Free Agency is Proof that Zac Taylor has Changed the Culture in Cincinnati
The winds of change are blowing strong throughout Paul Brown Stadium. In his first full off-season as Bengals head coach, Zac Taylor has changed the culture in Cincinnati.
After the Cincinnati Bengals spent well over $100 million in free agency, many were asking, who is this organization? After all, the narrative in Cincinnati has always been, “Mike Brown is too cheap to win”. Obviously, that is not the narrative moving forward in 2020.
Many factors can be pointed to as far as the reason for this new way of doing business. Some would say that the national media pushed a narrative and the Brown family set out to prove them wrong.
Others could point to Joe Burrow, and the Bengals showing him their commitment to winning through their new-found aggressiveness. Honestly, there could be a little truth in both scenarios. However, the biggest reason for this seismic shift in philosophy leads back to one man, and that is head coach Zac Taylor.
Coach Taylor’s short tenure, thus far, has admittedly not led to many wins. However, what he has shown is a plan and it has trickled not only down the organization but up it as well. If there is one thing that Taylor has shown to do well, it is selling a vision. It’s obvious that not only have the players bought into this vision, but the front office has as well.
The defense was bad last year. However, the scheme Lou Anarumo put together showed promise. Now, when you look on paper, the roster has already taken a major leap, thanks to the plan put together by Taylor and his coaching staff. However, what he’s accomplished goes even deeper.
The Bengals are notorious for overvaluing their own players as well as not relying on outside talent. Taylor convinced Bengals brass that not only were some players holding the scheme back, but there were specific guys on the market that better fit what they want to do. Players who didn’t fit the vision were let go, while new, better players were added to make the roster better.
It all started back in the season with the unexpected release of Preston Brown. Brown was the reliable and familiar veteran the Bengals have always valued in years past. He was also just signed to an extension during the off-season. Yet he was cut mid-campaign after it was obvious he wasn’t a fit for what coach Taylor wanted this defense to look like.
You would have never seen this in the Marvin Lewis tenure. Under Taylor’s watch, this move opened up a spot for the young guy, Germaine Pratt, which paid off by the end of the season. Out with the old and in with new, quite the revelation in Cincinnati.
Then comes the previously mentioned free-agent period where the Bengals signed D.J. Reader and actually set the nose tackle market in terms of money. Wait, the Bengals? Once again, this would have never happened under the previous regime.
The story doesn’t even end with Reader. Local sports talk is actually debating if the Bengals overpaid for cornerback Trae Waynes. Yes, you’re reading that right, overpaid, in Cincinnati. Of course, that is a debate for another day. However, even if they did overpay, they targeted their guy, then they did what it took to get him. At the end of the day, that’s how you win.
The point is this, excitement for this team is at a fever pitch, unlike it has been for a long time. Yes, the chance at Joe Burrow plays a big role in this, however, Zac Taylor has shown that he is building something, and it could be something special. Free agency proved that even the Brown family has bought into the vision. That in itself is something to be excited about.