Many fans of the Cincinnati Bengals were excited by the arrival of first year head coach Zac Taylor simply because he wasn’t Marvin Lewis. Whatever excitement there was is gone after an 0-5 start.
Given the state of the roster, most people assumed Zac Taylor faced an uphill battle when he took the Bengals job. That assumption has proven to be true. Many theories have been thrown around after the disastrous start.
Some point to the roster just not being very good. There is also Mike Brown’s well documented shortcomings as an owner. Both of these things play a role. However, Taylor has escaped virtually all criticism. The fact is Taylor made a point out of saying he would be the offensive play caller this year. The 36 year old former Sean McVay understudy has done a poor job in that role.
In large part, the Bengals losses have come because most opponents simply have better players. That was bound to happen fairly often this year, but let’s take a look at two close defeats, the opener in Seattle and this past Sunday against Arizona.
In the opener, the Bengals had their best outing of the season, losing by a single point to what looks like a playoff contending Seattle team. Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards and two touchdowns, which raised everyone’s eyebrows in a good way.
Still, the Bengals threw the ball 51 times and ran it just 14. When you have a defense that is as much of a liability as Cincinnati’s is, rush attempts are your friend. The yardage is almost secondary to burning clock and controlling the game.
Even so, Taylor could point to the fact that his team only managed 34 ground yards in the opener. Thus, he may have felt a pass heavy game plan was his only chance to win. That logic is not wrong, but neither is the logic above. Any issues with offensive play calling in the opener are a matter of philosophy.
However, this past Sunday was inexplicable. Joe Mixon had eight carries for 60 yards on the first drive. This led to Bengals field goal. Knowing that, why in the world did Mixon only get 11 more carries for the rest of the game? There is no answer that makes sense.
If you are calling plays in the NFL and something works or is your team’s strength, use it early, often, and remain at least somewhat committed to it, even if the results are not there.
The last paragraph is not rocket science and it should guide every NFL play caller. Taylor has failed to do it through five weeks. It is another reason the Bengals are 0-5 right now and not 2-3, but it hasn’t been talked about enough. 2-3 would have Cincinnati very much alive in the underperforming AFC North.
With the Bengals history, Taylor is by no means on the hot seat in Cincinnati, nor should he be. However, there may be more growing pains with him as a head coach than fans would like.