Although Zac Taylor was named head coach of the Bengals 14 months ago, 2020 marks the true beginning of his era in Cincinnati.
It was shortly after the Super Bowl in 2019 that L.A. Rams QB coach Zac Taylor was named as the new head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. Taylor led the Bengals to a 2-14 record in his first season and, unfortunately, that record cannot be sponged away. Although that is a reality that will go down in the record books from now on, that should not be held against Taylor or his legacy.
The truth is Taylor’s success with his former team hindered him in his beginnings with his new one. If anyone ever had to enter a football season with one hand behind his back it was Zac Taylor, and after the season was over, it showed.
First things first, Taylor was only able to get his true pick in assistant coaches with offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. This is no knock on the coaching staff but Taylor wasn’t able to put a list together for who would be on his staff, but rather had to pick through who was leftover. That being said, Taylor was still able to find some bright football minds with the potential to build a winning team.
The biggest issue from this may have been player personnel. The Bengals are an organization that uses a smaller scouting staff and allows the coaching staff to be more hands-on in the roster-building process. This was problematic because it was almost March before they had a staff assembled.
First, there is the Senior Bowl, which happens the week before the Super Bowl. At that time last season, the Bengals didn’t even have Taylor as an official head coach. The staff that did make it to the major scouting event were holdovers from the Marvin Lewis regime. Most of that staff would only be around for literal days after the event was over.
Then there is the Scouting Combine which happens in late February. By the time Taylor was able to piece a staff together, they only had days to craft a plan to determine which players fit what they wanted to do schematically. Also, keep in mind that free agency begins in mid-March, leaving the staff only a few weeks to prepare for the open market, on top of scouting prospects for the draft.
These off-season limitations showed through-out the entire process, with the Bengals mostly re-signing Lewis holdovers and reaching in the draft. There was no plan last off-season simply because there was no time to develop one. The 2019 season was played with a Marvin Lewis roster simply being coached by Zac Taylor.
Fast forward to the 2020 off-season and it is as different as night and day. Nearly half the defense has been purged. The Bengals spent over $100M on that side of the ball alone. Between free agency and the draft, the Bengals now have a new nose tackle, edge rusher, four linebackers, two starting cornerbacks, as well as a new starting safety.
What you see now is a roster full of turnover with a definitive Zac Taylor stamp on it. You also see a major culture shift within the franchise that has the 36-year-old’s name all over it as well. The look of this entire franchise is now starting to have the look of what Taylor has envisioned.
Of course, we won’t see how this translates to the field for a few more months and it will most likely take more than one year to see the true fruits of his labor. However, we are just now scratching the surface of what the Zac Taylor has to offer as his era truly begins.