When talk gets around to the career of former Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson, guaranteed, the first name to come up will be Bill Walsh. The Hall-of-Fame coach worked with Anderson when the two were together in Cincinnati and helped lay the foundation for a career that put Anderson and the Bengals in their first Super Bowl.
But there’s someone else who deserves to be included, and Anderson made certain he didn’t forget him when we caught up with him this week on the Talk of Fame Network.
“A guy who doesn’t get enough credit Is Lindy Infante,” he said of his former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. “He came in with Forrest (Gregg, then the head coach) in 1980, and 1980 wasn’t a great year for me. I think I hurt a knee there at one point, I don’t know. But Lindy … we spent a lot of time working together, and he straightened me out.”
The numbers support that statement. Anderson was 5-7 in 1980, with 6 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But in 1981 he was 12-4, with 29 TDs and 10 interceptions and a league-leading 98.4 passer rating as the Bengals reached Super Bowl XVI. What’s more, he was the league MVP, the league Comeback Player of the Year and its Offensive Player of the Year.
One year later, he would complete 70.6 percent of his passes, a single-season record that stood for 27 years until Drew Brees broke it, and in 1983 complete a league-leading 66.7 percent of his attempts. They were the two highest completion percentages of Anderson’s career.
“The Bengals teams … geez, we were awful in ’78 and ’79 (they were 8-24),” he said. “They were not very good teams at all, (and) we didn’t have many good players. Lindy came in and we went back and looked at stuff, and I’d gotten in some bad habits.
“He brought a unique offense to the table where, all of a sudden, we’re doing option routes with tight ends, and we were one of the first teams to start running the quarterback ‘naked’ (unblocked bootlegs) coming out.
“Jeesh, in our Super Bowl year, I was our second leading rusher on a team running those ‘nakeds.’ Teams hadn’t seen that before. So, I mean, a lot of it had to do with his offense, and we had a great tight end to run that offense in Danny Ross who had about 70 catches in one of those years.”
Ross had a career-high 71 catches in 1981, the year the Bengals went to the Super Bowl. And Infante? He became a head coach, first with the Jacksonville Bulls of the USFL, then with the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts.
Infante died in 2015 at 75.