The Bengals are largely an afterthought as the 2019 NFL season creeps closer and perhaps rightly so. However, Zac Taylor’s players have not gotten the message.
The problems Zac Taylor inherited when he was given his first NFL head coaching job in Cincinnati this offseason went deeper than the fact that the Bengals are coming off three straight losing seasons,
Marvin Lewis roamed the sidelines for 16 years. More than that, the franchise changed absolutely nothing during that time. Everything from the way the team put together an offensive game plan to the way the franchise approached free agency and the draft remained the same for 16 years. The only thing that made the Bengals feel somewhat different each year was the general player and coordinator movement that is unavoidable in NFL. The franchise tried to avoid even that as much as possible.
Considering all this, one of Taylor’s biggest tasks had to be simply changing the energy and vibe around the franchise. Everything had gotten unbelievably stagnant.
This is a tough thing to quantify, which makes it tough to write about. Still, you know when it at least starts to happen.
Key players have heaped public praise on Taylor and his approach all offseason long including Joe Mixon, John Ross, and A.J. Green. All three guys will be major factors in Cincinnati’s 2019 fate.
The trio all keep a pretty low profile. Green in particular is interesting. The wide receiver is probably the team’s best player of this decade. He has gone out of his way to not say anything of note over the years. Yet, the seven time Pro Bowler has publicly praised his coach twice this offseason, including openly talking playoffs last week.
In the past, if there was any sort of confidence coming from the Bengals this time of year, it came from guys like Chad Johnson who just like to hear themselves talk. The change under Taylor is subtle, but noteworthy if you have followed the franchise over the years.
Now, none of this means anything if the Bengals start 2-6. Still, it is nice to hear something upbeat from Bengals players this time of year without being cocky. The optimism is starting to rub off on parts of the fan base.
When you add everything together, it is clear that Taylor has indeed changed the vibe surrounding the franchise. This was an important first step that had to happen to make on field success a realistic possibility.