Cincinnati was home to two other football teams in the National Football League prior to the present-day Bengals. One of the teams, known as the Cincinnati Celts, was a member of the NFL then known as the American Professional Football Association in the league's second season in 1921. That team finished with a 1-3-0 record in their only season.
In 1933, the NFL granted the city another franchise, this time called the Cincinnati Reds. They competed in the league for two seasons before folding. The Reds finished with a 3-6-1 record and fourth place in the league's Western Division in 1933. In 1934, they lost their first eight games before suspending operations. The St. Louis Gunners, an independent team, joined the NFL by buying the Cincinnati franchise and went 1-2 the last three weeks of the season.
It was a third team, however one which was not a member of the NFL that eventually proved to be the closest link to today's modern-era team.
In 1937, a team known as the Cincinnati Bengals was formed as a member of the rival American Football League. It was that team's nickname which was later adopted by today's NFL franchise.
The 1937 Cincinnati Bengals finished with a 2-4-2 record in their first year, but the AFL folded after the season. The Cincinnati Bengals continued as an independent team in 1938, playing three NFL teams that year. They beat the Chicago Bears, 17-13, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, 38-0, and tied the Chicago Cardinals, 7-7.
In 1939, the Cincinnati Bengals joined a new AFL, finishing in second place with a 6-2 record. But again, the league folded after the season.
Once again in 1940, another new AFL emerged, and again the Cincinnati Bengals joined. They recorded 1-7-0 and 1-5-2 marks in 1940 and 1941, respectively. That AFL suffered the fate of the two AFLs before it, folding after the 1941 season as the United States entered World World II. Only this time, the Cincinnati Bengals folded along with it.
Pro football returned to Cincinnati 26 years later in 1967 when Paul Brown headed an ownership group which landed an expansion franchise in the modern-era American Football League. Brown, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who founded and coached the Cleveland Browns from 1946-62, picked the name Bengals for the new team "to give it a link with past professional football in Cincinnati."
Hundreds of names were suggested by fans in an effort to name the new Cincinnati team, the most popular being Buckeyes. It was rejected to avoid confusion with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Cincinnati Bengals began play in the AFL in 1968. The AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, and the Cincinnati Bengals have been members ever since.