Bruce Kozerski is no stranger to winning the battle for the trenches.
The former center played in the Bengals offensive line for twelve seasons from 1984 to 1995. Kozerski lined up with franchise giants like Anthony Muñoz and Max Montoya.
The trio dominated the trenches in the late 1980s with Joe Walter and Bruce Reimers.
During the Bengals’ 1988 AFC championship season, they set the tone by opening holes for star running backs Ickey Woods and James Brooks. They also gave MVP Boomer Esiason plenty of time to toss in the bag.
The Bengals Offensive ended in the 1988 season with 3,347 yards in the air (209.2 per game) and 2,710 yards on the ground (169.4 per game) in first place overall.
“When you look at a great team that has a quarterback who has had some notable success over a period of time, start with the guys in the trenches,” Kozerski said in an exclusive interview with AllBengals. “You keep him clean and give him the opportunity.”
Kozerski knows that with Joe Burrow, the Bengals have something special at their center. He also knows they have to build around Burrow to give him the chance to succeed.
“Joe (Burrow) is possibly the most impressive rookie to ever play for the Bengals,” said Kozerski. “We have [Bengals] had some great ones. It’s not just the fact that he throws the ball where it’s supposed to be thrown, but also the lead on the field of play. He was a hitter from the moment he stepped on the field. Perhaps the greatest choice they ever had. “
The Bengals took the first step to keep Burrow upright by hiring offensive coach Frank Pollack in January. Getting him back in the fold should be a good sign of their possible success in the trenches.
Pollack reminds Kozerski of the legendary Bengals offensive coach Jim McNally. McNally taught Kozerski and his fellow linemen how to be a pro and how comfortable a quarterback is in your pocket. He believes Pollack will have the same impact on this current group of Bengali linemen.
The 59-year-old was in the Bengals team in 1987, which ended 4-11. They went from worst to first in 1988 with appropriate coaching and roster adjustments. He believes this team can turn things around if they put the right pieces around Burrow.
Kozerski is high on Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, but knows that adding a speed receiver to spread the field would complete the package for Burrow.
“My money goes to one of these two devices. The best available recipient in the second round,” said Kozerski. “If you choose to be recipients first, those two guys will be gone [Slater and Sewell]then they have to take an offensive linemen in the second round. A large. A good. You can’t miss it. ”
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Cincinnati should get a chance to take on Sewell later this month, provided he’s on the board when the Bengals are fifth on the clock. You could also put the LSU-wide Ja’Marr Chase receiver at number 5.
Kozerski is so in tune with the Bengals because he never left Cincinnati after his game days. He has taught at Holy Cross High School in Northern Kentucky for 23 years. He has also coached their soccer team since their inaugural 1998 season.
He witnessed some of the highest and lowest moments in Bengali history both as a gamer and as a retiree. He keeps up to date with the team and keeps in touch with many of the players and coaches he has played with, some of whom are the best players in franchise history.
He hopes that Bengal legends like Ken Anderson, Ken Riley and others will one day find their way to Canton.
“It’s crazy. We have [Bengals] had some of the greatest players in NFL history, ”said Kozerski. “If we can do it in Cincinnati [a Ring of Honor] could be a trigger. The [Ring of Honor] could say these people belong in the Hall of Fame. ”
A Bengals Ring of Honor would give players who deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame an extra boost in recognition than what they’re getting now and pave the way for today’s players.
The talent of Bengali history is abundant, and the future in Cincinnati looks bright if the team can build around Burrow. The Bengals must give their quarterback the opportunity to make this team one of the next big thing in the franchise, just as Kozerski, Muñoz and the rest of the Bengals did for Esiason and Anderson more than three decades ago.
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