Zac Taylor is always preaching about altering the culture of the Cincinnati Bengals, but is it changing in a good or bad way?
As every member of the orange and black faithful is aware, the Cincinnati Bengals’ culture has taken some twists and turns recently. Instances ranging from discrete reports to full-blown meltdowns have generated plenty of headlines this season.
A few players have decided to post messages on social media voicing their frustration. Most notably, Darius Phillips and Shawn Williams seemed to take some shots at the Bengals on Twitter, but have since deleted those tweets.
To make matters worse, when Cincinnati was playing Baltimore, the camera caught A.J. Green possibly saying that he wants to be traded, but he has since denied those accusations.
Of course, the main player causing havoc in the Bengals locker room is (was) veteran Carlos Dunlap. The former franchise cornerstone has made it clear that he doesn’t agree with the Bengals’ future plans. Instead of taking more of a professional approach to the situation, Dunlap went the Antonio Brown route, posting everything on social media, upsetting fans, and teammates.
The saga came to an end on Wednesday as the team opted to deal the disgruntled defensive end to Seattle. For all the preaching Zac Taylor does about his culture, there sure seems to be plenty of disapproving players.
Zac Taylor certainly still has some support in the locker room
While there have been plenty of players voicing their concerns, Taylor certainly still has support within the locker room. Tyler Boyd, along with a bevy of other players, quickly called out the now-departed Dunlap after post-game antics last week.
Dunlap got into an argument with defensive line coach Nick Eason. It was a heated enough exchange for Dunlap to list his Ohio property for sale on social media.
Bengals veteran Giovanni Bernard and second-year player Germaine Pratt were two of the most prominent voices to chime in on the Dunlap situation. Pratt sent out a tweet saying “Talk less do more”. While this tweet isn’t directed at Dunlap, I think it’s safe to say that Pratt is calling him out.
Giovanni Bernard, being the class act he is, had this to say about the Dunlap situation,
"I’ve always been a firm believer in everything that coach Taylor has been doing around this organization. It breaks my heart just to know he’s had a lot to deal with…I just want to win for him… we know the type of team we have and we just have to worry about the guys that are here day in and day out, putting in the work.”"
Bernards comments prove that while there is undeniably a class of players pushing back against Taylor, there is an equally prominent group supporting him as well.
Zac Taylor’s offense seems to be clicking!
Despite the tug-of-war going on behind the scenes, it’s not all bad for Taylor. After some rough play calling, particularly in the red-zone, his offense is beginning to find its footing.
The Bengals are averaging 23.3 points per game, and they have scored 30 points in three games this season. Perhaps the offensive genius that was promised with the hire of the Sean McVay understudy is beginning to shine through.
Joe Burrow is also thriving in Taylor’s offense, as he is third in the NFL in passing yards with 2,023 yards as a rookie. This is no small feat, considering Burrow rarely has any time in the pocket and he had to deal with unprecedented circumstances this offseason.
There’s plenty of uncertainty in the Queen City right now, but the offense has an upward projection.
Zac Taylor has had a historically bad start to his tenure
In Taylor’s first 23 games as a head coach, he has an ugly 3 wins, 19 losses, and 1 tie. Only two other NFL coaches have done worse than Zac Taylor in their first 23 games.
The historically bad company Taylor is sharing happens to be John McKay, coach of the (1976-77) Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jim Ringo coach of the (1976-77) Buffalo Bills. Ringo had three wins in his first 23 games, while McKay had zero.
Taylor has also notoriously struggled to win close games. In one-score contests, he has a 1-12-1 record. No matter what the surrounding circumstances are, you just simply can’t lose that many close games in the NFL and expect to keep your job.
The defense never seems to be able to get a stop in big-time moments
The Cincinnati defense has had multiple opportunities to redeem themselves, needing just one stop to change the outcome of a game.
One of their most notable blunders came against Philadelphia. The unit simply needed to prevent a touchdown to escape with a victory. True to form, the defense ended up folding and allowed Carson Wentz to run into the end-zone, forcing overtime, and ultimately resulted in an ugly tie.
In Cleveland, Cincinnati’s defense had another chance to get a big stop and win the game. Instead, they did the opposite. The Browns had just over one minute left in the game, and they needed to march down the entire field to win the game. Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what Baker Mayfield and co. did. Another heroic performance from Joe Burrow down the drain.
Zac Taylor and the Bengals might want to look at firing defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. If Taylor doesn’t fire Lou and the defense continues to lose games for Cincinnati, then Mike Brown and the front office might move on from both of them, either this season or next.
As the Bengals continue through the 2020 campaign, Taylor must build on the things he’s succeeding at while also vastly improving in the areas he’s struggling in. If results don’t come soon, the Taylor era could be over earlier than anticipated.