthony Munoz as the only other Bengal to be so honored.
Owner Mike Brown on Ken Riley being selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/STcHLx43nk
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) February 10, 2023
“If there’s any such thing as a hall of famer, it’s Ken Riley,” fellow hall of fame defensive back Mel Blount once said. “A man like Ken Riley who has not only made such a great contribution to the game of football, but to the game of life. A decent human being who gave his life to the community and to the NFL.
“I watched Ken Riley for 14 years of my career play cornerback, and played it as well as anybody even including myself,” Blount added. “Ken Riley was a true All-Pro and hall of famer and I think it’s an injustice to not only the hall of fame but to guys like myself who are in the hall of fame to have a guy like Ken Riley sitting out there and has not been recognized for the work that he did and the contributions he made to the National Football League.”
Waiting on stage at NFL Honors to welcome Riley’s son Thursday night was Munoz in his gold HOF jacket.
Riley was announced as a member in the senior division of the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Riley, who did not play in a passing league like today, picked off an incredible 65 passes over his career, fifth-most in NFL history, returning five for touchdowns. The converted quarterback from Florida A&M was known as “The Rattler” not just for the nickname of his college but for the fear he struck in opposing quarterbacks.
To be immortalized in Canton as Hall of Famer No. 368, Ken Riley's resume includes:
-Fourth most interceptions (65) in NFL history.
-1983 First Team All-Pro
–@Bengals Ring of Honor pic.twitter.com/FJNQvfKNZe
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 10, 2023
Paul Brown converted the quarterback into a defensive back because he could see his wisdom and IQ for the game of football, to go with his remarkable athleticism and ability to read the quarterback. Brown always saw Riley in the right place at the right time, a critically important trait in any defensive back.
He was also a key leader of successful Bengals teams of the 1970s and early 80s. He played on division winners in 1970, ’73 and ’81, and played in Super Bowl XVI.