CINCINNATI — Bengals owner Mike Brown and head coach Zac Taylor received the keys to the city Wednesday during a rally celebrating the team's success this season.
Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval handed out large novelty keys, noting they are the first keys he has given out as the city's leader.
"I'm so new that these are novelty keys, they're placeholders," Pureval said. "Some supply chain issues — they'll be here soon, I'll show up with some keys at your door."
Brown and Taylor thanked Bengals fans for supporting the team throughout the 2021 season, with Brown saying "no team has better fans." Both said they noticed the large crowds traveling to Tennessee, Kansas City and Los Angeles.
"We played at the Rams home stadium, our fans made more noise than their fans," Brown said.
Criticized for the team's lack of success since he took over as owner in 1991, Brown said the organization is serious about continuing its success.
"Don't let anybody tell you that the Bengals aren't for real," Brown said. "We have a great coach and fine players, and they'll find out about us down the road. Our future is bright."
Taylor said 2021 has been "one of the best years of (his) life." Extended through 2026, he said he has his eyes set on another Super Bowl run.
"The one thing we took away from last weekend is we've gotta find a way to get back and win it all," Taylor said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Bootsy Collins and the Ben-Gals also attended the rally at Washington Park. "Bengal Jim" Foster, the team's fan of the year, led the crowd in a "Who Dey" chant, noting how many fans were in attendance.
"There's more fans here than the Rams parade," Foster said.
Carolyn, the mother of former Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, was also in Over-The-Rhine to celebrate the team's season. She said she still goes to games and will "love the team till the end."
The Bengals' historic season came to a heartbreaking end Sunday after quarterback Joe Burrow threw an incomplete pass under pressure on fourth-and-1 in the final seconds of Super Bowl LVI. After the game, Burrow apologized for the loss but said the team will continue to work in the offseason and come back better next year.
"Obviously we're not satisfied with what we did this year," Burrow said. "We're going to keep getting better and attack next year with the same intensity."
They returned to Cincinnati Monday night, less than 24 hours after the 23-20 loss. Thousands of fans flooded Paul Brown Stadium to welcome their favorite team back to the Queen City, cheering and holding up signs celebrating the Bengals' success — one sign stating, "It's still us."
The Bengals reached just their third Super Bowl in franchise history, the first since 1989. This team won Cincinnati's first playoff game since 1991, first-ever postseason away game and third AFC championship after finishing 10-7 in the regular season.
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